There have been several documentaries produced about the world’s biggest pop star in the 1990s and early 2000s: Britney Spears. Commonly referred to as America’s sweetheart, she released hit singles such as “Oops!… I Did It Again” and “…Baby One More Time” that climbed the charts. She has been a public figure since her teenage years and pursued constantly by the paparazzi and under the scrutiny of the entire world for decades. Released on Sept. 28 of this year, the documentary includes a take on information that has never been disclosed to the public sets “Britney vs. Spears” apart from its predecessors, all the while keeping the viewer’s attention on the most important matter: freeing Britney from her conservatorship.
The Free Britney movement was created by her fans to symbolize their opposition of this conservatorship. A conservatorship is a legal process for taking an incapacitated person’s ability to make their decisions away from them through a court-appointed individual managing their affairs. The conservator has almost complete authority, which in Britney’s case is her father Jamie Spears. He has threatened her and manipulated her while benefiting financially off her career. Britney has long been vocal about not wanting her father in this position. She had previously taken the stand at a hearing held on June 23 of this year, in which she addressed the court with an electrifying and emotional 20-minute statement. In it, she stated, “I’ve been in shock,” “I am traumatized” and she went so far as to say that her father “should be in jail.” However, the judge subsequently denied her request to end the conservatorship.
The documentary highlights the major events in her life that led to the start of the conservatorship in 2008 as well as what has been going on behind the scenes since then. Redacted documents, which were leaked by an anonymous source, provided information regarding Spears’ medical examinations prior to important events in her career that gave her father the authorization to have her pursue these projects under the conservatorship. These included her Circus tour in 2009, her stint as a judge on the X Factor in 2012, and her Las Vegas show lasting from 2013 to 2017. But the written documents provided a stark contrast between her behavior in real life and the portrayal of her as an unstable woman in order to give evidence of the need for a conservatorship. The paper data supported the conservatorship; in reality, she was preparing for her tours, choreographing her own shows, and writing songs for her upcoming albums. Viewers can see the difference as Spears displays her strong work ethic and natural performances while hiding the depth of her trauma. Yet, some of that trauma escaped into the limelight in the form of paparazzi pictures blown out of proportion and controversial headlines that were far from the truth.
On Nov. 12, 2021, a judge finally declared Britney Spears free from her conservatorship. For me, this occurred mere hours after watching this documentary. From an outsider’s perspective, watching this scenario felt like a movie. She lived it out for 13 grueling years where she was isolated, threatened and worked to the bone for the profit of others. Spears is undeniably one of the most talented performers to have ever graced the world stage, and she deserves every bit of this long-awaited victory and more. This documentary shines a light on her situation, the importance of her fans fighting for her rights and the cruelty of living in the spotlight for so long while simultaneously hiding something so unbearable.