Britney Spears

Should We #FreeBritney Or Leave Her Alone?

By The Betches | April 24, 2019
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So I guess I’m officially on the Britney beat now. The #FreeBritney movement hasn’t shown any signs of slowing down over the past few days, and even gained traction over the weekend when Britney was given a day pass out of her mental facility for Easter, which she spent with her boyfriend Sam Asghari. (And please, please don’t ask me to tell you my theory that he is not not a semi-hired babysitter-boyfriend being manipulated by her team via sponsorships and attention.)

Before I go any further on a topic that’s actually taken a more serious turn than I expected, I have to start by saying that I’m both a huge fan of Britney’s and someone who takes mental health very seriously. I have mental illness in my family and have seen the gray areas involved and how deeply sad it is when a loved one is unable to care for themselves. I’m not writing this for “clicks”—I’m not a staff writer and have no assignments or quota to hit. (I bet you’re wondering who I am now, right? RIGHT? It’s Sami, cofounder of Betches, hi.) I’m writing it because this subject has really struck a cord with me as a Britney fan, and after seeing a literal #FreeBritney protest on social media yesterday, it’s clear that it has for others as well. Also, good to see protests are still hot.

If you’re a Betch Slapped listener, you’ll hear in Tuesday’s episode we revisited the Britney conversation, and Jordana brought up the point that it’s impossible for us to know the state of Britney’s mental health, and whether or not she is actually a danger to herself and needs to be on medications controlled by a conservator. Basically, maybe Britney shouldn’t be #free if she’s a danger to herself, and we are doing damage by running our mouths on sh*t we don’t know. And she’s honestly right about that. The article I wrote last week when this scandal came out had many, many comments to the same effect, which I took seriously. But this issue is less about whether Britney needs to be under conservatorship and receiving mental health treatment, and more about whether or not her conservatorship, necessary or not, is functioning in her best interests.

TMZ reported today (in what, in my opinion, seemed generally like a puff piece fed directly from Jamie Spears’ PR team but I’m no primary source), that the conservatorship doesn’t give Jamie the ability to control what medications Britney is taking or the ability to send her to a mental facility against her will. Sure, but regardless, doesn’t the fact that Jamie Spears is her conservator in the first place provide him with enough power to manipulate her to act in his preferred ways, even if those specific terms are not laid out in the conservatorship?

While it’s impossible to see into the Spears family and know whether or not everything is legit, I don’t think it’s illogical to question the simple idea that a conservator shouldn’t have financial incentives that are tied to the control of their conservatee. Britney Spears’ financial success is directly beneficial to her family, meaning they have less of an incentive to objectively judge whether or not she should be performing at all. It’s really hard for people to be aware of a reality when their financial gain is dependent on them not being aware of it, whether you’re a trillionaire earth-ruining corporation or you’re Jamie Spears from Bumblefuck whose daughter got mind-blowingly famous. His own finances hinge on him not accepting that keeping Britney famous, performing, and forced to meet and greet thousands of strangers is potentially contributing to her mental health issues. It happened in 2007, and it’s not crazy to think it’s happening again.

And here we have the crux of the issue. As Britney fans, all of us are a teeny tiny bit a part of where she’s ended up. …Baby One More Time was the first CD I ever owned and loved, and the girl has been famous since she was 11 f*cking years old. She had no time to personally develop before she started being consumed by other people, so she’s forever stuck there. Not quite the makings of a mentally healthy adult. And it’s not just Britney—it’s hard to name many celebrities who got famous very young (aside from Hilary Duff) who you would categorize as “doing well.”

Since writing this article last night, Britney appeared on her own instagram with a message for her fans. She said: “I am trying to take a moment for myself, but everything that’s happening is just making it harder for me…Your love and dedication is amazing, but what I need right now is a little bit of privacy to deal with all the hard things that life is throwing my way. If you could do that, I would be forever grateful.” Then she made some weird allusion to some Sam Lutfi emails that I have no idea the relevance of, but as with any Britney moment, gave us just a big enough whiff of ascandal to take us deeper down the rabbit hole and drag her further down with us. So I’m just not even going to google what those emails are and try to take a new approach to Britney fandom.

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I wanted to say hi, because things that are being said have just gotten out of control!!! Wow!!! There’s rumors, death threats to my family and my team, and just so many things crazy things being said. I am trying to take a moment for myself, but everything that’s happening is just making it harder for me. Don’t believe everything you read and hear. These fake emails everywhere were crafted by Sam Lutfi years ago… I did not write them. He was pretending to be me and communicating with my team with a fake email address. My situation is unique, but I promise I’m doing what’s best at this moment ??? You may not know this about me, but I am strong, and stand up for what I want! Your love and dedication is amazing, but what I need right now is a little bit of privacy to deal with all the hard things that life is throwing my way. If you could do that, I would be forever grateful. Love you ❤️❤️❤️

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On some level, it feels like Britney fans (and fans in general, sorry we’re not special) have a codependent relationship with the figures we love. We love them so much that we can’t let them be, even if it hurts them. We demand more music, more performances, more smiles and selfies at the meet and greet we spent our hard-earned money to attend. And it’s not even our fault! Celebrities are marketed towards us for their own profit, what else is there? Which is why Britney is different. She doesn’t control her finances or personal decisions, and it’s clear that the fame drives her deeper into a very painful hole that she may never really be able to fully get out of. The sad part is that there’s no real solution, and as someone DM’ed me (this is obviously a well-sourced article): “please don’t fan the flames on this…because if she truly is an unstable person, this is not helping.” Maybe it’s finally time for all of us to really leave Britney alone.

Images: Shutterstock; @britneyspears / Instagram