On February 2021, Framing Britney Spears, directed by Samantha Stark, was released on an edition of The New York Times Presents on FX and on Hulu. The Emmy-nominated documentary brought to light many of the details about the singer’s conservatorship that sparked the fan-driven #FreeBritney movement.
Now, Britney’s fight for freedom from the control of her father Jamie Spears is further explored in the Netflix investigative documentary by journalist Jenny Eliscu and director Erin Lee Carr: Britney Vs Spears. The film utilises exclusive interviews and confidential tests to reconstruct the history of the pop star’s thirteen years of nightmare, up until September 7th of this year, when Jamie Spears formally asked to be removed as conservator and recommended the conservatorship to be terminated.
To better understand the situation it is crucial to clarify the meaning of conservatorship, that under U.S. law is defined as: “the appointment of a conservator by the court to manage a person’s affairs who is unable to handle them due to their mental capacity, age, or physical disability. The person under the conservatorship is referred to as ‘conservatee.’ A person who is unable to handle their financial affairs or daily life responsibilities will be considered incapacitated by the court, so the court will assign a conservator to make decisions on behalf of the person.”
The way Britney Spears’ conservatorship has been handled is that it was divided into two parts: one for her estate and financial affairs, the other for her as a person. Under this legal agreement, she has not controlled her finances since 2008, whether she wanted to buy books for her children or purchase anything at all on her own. The reason why this legal measure was imposed upon her is that she was behaving rashly in 2007, after her divorce from Kevin Federline and her loss of custody for their two children. The most striking events that made headlines were when she shaved her head and when she hit a photographer’s car with an umbrella. The following year she refused to give her two sons to Federline’s bodyguard and was also admitted to the hospital under a temporary psychiatric assessment ruling.
However, in the follow years throughout the conservatorship Britney Spears demonstrated full mental faculties, especially by working relentlessly and allowing her conservator/s to benefit financially from this. She released three albums, held a successful Las Vegas residency and made numerous television appearances, including her role as a judge on the US X Factor. As the conservatorship became more abusive, America’s sweetheart has been seeking to dismiss her father from the role of conservator.
The documentary harrowingly pulls spectators down the rabbit hole of what it means to deprive a person of their personal liberties. Some equate it to civil death. Winding-back-the-clock to the footage of a wholesome and serene adolescent Britney Spears and comparing it to the images of a constricted adult who disguises behind a forced smile is vexing, to say the least.
What unintentionally becomes representative of the thorough research and investigative work carried out by Erin Lee Carr and Jenny Eliscu is the tattoo on the latter’s arm that quotes one of Bob Dylan’s songs and reads: “Take What You Have Gathered From Coincidence.” One may wonder if, along these lines, the fate of Britney Spears is at the mercy of the I Ching philosophy according to which coincidence represents more than mere chance. Time will tell.
Final Grade: B