What Does Free Britney Mean? (Really)

If you’re a long-time Britney super fan, Framing Britney Spears probably feels like vindication for your years of anxiety about the Princess of Pop’s civil rights.

Since the release of the New York Times documentary on Hulu, the veil of secrecy around the superstar’s mysterious conservatorship has been lifted and suddenly the world is demanding that we #FreeBritney.

 In short, the documentary exposed the longstanding legal orders placed on Britney as a result of her highly publicized mental break in the later 2000’s. Her father Jamie became her conservator back then, meaning he would legally oversee both her estate and personal affairs. Conservatorships are typically put in place for the elderly, mentally ill or disabled as a means of protection. Yet over thirteen years later, Jamie still remains in complete control of Britney’s business, wallet and life while the performer sold out world tours, produced hit records and most recently headlined the top show in Las Vegas until 2017. How can a woman who appears outwardly fine be a candidate for a legal agreement in which her most basic freedoms belong to another person?

The principle of a conservatorship may have been positive in those early days of her personal unravelling; someone stepping in in the midst of a very turbulent time in Britney’s life, where her financial security in particular may have not been well-guarded. Britney herself described that period as a very out of control time.

“What the hell was I thinking?” She famously recalled in MTV’s Britney: For the Record in 2008.

In For the Record, clips of which were also in Framing Britney Spears, a tearful Britney says in an interview there is no passion left in her life. Upon its release, the MTV documentary was sort of elusive. But with present information, it seems Britney was probably referring to the loss of her own agency under the conservatorship. Over the years, the conservatorship has shoved Britney into the privacy she so desired after a decade of harassment by the public. But at what cost? 

Framing Britney Spears showed audiences she is under her conservators’ thumb at every turn of her life. A legal agreement meant to keep the vulnerable safe has been twisted in Britney’s case to maliciously control a healthy, capable woman.

Following the doc, Page Six reported last week an exclusive source shared just what kind of constraints she is under.

“Jamie won’t let her have any freedom or responsibility over her own life,” the source told Page Six. “This summer, her father grounded her for three weeks because she dared to meet a friend for a socially-distanced walk on the beach and a heart-to-heart conversation. She’s 39 years old!

“He doesn’t want her to see her friends,” they continued, “he doesn’t want her to meet other people in the entertainment business, he tells her that everyone has bad intentions for her — when it plainly isn’t true.”

Another example of Jamie’s dictatorial tendencies as a conservator was featured in a separate report by NBC News over the weekend. Jamie allegedly forced Britney’s cousin and former assistant Alli Sims to cut ties shortly after the conservatorship went into effect back in 2008.

Sims, who hasn’t spoken to B in over a decade, told NBC News she carries a lot of guilt after she was threatened by Jamie to cease communication.

“He 100 percent was threatening me with my life,” she said. 

“I didn’t put it past him,” she added, stating she did not answer Britney’s calls after that.

With such unnecessary confines put in place on Britney’s personal life, the conservatorship has certainly exercised control over her romantic life as well. Since the premiere of Framing, Britney’s beau Sam Asghari came out on Instagram to briefly address his perspective.

“Now it’s important for people to understand that I have zero respect for someone trying to control our relationship and constantly throwing obstacles our way,” Sam wrote in an Instagram story. “In my opinion, Jamie is a total dick. I won’t be going into details because I’ve always respected our privacy but at the same time, I didn’t come to this country to not be able to express my opinion and freedom.”

Asghari was later questioned by a TMZ paparazzo about his statements regarding Jamie.

“Once he starts treating his daughter right, then we can have a relationship,” he told TMZ.

With such statements coming from those close to her inner circle, it becomes clear the control of the conservatorship is boundless. When fans and supporters circulate #FreeBritney tweets and messages, they call for the star to have a chance at normalcy again.

Britney has been public about her desire to expand her family. While boyfriends have been in her life over the years, a marriage is out of the question under Britney’s current arrangement without the permission of her conservator. What’s more, conservators are completely in control of their conservatee’s medical care, meaning any future pregnancy would be virtually ruled by her father. Largely absent from the documentary was the role the conservatorship presently plays in Britney’s custody of her two sons.

It’s also hard to say what pressures the conservatorship has placed on Britney’s business, as the legal agreement extends to her finances. Back in 2007, when her state of being affected her capacity to do her job, it may have been the right step for someone to intercede. However, over the last decade her capacity to work has been demonstrated in all the successful business dealings typical of a pop star. Lawyers have described the conservatorship’s function as a business model, wherein Britney’s bank account is more or less a funnel to her handlers. With this knowledge, fans are even weary to support her music for fear of putting cash in the hands of those in control over Britney.

Now that the secrecy around the conservatorship is seemingly crumbling, many are left with more questions. What would her career look like without the conservatorship? Is she happy? Is she safe? While the documentary presented good and thorough information, the world is still largely left in the dark about the conservatorship, and more importantly, what’s on Britney’s mind.

Since the doc’s release, bright spots have already emerged in the #FreeBritney movement. Several other celebrities and big-names in the legal world have come forward with their support, shedding even more light on the initiative’s momentum. Filmmaker Erin Lee Carr is also in talks to direct another investigative documentary on Britney’s situation, this time for Netflix. 

A judge ruled last week that Bessemer Trust, the firm Britney reportedly wants to handle her money, will share equal power with Jamie as the co-conservator of her finances. The move will not totally ensure her financial freedom, but is expected to allow for more transparency in the conservatorship.

So what does it mean for #FreeBritney to be fulfilled? Perhaps an entirely new conservator put in place, or the legal agreement to be thrown out entirely. Maybe more creative control over her future music endeavors; a more candid social media voice; a family life that is autonomous and complete.

Maybe one day Britney will be able to tell us herself.

“I really do hope one day she’s able to tell her story if that’s what she wants to do,” Alli Sims told NBC News. “If she does, get ready because there’s more to that story than I’m sure anybody could ever imagine.”

Ever-elusive, Britney shared only an old video of a past performance in Vegas on Instagram as a possible response to the recent media attention on her life.

“Each person has their story and their take on other people’s stories !!!!” she captioned. 

“Remember, no matter what we think we know about a person’s life it is nothing compared to the actual person living behind the lens.”