I recently learned about the #FreeBritney movement.
When I saw the hashtag gliding across my newsfeeds, I felt compelled to learn more, just as I would have with somebody needing saving. Since then, I have been incredibly moved by everything that I’ve read and heard on the internet so far—it’s devastating.
Let’s start from the beginning.
Britney Spears started out as a child star at the age of four when she appeared at the Mickey Mouse Club alongside Ryan Gosling, Christina Aguilera, and Justin Timberlake. From there on, she climbed up the ladder to stardom.
Her claim to fame was her chart-topping music, whirlwind romances, and dynamic media presence. Like any other star, throughout this time, the paparazzi unrelentingly followed Britney everywhere. Her personal space was reduced to a small speckle. They were after her.
Britney’s mental health tumbled downwards as a result, and her behavior started changing. She experienced sudden waves of aggression, anger, and assertiveness every now and then. For example, she went to a barber’s shop and got her head shaved off.
Britney was so sick of the frantic media speculation and her constant run-ins with the paparazzi that frothing with indignation, she damaged a paparazzi vehicle with an umbrella under the infamous umbrella incident.
In 2008, Britney was placed on a psychiatric hold. The paparazzi even followed the ambulance that delivered her to the hospital.
In the meantime, Britney’s father was granted temporary conservatorship, which meant that he was required to manage her financial and daily affairs because of her mental and physical health limitations.
Later on, in a dark turn of events, Britney’s father got hold of the conservatorship indefinitely. This was made particularly easy by the impression of Britney that the media brewed up—volatile, unstable and erratic.
The permanent status of the conservatorship meant that Britney could no longer drive, vote, or make any legal or financial decisions without the oversight of her father and lawyer. But this wasn’t where the powers of the conservatorship ended.
It was all-encompassing and spread out to other—mostly basic—facets of life too. Britney wasn’t allowed to hire her own lawyers. She was denied full custody of her children. She wasn’t allowed to speak about the conservatorship publicly. She couldn’t even use her own phone, social media platforms, or other mediums of outside contact without constant surveillance. These measures were ostensibly enacted in an effort to safeguard the fortune that she had dedicated her life to earn. But all of it was swooped away from her.
Conservatorship is meant for the mentally disabled, extremely sick, or the elderly—those who can’t take care of themselves. But in Britney Spear’s case, it was used to bleed her dry of her money and assassinate her character.
If she were that unstable, how did she release four albums, go on tours, work as a judge on X-Factor, and embark on successful business endeavors after the implementation of the conservatorship?
Today—12 painfully long years later—the conservatorship is still in place. We really think she’s being held captive against her will. At the very least, she’s stuck in an abusive reality.
The #FreeBritney movement came to life on this premise—to relieve Britney from the oppressive curse of this conservatorship. And now it’s trending again.
Her fans reached out to her in anomalous ways. Very recently, a fan commented on her TikTok video, asking her to wear yellow in the next video if she needed help. And Britney did wear yellow in the next video. We’re not sure if Britney responded to that comment or it was just a coincidence. Similarly, another video that sparked conversation over her wellbeing was the one in which she was seen working out with her boyfriend, Sam Asghari, where he told her to smile. People emphasized that this meant Britney was being controlled.
While we were so consumed with swaying to her edgy, fun music, we missed the sinister undertones in some of her songs. It’s clear now Britney pleaded for help through her music and she tried telling the world she was being controlled in songs like “Overprotected”, “Lucky”, and “Piece of Me.”
All her career, Britney has been treated as a valuable commodity—a product that was meant to sell. She was perceived as an unthinking, unfeeling object—not as a real, living, breathing person who could think and choose for herself. Her life moved in a loop—circumventing problematic personal and public events, losing herself down the path, and then picking herself up and starting again—only for everything to be snatched away in one fell swoop.
Life hasn’t been easy for Britney, despite her privilege. People who were supposed to care for her trapped her from all sides. She wasn’t even allowed to reach out and ask for help. It feels as if her life almost didn’t belong to her.
#FreeBritney is a hope. A chance. An effort.
It was cultivated as an attempt to help a woman find freedom. We don’t know if this movement will claw out the way for Britney to win back her life, make her own decisions, and choose her own path. But it’s worth trying.
You don’t have to be a Britney fan to realize that she has been wronged throughout her life. You just have to be human. I know I can’t let this weigh on my conscience, so I’ll align myself with this movement.