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Britney Spears is in the news again, but not for her music. Fans, including celebrities, are speaking out in support of the 1990s pop princess following the release of The New York Times Presents: Framing Britney Spears, currently streaming on Hulu. If you're wondering why you keep seeing the hashtags #FreeBritney and #wearesorrybritney, read on.
The documentary series
A Spears-focused episode of the documentary series The New York Times Presents came out on Feb. 5. The show, Framing Britney Spears, runs about an hour and 13 minutes, and has “generally favorable” reviews on CNET sister site Metacritic. Chicago Sun-Times critic Richard Roeper calls it “a thought-provoking retrospective on Spears' life and career, up to and including the conservatorship battle as Spears continues to fight her father in court.”
The filmmakers contacted Spears and her family for interviews, the show's credits reveal, but none ended up in the film. However, friends, supporters, former employees and reporters all speak on camera about Spears' life, career and the campaign to end or adjust her conservatorship. Two contributors to the documentary, Babs Gray and Tess Barker, are launching a podcast series that will focus on Spears' life, including the legal struggle with her father, and the birth of the #FreeBritney movement to release her.
The latest news
First off, you should know that the struggle over Spears' money and who controls it continues to change daily, with the documentary shining a brighter public spotlight on the battle. On Feb. 11, Spears' father, Jamie Spears, lost his bid to keep control of delegating her investments, NBC News reports. That doesn't mean he's out of the picture entirely. But it does mean he will need to work with the financial firm Bessemer Trust, which was given co-conservator powers along with Spears in 2020. Spears and the group are now expected to work together on a budget and investment proposal for the singer's sizable estate, NBC reports.
What does #FreeBritney mean?
Lawyer Andrew Wallet resigned from a co-conservator role in 2019, leaving Spears the lone conservator until a court appointed the Bessemer Trust to work along with him. Some fans support a movement they dub #FreeBritney, hoping social media pressure will convince the courts to release the now-39-year-old singer from the legal arrangement. The singer herself called the conservatorship “voluntary” in court documents filed on Aug. 31, but also said at the time she is “strongly opposed” to her father continuing as the sole conservator — a wish that was granted when the trust was brought in as a co-conservator.
In November, Spears' court-appointed lawyer said she will not perform again as long as her father remains in the conservatorship role, The New York Times reported. “My client has informed me that she is afraid of her father,” the lawyer said.
Britney on Britney
The singer hasn't directly addressed the matter, but on Feb. 9, she posted to Instagram and Twitter, and many fans believe she was hinting at the situation. Spears posted a video and wrote “can't believe this performance of Toxic is from three years ago!!! I'll always love being on stage …. but I am taking the time to learn and be a normal person ….. I love simply enjoying the basics of everyday life.”
And in a follow-up tweet, Spears wrote, “Each person has their story and their take on other people's stories!!!! We all have so many different bright beautiful lives! Remember, no matter what we think we know about a person's life it is nothing compared to the actual person living behind the lens.”