Fan edit featuring the viral hashtag, FreeBritney. - photo via @BritneyHiatus on Twitter

Framing Britney Spears,” the sixth episode of the “New York Times Presents” docu-series, has caused quite a stir in the entertainment world. Currently out now on Hulu, the documentary gives insight to Britney Spears’ life, her conservatorship and her relationship with the paparazzi. 

This documentary is trending because it focuses on mental health and the role the media can play in entertainers’ lives mentally and emotionally. They also discuss the lines the paparazzi can cross just for a photo opportunity or interview; being the center of the entertainment industry, Spears always had paparazzi following her.

As the documentary progressed, they talked about how her image went from being America’s sweetheart to essentially a villain. There was a focus on her relationship with Justin Timberlake and how he controlled the narrative to encourage rumors that Spears had cheated on him and he was hurt.

At the height of her career, Spears quickly married Kevin Federline and had two children within three years. At this time she was going through a divorce, custody battle and learning to be a newly single parent, all while the media was constantly hunting her for juicy stories about her life.

Ultimately, their invasiveness led to her portrayal as a horrible mother. One of the major criticisms for her as a mother came when she was photographed in public holding her toddler on her lap while driving. 

The psychological effects Spears was going through certainly took a toll on the pop star. Although the media didn’t necessarily cover it at the time, she was likely going through postpartum depression. Eventually, she was involuntarily committed into a psychological hospital, faced repercussions when it came to custody of her children and her father gained conservatorship over her. This was the beginning of the “Free Britney Movement” from her fans and followers. 

Fans showing their support for Britney Spears by protesting against her conservatorship. – Photo via hrw.org

A conservatorship is a legal concept where a judge appoints a legal guardian to handle someone’s finances and/or their day-to-day life. In the case of Spears, her father Jamie was the conservator for both. Typically, conservatorships are for people who are elderly or who have a cognitive impairment that disallows them to properly take care of themselves.

After 13 years of being a conservatee, in 2021 Spears decided to go to court to try to regain control of her life. While a judge ruled that Spears’ care manager Jodi Montgomery would be extended as a co-conservator until September 2021, and that a bank would be co-conservator of her estate, Jamie Spears was allowed to maintain control over his daughter’s finances.

It is relatively common for celebrities to acquire mental health disorders because of the constant attention and Spears is a tragic example. The media was able to spin the narrative that Spears was insane and losing her mind when in reality, as we know now, she was going through a mental health disorder that should have been addressed.

The Free Britney Movement is more than just Britney Spears, but also about the mental impact that the paparazzi can have on a celebrity, as well as shining light on the improper use of a conservatorship.

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