Opinion: It’s time to #Free Britney


Credit: Screenshot from TikTok and Instagram’s #freebritney hashtag

WSPN’s Delia Caulfield discusses the Free Britney movement and the negative aspects of Britney Spears’s legal conservatorship.

Delia Caulfield

Picture this: you’re a world-renowned pop star with numerous hits. You’re a multi-millionaire living in a beautiful home in Los Angeles. You yearn to perform in front of the massive crowds who stare at you with adoration, shouting every lyric word for word. You seem happy, right? However, behind closed doors, you are suffering in silence. Although your world may seem like a fantasy, you are trapped in a life you can’t escape. Your independence was suddenly stripped away. People walk on eggshells around you because they see you as “unstable.” People constantly judge you for your public struggles with mental health. These are the harsh realities that Britney Spears faces every day, as she is trapped in a legal conservatorship that she can’t escape.

The #FreeBritney movement started in 2019 after many were left distraught to learn about famous pop-star Britney Spears’ conservatorship by her father, James Parnell Spears. Britney’s conservatorship began around 13 years ago, after Britney’s infamous “breakdown,” which resulted in Britney being hospitalized and placed in rehab. Despite this event occurring over a decade ago, Britney has yet to escape her father’s conservatorship, and live her life with complete financial and personal independence from him.

The definition of conservator is a “a person, official or institution designated to take over and protect the interests of the incompetent.” Across the United States, the terms for legal conservatorship are usually aimed towards elderly people, who don’t have the full capacity to care for themselves. However, Britney, a 39-year-old woman, is more than capable of being in charge of her own life. Keep in mind that legal conservatorships are rare, where roughly only 1.3 million adults in the United States are under these terms. Yes, receiving assistance in managing important things such as finances can be justified, however, it’s absurd to have your life completely in the hands of another when you have shown no signs of instability in recent years.

It seems ludicrous; having to create an entire movement fixated around granting personal freedom towards someone who more than deserves it. So what have we done about it? Well, there have been multiple rallies held, the most notable one taking place outside of the Stanley Mosk Courthouse in Los Angeles during a scheduled hearing in Britney’s conservatorship case. Additionally, many have signed online petitions to protest the conservatorship. The most well-known petition is the #FreeBritney END THE CONSERVATORSHIP!, which currently has over 190,000 signatures, making it one of the top signed petitions ever on change.org. Despite the massive uprisings and media attention brought to the subject, Britney is still bound to her father’s legal conservatorship.

The supposed reason for Britney’s conservatorship was due to Britney’s “breakdown” in 2007. At this time, many viewed her as “unstable” and “crazy,” and failed to recognize that she was deeply struggling with her mental health. This came as a result of her public divorce from Kevin Federline and the loss of custody of her two children. I can’t begin to imagine the horror of losing your children and husband in the same year while being constantly scrutinized by the paparazzi. During this time, Britney’s lack of mental health support led her to multiple public outbursts and infamously shaving her head. Instead of showing sympathy, the media portrayed her as an unsteady individual, despite her internal struggles. As time went on, people began to make fun of Britney publicly, using her breakdown for their own entertainment. Britney became a punchline.

As a result, Britney was put under a temporary psychiatric hold at a UCLA facility. During this time, Britney’s father and attorney were granted a temporary conservatorship over Britney’s finances. However, this conservatorship became permanent in October 2008, when her father was granted guardianship over her estate, assets, finances, and business affairs.

It’s important to keep in mind that Britney “strongly opposed” the decision to appoint her father as her conservator. Britney asked the court for a professional to manage her finances and affairs, however, this was rejected and her father was placed in charge anyways.

James temporarily stepped down from his position as Britney’s sole conservator in 2019, as he claimed to be struggling with health issues. As a result, Jodi Montgomery, who was Britney’s “care manager” and specializes in legal conservatorships, took over as a co-conservator in matters regarding Britney’s medical and personal well-being. However, James was still involved in Britney’s estate and finances. In June 2021, Britney petitioned the court to have her father removed as her co-conservator. She explained how she’s “afraid of her father” and refused to perform if he stays as her conservator. Additionally, she explained that she felt her father was given too much power over her life and abused his position. Despite Britney’s statements, the judge denied her request.

Aug. 12, 2021, James said he’s “willing to step down,” as his daughter’s conservator when the “time is right.” Despite his statement, he shows no indication of when he intends to resign. This leads me to believe that James doesn’t recognize the damage that he’s implemented on his daughter’s life, and how he believes all he’s done throughout the guardianship is justified.

The introduction of social media brought in new, mysterious questions to the conversation of Britney’s conservatorship. In 2017, Britney fans, Barbara Gray and Tess Barker, created the podcast Britney’s Gram after noticing cryptic details in some of Britney’s Instagram posts. They noted small details, like how a specific sentence was phrased or what word choice was used, however, they raised serious questions from across the country. Many of Britney’s posts used phrases that indicated her being trapped or her trying to escape from something. But what? At the time of the establishment of this podcast, many were unaware of the dangers of Britney’s conservatorship. The podcast is thought to be the origin of the #FreeBritney movement. The Britney’s Gram “special emergency episode” titled “FREE BRITNEY,” gained national attention and brought awareness to the movement.

Currently, the #FreeBritney hashtag on Instagram has 537K posts, and the same hashtag on TikTok has 1.9 billion views. Social media has had a drastic impact on the movement, as many have posted pictures and videos calling out to Britney. One example of this is through a series of videos titled “Dear Britney,” which include videos of individuals leaving messages of support for the singer through her conservatorship. Overall, social media has massively influenced the #FreeBritney movement and brought national awareness to the subject.

A common theme throughout this movement is personal rights. Why shouldn’t Britney be allowed to choose how her own life is run? Throughout her ongoing struggles lasting over a decade, Britney has been put down and scrutinized against her will. So, here’s a message to the courts: is granting someone freedom to choose how their life is run so difficult to understand?

It’s time for a change. It’s time to free Britney.