It was heartbreaking to hear Britney Spears plead her case before a Los Angeles judge Wednesday, saying simply, “I just want my life back.”
Spears, who will be 40 this December, has been under her father’s conservatorship since 2008. Jamie Spears has controlled not only his daughter’s $60 million fortune but every aspect of her career and life — from terms of her Las Vegas residency to whether she could replace her kitchen cabinets.
No, Jamie told her. Too much money, even though she pays him $16,000 a month, is forced to pay for his attorneys — who have argued for years against her stated wishes, namely to be free — plus the cuts he gets from Britney’s tours and Vegas show.
“She is ‘sick of being taken advantage of,’ ” a court investigator reported in 2016, “and she said she is the one working but everyone around her is on her payroll.”
Spears was pulling in millions from her residency, but was allowed only $2,000 a week.
We’ve never heard Spears talk like this before. She’s never shared what she thinks or feels about the conservatorship — even as the #FreeBritney movement galvanized during the pandemic, as fans scoured her Instagram account for hidden messages or clues, as the documentary “Framing Britney Spears” made a case against the pop music machine, the media, and the public at large for victimizing Britney.
It’s sad, bracing stuff. Britney Spears has long been something of an American tragedy. She doesn’t want that anymore. She wants her independence and her father — who she describes as her tormentor — out of her life.“[My father] loved the control he had over me, one hundred thousand percent,” Britney told the judge.
This control, Britney said, extends to her sex life and whether she can have another child. “I have an IUD in my body right now they won’t let me take out,” she said.
This is “Handmaid’s Tale” stuff.
“I want to be able to get married to my boyfriend and have a baby but the conservatorship told me I can’t do that,” she said. “I feel ganged up on and bullied and alone.”
As for her tepid claims, till now, that she’s been fine with the status quo: “I’ve lied and told the whole world I’m OK and happy,” Britney said. “I’ve been in denial. I’ve been in shock. I am traumatized.”
“But now I’m telling you the truth, I’m not happy. I can’t sleep. I’m so angry it’s insane . . . I cry every day.”
She asked that the conservatorship be terminated, no more questions, no more evaluations.
“I truly believe this conservatorship is abusive,” she said.
Doesn’t get much clearer than that.
Conservatorships are typically granted only in extreme cases: A person is suffering from dementia or some other dire limitations.
Spears, a mother of two, has successfully performed in Vegas for years without incident. How hapless can she be?
It will be fascinating to see how this plays out now, post-#MeToo. Here we have a “troublesome female” — a child star sexualized as a young teenager, who shot to global superstardom, the media hounding her over whether she was still a virgin, a girl whose every relationship, parents included, was based on what she could do for them — claiming that her father has forcibly institutionalized her and forced her perform against her will, once as she suffered from a 104-degree fever.
“In California,” Britney said, “the only similar thing to this is called sex trafficking, making anyone work against their will, taking all their possessions away: credit card, phone, passport.”
Upon her institutionalization, Britney said, “I cried on the phone to my dad for an hour and he loved every minute of it. My dad and everyone else who has played a key role in my conservatorship should be in jail. They have way too much control.”
Her father has “enslaved” her, she said. “He made me feel like death . . . I don’t want to be in this stupid conservatorship anymore. It’s embarrassing and humiliating.”
Historically we’ve seen a lot of erratic, self-destructive behavior from male celebrities. Can you think of one who has been kept under conservatorship for years — or ever?
Yet here is a female superstar still under her father’s thumb — a father she is “afraid of,” as Spears told the court last year, one who is a recovering alcoholic and has allegedly been physically and verbally abusive.
In 2014, when Spears told the court she believed her father was drinking again and requested that he follow the rules — take the regular alcohol tests he volunteered for, Jamie refusing to do more than just one — the judge in the case was outraged.
“Who is she to be demanding that of anybody?”
The subtext is unmistakable: Who is she to challenge her father, let alone the court? Who is she to demand personal autonomy?
Britney Spears may, as has been documented, have mental illness. She, like her father, may have had issues with substances.
But that is no argument against allowing a nearly 40-year-old woman to live her life as she chooses — whether that’s squandering all her money or retiring from public life or having a baby or, horrors, replacing the kitchen cabinets.
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