The legal battle over Britney Spears’s finances and conservatorship is heading back to Los Angeles court this Thursday, just days after a new Hulu documentary sparked widespread outrage over the controversial guardianship the pop star has been living under that is typically only for elderly individuals with dementia or other cognitive issues that make them unfit to be in control of their own finances.
Jamie Spears, the pop stars father, maintains control over her estate, career, finances, social media, medical treatments, and a slew of other aspects of her personal life; he’s also had this control for the past 13 years, so any career endeavors that Spears has endured within that time, including her Las Vegas residency, were not her decision.
Lawyers for Spears filed last year to have Jamie removed as conservator, arguing that she was “afraid of her father” and would be refusing to resume her performing career while he still had control over it. In November a judge refused to remove Jamie but added Bessemer Trust as co-conservator and corporate fiduciary. This Thursday’s hearing will include a discussion of what role the two conservators will play in overseeing Spears’s estate.
Supporters of Britney Spears attend the #FreeBritney Protest Outside Los Angeles
Conservatorship by definition is “a form of court-appointed guardianship that is typically used for elderly and infirm people, or others who can’t make decisions for themselves, the arrangement is often temporary.”
The release of Framing Britney Spears, a New York Times-produced documentary, has now “raised questions about the fraught process that led the courts to institute the conservatorship, Jamie’s role as a conservator, the motives of Spears’s entourage in keeping the arrangement in place and the media’s treatment of the star.”
The documentary followed Spears’s rise to fame and the intense abuse she faced by paparazzi, the media, and fans as well. The approval of her conservatorship was partially a result of the American media painting Britney to be mentally unstable. The documentary also depicted Jamie as an absent father up until he took on the conservatorship in 2008, when he gained complete control over her finances.
The biggest question raised by the documentary is how can someone who the court deems unstable enough to be in control over basically every aspect of her personal life be stable enough to go on multiple tours, perform a Las Vegas residency, work as a judge on X-Factor, etc. The amount that Britney has done in her career within the past decade does not line up with an individual unfit to be in control of their own finances.
American pop culture, the media, and the entertainment industry in general is now being analyzed with a fine-tooth comb, specifically over how it treats female performers and makes light of their struggles. The film also featured the #FreeBritney movement, “a fan-led campaign advocating for the singer to be freed from conservatorship and from her father’s control. Organizers said this week they hoped the reaction to the film would put pressure on the courts to restore the singer’s independence,” according to the Times.
Leanne Simmons, a #FreeBritney advocate who was featured in the documentary, told the press recently that the documentary “has lit a fire under all of us to keep pushing, because we do have that support from the general public. I work in post production in the film industry, and have been closely following the court case and plan to attend the Thursday hearing in person.
“We’ve been trying to get this message across for so many years, and to essentially have the narrative change overnight is pretty extraordinary. The documentary was hard to watch. It brought me back to that moment of watching this in realtime in 2007. I felt so frustrated back then like no one was listening to her, or to me when I would try to defend her. I can’t believe it took this long and this documentary for people to realize that it was always wrong.”
Spears publicly acknowledged the #FreeBritney movement for the first time last year through her lawyer in court, when he claimed that Britney was “trying to regain some measure of personal autonomy, and she welcomes and appreciates the informed support of her many fans.”
Eric Mastrota is a Contributing Editor at The National Digest based in New York. A graduate of SUNY New Paltz, he reports on world news, culture, and lifestyle. You can reach him at firstname.lastname@example.org.