Britney Vs. Spears: The Singer Repeatedly Tried to Break out of her Father's Control. Why Didn't it Happen in 13 years?
The Netflix documentary brings a new perspective on the case of Britney Spears' custody.
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Documentary Britney Vs. Spears puts the conservatorship, in which the singer was deprived of her rights and the possibility of managing her property, into a larger context. It explains how the case got here and what - often unfair - practices it maintains, even though it may not be the best solution for the singer.
This new documentary on Netflix is the only Britney Spears documentary made without the supervision of her guardian and father, James Jamie Spears. At the same time, Britney is not in the center of investigation. The creators focus on a series of problems that have resulted in temporary custody, which later turned into permanent, and reveal how all her attempts to get out of it so far have failed. And there were many of those.
13 years without freedom
The 39-year-old singer has been working for years to bring the forced conservatorship to an end. In the summer of 2021, she accused her father and guardian of controlling everything she said and did, forcing her to take medicine, acting against her will, and not allowing her to marry her boyfriend and have a child with him.
In court, Britney Spears described the last 13 years as suffering in which her family abused her, forced her to work and made it impossible for her to live a normal life. You can read a transcript of her entire speech from the court on Variety.
The documentary better illustrates why the case came to exist at all and how is it possible that it grew into such proportions that, after years of worries and petitions, fans finally heard the complaints and pleas of their favorite singer. And she did not ask for anything special, only for freedom, because from her point of view, there is no reason why she should remain legally incapacitated.
The document Britney vs. Spears shows that the singer has done several world tours and hundreds of performances in Las Vegas over the years (despite the fact that doctors and psychologists have not recommended her to work so soon after her collapse, especially such long and intense hours). Not only did she manage the workload, but she also released a few albums, invented choreographies, managed dancers and was even a juror at X Factor.
Alongside all of that, she was taking medication, returning repeatedly to a hospital bed or to therapists' chairs. And they all unanimously claimed that she was not able to make decisions for herself and could not even choose a lawyer.
The one assigned to her by the court at the beginning of the custody, according to the testimony of witnesses and indications in the document, preferred to cooperate with her father, who paid him, after all.
Signing smuggled papers didn't help
Jamie Spears has repeatedly told the media and the courts that conservatorship is the best solution for his daughter. Supposedly if she wanted to end it, she would say it herself, but she didn't want to.
However, the document shows that Britney not only wanted to, but also repeatedly tried to break free. It was the first time in 2009 - only 12 months after the start of the conservatorship, when she was followed by journalist Jenny Eliscu. Eliscu is also the producer of the documentary. Together with the filmmaker Erin Lee Carr, they started working on the film a long time ago and finished it just after the turbulent events of the summer of 2021.
Sam Lutfi (former manager of Britney, whom he said had been misused and wrongly accused of being a threat, was one of the reasons for the conservatorship because he allegedly drugged Britney) and Adnan Ghalib (paparazzi photographer and later Britney's partner) have put together a plan to deliver the necessary documents to the singer. Eliscu smuggled them to Britney in 2009 under the guise of an interview. She worked on a story for the Rolling Stones and got to know the singer professionally and they were friends for years.
In the documents, Britney asked for the possibility to choose a new lawyer because she did not trust the one assigned to her by the court and he did not fight enough to end the conservatorship. She signed the papers out of the sight of security in a small restroom at a Beverly Hills hotel. The attempt failed, her signature was questioned and, in addition, her father's team convinced the court that, according to medical examinations, she was not able to choose a suitable lawyer on her own.
She had several such medical claims in her file; thanks to a secret source who contacted the filmmakers, we know that the conservatorship was approved by the court due to dementia. Experts have repeatedly called her incapable of managing her life, although she continued to build a career and earn millions (which ended up under her father's control).
In the document we also see the text messages that haven't been made public before. It has been confirmed that a voice message in which Britney tells the lawyer that she does not want to lose her children in an attempt to lift the conservatorship is real. The film also explains in detail the financing of the conservatorship, which has two parts: guardianship for the person (that is, everything related to decisions about one's own health, where to go, what to eat or who they meet) and care for property (and handling it). Since the lawyer representing Britney gets paid by her father (who manages her property), it makes sense that he did not want to go to open war with him.
In addition, Britney was already the mother of two children at the time, and the fear of losing them also marked her efforts to break free from her own father, Jamie Spears. This is probably why the call for help came later.
During the first years of conservatorship, fans saw Britney on stage, on screens (for example, she starred in How I Met Your Mother) and in music videos, and she seemed to be fine. At some point, she probably was, as the documentary shows - she sincerely loved music and performing, and therefore enjoyed doing that to the fullest.
She asked friends, managers, photographers and other acquaintances from time to time for help, but the problems began to escalate in the winter of 2011, when the Femme Fatale world tour ended and her father Jamie started drinking. She didn't like the fact that she had to test herself and her alcoholic father didn't have to, even though he managed everything in her life. But nothing has changed.
In 2020, Britney officially refused to perform and it cost her a million dollars. Her father therefore filed a complaint with the court and things escalated quickly from there. Much has changed since then: Britney has officially stated that she does not want to remain in conservatorship, she has finally managed to get a new lawyer, has a little more freedom and is now facing the most important court hearing, in which she can finally regain control of her life and property.
So where's her family?
The biggest problem with the documentary is that neither Jamie Spears, Lynn Spears or anyone else from the pop singer's family or team appear in it. On one hand, this is understandable - they would probably never speak in a film that portrays them in a bad light. On the other hand, the documentary thus becomes one-sided and if it wasn't for the court documents or testimonies of some witnesses, it would be very subjective.
It is already problematic that Jamie Spears did not comment on the allegations. It's not clear from the film whether they at least attempted to contact him.
And this is not the only Britney Spears documentary out there. A roughly 70-minute documentary on FX and Hulu, based on an investigation by the New York Times, premiered last week. It is called Controlling Britney Spears and it's a continuation of the previous NYT project Framing Britney Spears, which was released in February 2021.
The essential statement of this film is that Jamie Spears was apparently watching his daughter beyond the law: he was tapping her phone, watching her bedroom through a hidden camera, and checking her email.
The pop princess's struggle for freedom will continue on Wednesday, September 29th. Los Angeles court will decide whether to actually cancel the position of property guardian Jamie Spears - the new lawyer recently applied for this change.
Surprisingly, in early September, Jamie Spears himself applied for the complete abolition of the conservatorship. If the court grants this request, after a certain transitional period, Britney would again have control over herself as a person and over her property.
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