A freed Britney: her impact on fans, conservatorship reform and the media

A freed Britney: her impact on fans, conservatorship reform and the media

Britney Spears’ conservatorship was terminated November 12. Here’s what you need to know about fan reactions, continued calls for reform in the US and the array of content produced around the star’s previous lack of freedoms. (Image source: ABC)

By Helen Karakulak | @helen_karakulak & Rylee Cooper | @RyleeCooper5

Britney Spears’ 13-year long conservatorship has been terminated, allowing the pop singer to regain control over her personal life and finances.

On Friday November 12, United States Judge Brenda Penny ended the conservatorship which has been in place since 2008, to the delight of Britney fans around the world.

Britney’s conservatorship was two-fold, having one conservator for her finances and another for her health and wellbeing.

Her estate conservator, certified public accountant John Zabel, will continue to work in the position briefly to complete a financial transfer of Britney’s assets into her own trust. 

Britney shared her relief and gratitude for her fans that have been campaigning for the undoing of the conservatorship in a tweet, saying she would “cry the rest of the day” and that it is the “best day ever”.

The term “Britney” trended on Twitter with many taking to the platform to share their excitement.

In Los Angeles, fans waited outside the courthouse for the verdict, flying pink confetti and playing the singer’s hit, “Stronger” when her new freedom was announced.

The termination of the conservatorship comes after Britney’s father, Jamie Spears, was suspended from his position as conservator of her estate in September 2021 when Judge Penny said it “reflected a toxic environment.”

Britney first spoke to the impact of this environment in a public court hearing in June, where she said she felt “traumatised” and “depressed” due to the conservatorship.

As the Free Britney cause received increased media attention, it put a spotlight on the nature of legal guardianships in the United States. Specially, how a lack of accountability in these situations can expose older people and people with disabilities to exploitation and abuse.

While fans are pleased to see Britney freed, some hope that the impact of conservatorships on others will receive the same attention and reform.

A Buzzfeed News investigation titled “Beyond Britney: Abuse, Exploitation, and Inside America’s Guardianship Industry” explored this issue in depth.

US Senator for Pennsylvania, Bob Casey, has also penned an opinion for Buzzfeed News regarding this matter, and introduced a new reform bill, the Guardianship Accountability Act, along with Senator Susan Collins, in September of 2021. 

The Guardianship Accountability Act is intended to promote oversight and accountability while also encouraging states to provide alternative options to guardianships.

Catching up on Britney’s story so far 

The #FreeBritney movement gained momentum in February of 2021 after the release of the New York Times documentary, Framing Britney Spears, which is available to watch in Australia on 9Now.

Since then, a variety of Britney content has been produced, including a Netflix documentary Britney vs Spears, which was released just days prior to Jamie Spears being removed from the conservatorship in September.

Within the documentary, film-maker Erin Lee Carr and Rolling Stone magazine contributing editor Jenny Eliscu seek to uncover the truth about Britney’s life leading up to the conservatorship.

The documentary features interviews from several key figures in Britney’s life such as former boyfriend Adnan Ghalib, one-time manager Sam Lutfi and Spears’ former assistant Felicia Culotta.

However, Britney vs. Spears has been widely criticised by viewers, being described as “trashy” by The Guardian and being said to highlight, “how tricky it is to make a credible documentary about a celebrity under duress” by The New York Times.

A variety of podcasts have also been produced following the conservatorship, including BBC Radio 4’s “Pieces of Britney”.

“Pieces of Britney” presenter Pandora Sykes places Britney in a cultural context, pointing out the global obsession with the young star’s sexuality and the power of tabloid media and paparazzi.  

Another popular podcast, “Eat, Pray, Britney” examines the conservatorship and draws attention to its restrictions, “while also examining her life and career through a feminist lens”.

According to The New York Times, “Eat, Pray, Britney” was included in a Black Box Security “threat assessment report” which provided background information on fans that were actively participating in the #FreeBritney movement through podcasting and social media.

A former employee of Black Box Security, the firm hired by Jamie Spears to protect Britney, told The New York Times that fees for surveilling the Free Britney participants as well as Britney’s boyfriend, were billed to her estate.

An investigation into the use of Britney’s funds by her father over the course of her conservatorship continues, with Britney’s lawyer, Matthew Rosengart, last week requesting materials related to the alleged surveillance The New York Times reported on.

Rosengart has also requested to depose Jamie Spears, and has brought on a team of forensic accountants to look into how Britney’s money was spent by Jamie.

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