A much-needed post about Britney Spears
I want to talk about Britney Spears today. I'm going to try and source everything I write, but be warned: there will be nothing neutral about this.
Hello, sweet people!
I hope you are doing well! I’m okay, spending my time between work and Ring Fit Adventure which gives me much-needed serotonin. Today, let’s talk about Britney Spears. The recommendations will have to wait, this is too important.
We need to talk about Britney
In this three-part essay, I'll talk about how Britney was a victim as a singer, as a woman, and as an adult, in that order, which happens to coincide mostly with the chronological order of her life.
Huge thanks to my friend Barbie for reviewing this post and giving me his much-needed feedback!
(Content warnings for this newsletter: mental illness, psychological abuse, sexism, harassment, child abuse, and implied pedophilic vibes.)
(Imma be honest. This part of the blog post isn't as well-sourced as I'd like, and not as well-sourced as the rest of the post, so you can move directly to the next part if you don't want the whole background. I'd forgive you.)
Let's start with the beginning of her career, at age 10 on the TV show Star Search. Britney Spears was a highly skilled vocalist, with a deep and rich voice, of which few recordings are still available. Here's a little compilation:
Britney’s voice was seen as boring and, more dangerously, too close to this of other singers of that time. In 1997, she signed a contract with Jive Records, and that marked the end of her deep voice. In 1998 (and 1999 outside of the US), she released ...Baby One More Time with a high, nasal, "baby voice" that made news.
For this album, she had to work with several vocal coaches. Eric Foster White, in particular, was cited to say that he had worked on reshaping her voice for a month to get it to be as nasal as it is in the songs we know best.
And it seems that it was a good business, given the success we know. So why am I ranting about her voice?
I'm ranting about her voice because her voice has been destroyed.
Britney had to start lip syncing in her early 20s, because her voice could not keep up with the horrible impact of her singing on her vocal chords. Many people were attributing her lip syncing to how much she danced on stage, exhausting her and taking her breath away. However, it has been suggested that it was to help hide her natural, much more lung-friendly voice.
Now that we've talked about how Britney's managers destroyed her voice, let's move on to how Justin Timberlake (and society) destroyed her heart.
Why does Britney Spears use that 'baby voice' when singing as supposed to her natural voice? (I can't find the MySpace post quoted in the answer, for hopefully obvious reasons)
In 1999, Britney became world-famous with ...Baby one more time. Yes, I already told you that. Do you remember her style in that video? The "sexy schoolgirl" look has travelled through the decade, its fairly pedophilic and ridiculously hot vibes still intact to this day. (Listen.... this video is so cringeworthy when you know how old she was, but also, she's so cute I'm not sure how I can deal with this psychologically.)
That song, and more importantly that video, was a perfect rendition of one of the greatest sexual fantasies of middle-aged men (and by extension, of a big and powerful chunk of society): a young girl, innocent and pure, yet desirable and visibly ready for sex. Britney was sexy, but she was also well-coached: she told the media that she wanted to stay a virgin until she was married.
And then, she fell in love.
She went out with NSYNC star Justin Timberlake. The media was suddenly obsessed with her purity, her relation to sexuality. In the meantime, she was more sexualized at every song, every photoshoot, culminating with I'm a Slave 4 U.
In 2002, Timberlake dumped Britney and started giving hints that she had cheated on him; not only was little Britney having sex, she was having adulterous sex. Suddenly, America needed to protect its children from her perversion. She constantly had to justify herself, but her image was off. In the meantime, the asshole talked about their sex life in detail on the radio in exchange for exposure for a song about her, Cry Me A River.
He wasn’t the only one either - Fred Durst, the singer of Limp Bizkit, did a long radio session in 2003, in which he talked about her body and sexuality in a LOT of detail. Why? Because she had said that she never had sex with him, and he took offense.
Britney was 21 years old, and she was done being the pure little girl. She kissed Madonna, released a song about masturbation and danced "naked" in the Toxic music video. (And by the way, please take a second to notice that her manager is also Miley Cyrus' manager.) More importantly, at the beginning of 2004, she married Jason Alexander, her redneck friend from her suburban school - she saw him at a party, was free from everyone usually hovering over her for once, they ran to the closest church.
That wedding marked the beginning of Britney's end.
After 55 hours and an intervention from her mother, lawyers and managers, her marriage got annulled, because Britney "was not aware of her actions".
In April 2004, she met dancer Kevin Federline. Five months later, they got married (this time with a proper prenup), she fired her manager, stopped talking to her mom and announced that she was retiring to start a family. The wedding, to a man who was known for cheating on his girlfriends, and with an incredibly vulgar ceremony, made headlines, of course. And this time, no crazy party in Vegas could explain the reckless action. For a minute, Britney had a husband, a dream house in Malibu and two children.
And then things went wrong.
An army of paparazzi hounded Britney and her babies, while her husband was enjoying a huge career boost thanks to her fame. She had to fend off for herself, and she tried to run away from the stalkers as much as she could. She once drove away without bothering to put her baby in a car seat. Another time, she ran and fell down with the baby still in her arms. This got her branded as a careless and overall terrible mother.
In 2006, at age 25, Britney filed for divorce. She became the single mom of two children, with no manager and no relationship with her parents. She was lost. Unfortunately, when you're a star and in the middle of the biggest soar of tabloids and the Internet, you can't afford to be lost. Each week, there was a new scandal about Britney's awful life, showing a darker, sadder side of her, judging her as often as possible (and yes, there were a lot of opportunities).
The following year, she decided to do the most innocent act of rebellion there is, an act that most women have done after a breakup (I know I have) - she cut her hair. Well, she shaved it off. And the paparazzi loved it - I guess it must be so much more interesting covering Britney's haircut than, for example, the pedophilia investigations against Michael Jackson happening at the exact same time.
An innocent act of rebellion after a breakup? The media didn’t agree. They decided that the most likely explanation was a terrible mental illness that was absolutely not due to her long-standing harassment. She lost custody of her children after that episode.
In 2008, she tried to lock herself into the bathroom with her son instead of handing him to her ex-husband. An ambulance took her, naked, to a psychiatric hospital. In other words, paparazzi heaven. A few months later, she was thin again, she had long and wavy hair, a nice-fitting dress, she sang at the MTV Video Music Awards and received three prizes. Britney was back. She became a mantra: "If Britney survived 2007, you can survive anything."
She was doing “well”... except she was a puppet.
When the ambulance took her, the court put her under conservatorship of her father, Jamie Spears. Since then, he controls her fortune, he controls her concerts. He hired back Larry Rudolph, whom she had fired after her wedding. Jamie Spears is there from the moment she wakes up to the moment she goes to sleep. She is managed again, does not get a say in any decision - literally. With the conservatorship, she can’t buy anything, however small, can't sign a single contract, can't decide which shows she wants to appear on or who she wants to work with.
During interviews, Britney started calling herself boring and shy. She doesn't talk much - which is understandable, since she's not allowed to deviate from the script her father approves for her before every public appearance. She is 38 years old and her daddy makes her choices for her. (Actually, technically, he quit about 10 years ago, but chose his replacement and still gets paid a yearly salary for his "work".) Oh, and by the way, the daddy in question? Last year, he got hit by a restraining order from Britney’s sons, due to a “physical altercation”. As for Britney, being under conservatorship means she can't leave her father, and therefore can see her sons only when Jamie Spears allows it.
On the topic of conservatorship - it is extremely rare to have someone who doesn't have full-blown dementia, and isn't very old or extremely sick, to be under such a constraining order. Jamie Spears forbids his daughter from leaving her house, voting, driving a car, getting married, getting pregnant (???), doing interviews that aren't pre-scripted, speaking publicly about the conservatorship, using her phone or social media without monitoring, walking, buying anything, looking at her own bank statements, speaking to someone alone... and of course, hiring her own lawyer. Six months into the conservatorship, Britney released Womanizer and went on a huge World Tour. So if she isn't too disabled to endure a live world tour, how comes she's not considered able to go outside of her own house on her own ?
Why now, if that was in 2008?
You may have seen recent news about #FreeBritney. Why is it working now, you ask? Good question! I have an answer!
In January 2019, Britney went to buy burgers with her boyfriend. She drove a car to get there and paid for the burgers, two things she was not allowed to. She was arrested for it. She said in court that she was being held against her will, which her mother confirmed. Her estate manager quit, saying that the conservatorship needed to end immediately, because she was in "substantial detriment, irreparable harm and immediate danger". A paralegal recorded themselves saying that her father was holding her captive. In September 2019, Jamie Spears stepped down from the conservatorship, giving his spot to Jodi Montgomery, but stayed her financial affairs manager.
Then came the yellow T-shirt affair. Allegedly, B's PR team is trying to force other celebrities to shut up about FreeBritney and has made Twitter take the hashtag down at one point. On one of her TikTok videos, someone told her to wear yellow if she needed help. On the next day:
The rumor mill caught on fire.
The key argument against lifting the conservatorship, now, is that after 12 years under custody, she might not be able to readapt to normal life. But when you're as rich and powerful as Britney is, you can hire lawyers and estate managers to help you, and there are some wayyy less strict frameworks that exist, such as giving her at least some spending money, or power of attorney, which means that someone would help her make decisions, but not make them for her.
And most importantly, even if there is conservatorship, Britney could also at least have a say in who is going to micromanage her whole life. Her father shouldn't have that power; anyone else, with less conflict of interest and no restraining order against them, would be better-suited.
The "temporary" conservatorship, which has now been going on for 12 years, was supposed to be re-evaluated in May, but because of COVID-19 the hearing was moved to August. Britney requested to have her father removed from the conservatorship, instating Montgomery as the permanent conservator and replacing Spears with someone qualified to manage her finances. The case lasted four days, and a judge extended the conservatorship, with no changes, until February 2021. Last month, Britney's lawyer filed a motion to make the case open to the public, while Jamie Spears wants to keep it sealed. We'll see what that does.
So here you go: Free Britney.