The Battle to 'Free Britney'
Until last week, Britney Spears remained silent on the circumstances surrounding her conservatorship.
For 13 years, rumors among the fandom were considered speculative, even dismissed as “conspiracy theories” by her father, Jamie. Following Britney’s groundbreaking testimony last Wednesday, the hearing served as vindication for many, but also confirmed some of our worst fears.
In February, ‘The New York Times Presents: Framing Britney Spears’ was released on FX and HULU. Re-examining some of the singer’s hardships, the phrase “We are sorry Britney” trended on Twitter, prompting statements from a variety of celebrities, including Spears herself.
Revealing she had not seen the entire documentary, Britney’s Instagram caption expressed embarrassment over the films portrayal of her. “I cried for two weeks,” it said. Theories that Spears’ management was behind the post quickly emerged.
Jordan Miller, founder of the fan-site ‘BreatheHeavy’, has been documenting Britney’s career since 2004. Back in January, he spoke in depth about what he called “Britney’s never-ending legal tragedy”. While Miller is at times a point of contention amongst the site’s users, he is arguably one of Britney’s biggest supporters – an honor that has come with challenges of its own.
Miller has received several legal notices from Spears’ former business manager Lou Taylor, who reportedly demanded a number of retractions.
Britney’s recent testimony sheds light on situations like the one with Mr. Miller. Stating she was medicated with Lithium and forced to perform against her will, is unable to make reproductive choices (including the ability to remove an IUD so she can have children), and was told custody of her children would be revoked if she didn’t comply, the effort to silence Spears and her advocates is more apparent than ever.
Among those showing their support for Spears is fellow Mouseketeer Christina Aguilera. “The conviction and desperation of this plea for freedom leads me to believe that this person I once knew has been living without compassion or decency from those in control,” she tweeted on Monday.
Despite the publicity and growing momentum behind the 'Free Britney' movement, there is still concern for the road ahead.
Steven Binko, an entertainer and content creator, recently opened up about his challenges with mental health. After attempting suicide last September, Binko was placed on an involuntary 72 hour hold called “Chapter 51”.
While very different from a conservatorship, Chapter 51 is an emergency detention that is often followed by court proceedings to determine a patient’s required level of care, specifically when they are assumed to be a danger to themselves or others.
“I have immense empathy for Britney’s situation,” says Binko. “It’s dehumanizing when such critical life choices are outside your control. Yes, you can request a petition for release, but there’s a burden of proof that has to be met. You’re essentially trying to establish competency after being labeled mentally unfit.”
After the 72 hour hold, Steven Binko agreed to treatment at an inpatient facility. By complying, he avoided court proceedings that would have allowed a judge to order up to six months of inpatient care, which can also be extended at the recommendation of a doctor.
His opinion on the coverage surrounding Britney’s case?
“From an ethical standpoint, I think its poor judgement for ‘experts’ on the news to assume anyone’s intentions, or speculate on Britney’s mental capacity when so little about this is public,” he says. “I want to see her happy and healthy, but we don’t know the specifics that led her here.”
Binko refused to comment on whether or not he thought the conservatorship was necessary, but praised Britney’s recent testimony. “It takes a lot of strength to go through this so publicly. Even if there are extenuating circumstances, there’s no justification for the abuse she detailed. The assertiveness she exhibited was long overdue.”
As legal experts weigh in, the general consensus would seem that terminating a conservatorship is no easy feat. Keep in mind, this type of guardianship is usually reserved for the elderly, and the disabled, which sets an unusual precedent for Spears’ case.
Legalities aside, Britney articulated a compelling emotional plea in the court of public opinion. Additionally, recent documents show that her father filed a request for Britney’s estate to cover $2 Million of his legal fees. Considering allegations he is profiting at her expense, this does not bode well for Mr. Spears appearance. As the old adage goes, “where there is smoke, there is fire”.
“I’m in shock. I’m traumatized. I’m so angry it’s insane,” Britney tells the court. “I truly believe this conservatorship is abusive. I don’t feel like I can live a full life.”
The next court hearing in Britney Spears’ case is scheduled for July 14.