When Conspiracy Theories Come True: How Fans Got Britney’s Freedom

In August 2018, Britney Spears to London for her first touring performance in the capital in seven years. She spent most of her time in Las Vegas, where her concert residence, Piece of Me, has made millions of dollars and has now embarked on a world tour. Spears had become an illusion by the time she brought the show to London, a glittering, largely voiceless specter haunting the Nevada desert, filling the air in the O2 arena with uncertainty. Will she sing a Bonnie Raitt song live, like she did one night in Vegas? Or abbreviate the script and show gentle strokes to… someone… like those times in Piece of Me? In the end, neither did she. She made a mark, tossed her hair, and stomped on the spot. She didn’t say much at all.

In June 2021, in the midst of a battle for freedom from management she had been subjected to for 13 years, Spears told a Los Angeles court that she absolutely did not want to go on that world tour. She said she was coerced by her manager, and they threatened to sue her if she refused. One night in Vegas, she recalls, she was given a contract to sign, and she was scared. “Out of fear, I went ahead and did the tour.”

When I heard Spears’ words on that courtroom live stream, my mind immediately went back to O2. Thousands of people were crammed into the arena, singing along to hits and waving glow sticks. Few of us have asked the questions we probably should have asked.

Spears emerged from 2021, a changed woman, after being given full control of her life and work by a judge in November. On a smaller scale, the year has also left fans. Spears’ grave is a different dimension to the way we entered that year. We were forced to re-contextualise a woman whose life, art, and company had been sold to us by third parties for over a decade, her own voice muffled and censored.

Spears’ conservatorship was supposed to be a temporary measure born out of necessity. In 2008, after a controversial personal crisis in front of the world’s paparazzi, Spears was placed by a California judge into a controversial legal settlement. Despite past estrangement, Jamie, Spears’ father, has full control over his daughter’s personal and financial life. Due to the conservatorship’s apparent success – Spears’ both career and financial profits recovered after its founding – it continued to stretch, first for months instead of weeks, and then for forever.

At the time, Spears rose professionally while fading away. The few interviews she gave were micromanaged, with journalists commenting on how bad the bureaucracy struggled to get her to talk. She appeared nervous and sly in public, and the benefits of conservatorship became unclear. Her hectic work schedule – albums, concerts, live TV, endorsement deals – seems to be at odds with an apparently serious health problem that she cannot be allowed to operate according to. my reviews. If legal conservatorship is designed to create a path back to an individual’s freedom, Spears’ path appears to be made of quicksand.

A contingent of Spears fans smelled the rat. In early 2019, a podcast that explored the odd chaos of Spears’ Instagram account played a voicemail recording of an alleged former member of Spears’ legal team. In it, the person claimed that Spears was being held against her will in a mental health facility, after she stopped taking her medication and refused to participate in a new Vegas residence. Fans have started a movement called #FreeBritney, using social media hashtags and direct protests to raise awareness of Spears’ alleged plight.

Supporters of the #FreeBritney movement gather outside her conservatorship hearing in Los Angeles in November

(Patrick T Fallon / AFP / Getty)

Spears herself has remained silent, with her Instagram comments section transformed into a hub of compassion and intrigue. It’s sometimes unclear if Spears actively mocks her welfare concerns, posting videos that answer trivial questions – allegedly submitted by fans – such as: “Love meal What’s your favorite?” Fans noticed Spears’ outfit, speculating that she was sending color-coded messages that she was wearing. Others commented with shouting abuse, convincing Spears not to run the account, and that her anxiety swaying in the videos was not just anxiety – which she made public – but a result. of the star being jailed. Basically, it was already dark.

Now in a different, scarier setting, everything Spears-related gets heavier. As Spears ages – and her agency disappears at the same time – her lyrics take on a deep meaning. “Everybody looks at me like I’m a little girl,” she sang at concerts aged 35 and under her father’s legal control. “Every time I tried to fly, I fell under my wings,” she said. Listens like “Overprotected” and “Lucky” (“She’s lucky, she’s a star / But she cries-cries-cries in her lonely heart”) become so intense that they not performed live. “You work better, bitch,” Spears repeats like a capitalist cyborg at the beginning of her eighth album. “Now get to work, bitch!”

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Spears’ lyrics, in contrast to her growing existence, are read less when the pop star is in general angry and more than the cry of a woman in real pain. Probably. If you’ve been a Britney fan from 2008 to 2020, you’re used to existing in such an endless interlude, where everything is hazy with both a non-dramatic and conspiratorial explanation. Spears’ original video for her 2016 single “Make Me” – in which she writhed in a cage like a trapped animal – was removed because it referred to her feelings about the role of good conservationist. because it’s pointless and Spears herself hates it? Was she barely featured on the 2013 album Britney Jean – hauntingly her team’s “most personal” work despite her almost complete absence in production – because it was a rush to promote Vegas? Or because the record is a sinister test case for how much it really takes a pop star to create and sell an album?

We still don’t have the answers to those questions, and it’s not clear if we’ll ever answer them. What we do know is that Spears has been operating against her wishes for the past 13 years. In July, at a hearing in which she begged to be released from her role of protector, Spears finally broke her silence and confirmed many of the # movement’s worst fears. FreeBritney.

Spears during her tour of the Onyx hotel in 2004

(Frank Micelotta / Getty)

In a 23-minute statement, Spears told the judge that under her conservator’s custody, she was drugged, forced to act against her will and prevented from removing the birth control device. She added that she was forced into a clinic and prescribed lithium after refusing to do a specific dance move for her last canceled second residency in Vegas, and wants to sue her family she. Spears said she kept quiet because she was worried she wouldn’t be trusted, and claimed her former attorneys never told her she could ask for conservatorship. terminate at any time. “I lied and told the world I was fine and I was happy,” Spears said. “I denied it. I was socked. I’m hurt… But now I’m telling the truth, OK? I am not satisfied. I can not sleep. I was angry to the point of madness, and I was depressed. I cry every day”.

In November, nearly 14 years after it was founded, Spears’ conservatorship was terminated. Her Instagram since then has been an open, unprotected look into Spears’ thoughts – she complains about her family, with whom she seems to be estranged, cuddles with her boyfriend and board a private jet. She has raised awareness for other victims of conservatorship abuse and posted inspirational quotes. Of all the sweet, petty chaos of someone on Facebook, it’s her.

The fame machine that has sustained Spears – often at the expense of her affluence – seems to be dying, too. Younger pop stars, from Lady Gaga and Billie Eilish to Lizzo and Ariana Grande, have been encouraged to talk openly about their struggles in the limelight and their struggles with mental health . They also seem to be surrounded by brand managers and executives who understand the value of self-care and respite. You can only imagine how much easier the last 13 years of Spears’ life would have been if she had been allowed to work at her own pace. Or – gasp! – has no effect at all.

For her fans, Spears’ next move will be absorbed differently. What she does may not look the same or sound the same, but at least there won’t be the nagging sense of uncertainty that seems to cling to her middle management role. And more than some of us have chosen to ignore it. Whatever her choice is, it will ultimately be hers. That’s how it should always be.

https://www.independent.co.uk/arts-entertainment/music/features/britney-conservatorship-timeline-b1972040.html When Conspiracy Theories Come True: How Fans Got Britney’s Freedom

Emma Bowman

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