The music industry really does screw over musicians. I’ve written a whole series about it which you can read here: (part 1, part 2, part 3, part 4). The question isn’t which musicians have been given a bad deal, it’s who hasn’t? Whether it’s not being paid royalties, poor marketing, being put on the back burner, bad luck, bad timing, politics, musicians get screwed over all the time. And right now one of the ones that everyone is talking about is Britney Spears.
Chris Crocker said it about 15 years ago, “Leave Britney Alone!”. The world may have mocked them for this, but they’re absolutely right and I’m so glad that in the mainstream I’ve seen so many voices supporting Britney Spears. It is so much harder being a celebrity today than ever before. Tabloids are everywhere. Every time you go to the shop, right by the tills in the impulse buys section, you see all the celebrity gossip: the body shaming, the ableism, the drama. When I was a kid, I had dreams of being a famous actor, but as an adult, I know I couldn’t handle it and I’m so glad I was never a child star. I freak out if I get a couple of emails or fall the slightest bit behind on my blog! If I were famous, I’d go crazy. Looking around me, fewer people want to be famous. It sounds like a burden. Sure, you get a lot of money, but the tradeoff is your privacy and freedom.
Being a celebrity was hard enough in the 60s and 70s. There were still scandals and gossip, but it wasn’t nearly as covered as it is now with the 24 hour news cycle and various celebrity gossip outlets and everyone watching celebrity social media pages like hawks. There’s no normalcy if you’re famous. You’ll get spotted and recognised by someone every time you go out in public. Can’t have a moment to yourself without someone asking for a selfie or autograph. Thankfully though, for most people fame doesn’t last so enjoy the perks while it last and you’ll get to live normally again soon enough.
The 2000s was a different time than today and we are far enough away from it, 12 years away from 2009 and 21 years away from 2000 so we can look at it from a retrospective, outsider’s point of view. I’ve noticed a lot of big changes in attitudes.
The first big one is that it’s okay to speak out against your country now. Back in the Bush years, if you dared to speak out against the war, you could get cancelled like The Dixie Chicks did. There’s definitely still a lot of McCarthyism and Red Scare sort of rhetoric, but there’s now a lot more pushback. The next one is that people are a lot more comfortable speaking about mental health. When I was a kid, I remember my parents telling me to keep my mental health struggles a secret. Lots of euphemisms were used when I was a kid. Now I’m glad that people have a few places to safely speak their truth and people can at last understand. Yes, this should have happened earlier, but we need change and even if it happens late, better late than never.
The other big change is thanks to the #MeToo movement. People are a lot more outspoken about sexual harassment and we’re not taking it anymore. I feel a lot more supported now in my own experiences and I think if they happened in a previous decade, I’d imagine a lot more people would be calling me a perpetual victim, crazy, or not believing me. It’s good to see people questioning antiquated and bad attitudes in society. We should never be complacent. We should always be learning from our mistakes and changing our habits and ways of thinking to be better people.
Creepiness in Hollywood was always an open secret and comedians would make jokes about it. It’s everywhere from the powerful producers and head honchos to celebrity news. Remember when tabloids would post pictures of and make fun of celebrities who would go commando? Why did people like making fun of celebrities for that? Who were they hurting? Half the population have vaginas, get over it. Posting these photos, especially uncensored is revenge porn and sexual harassment. It’s good to see more people are coming out in support of victims of revenge porn, but I’m still upset that there are people who think it’s funny or okay to leak nudes and it boils my blood that people victim blame. How is this helpful? People deserve a right to privacy. People deserve dignity and respect. How hard is it not to share nudes that were sent to you in confidence?
As well as that, people love to build celebrities up only to tear them down. Is it really any wonder that celebrities end up with mental health problems? It’s even worse if you’ve been famous since you were a kid or teenager. Britney Spears got famous as a teenager and didn’t get to have a normal teenage life. Even when she was a minor, journalists asked her inappropriate questions. Paparazzi would constantly follow her, swarm around her car, and bother her. Sure, getting attention can be fun, but there’s only so much anyone can take.
Let’s time travel back to 2006-2007. Britney Spears had just given birth to her second son and is a seasoned performer with nearly a decade in the music industry. She’s no longer a teenybopper. She was still as popular as ever though. New celebrity mothers are scrutinised and their bodies looked at as if they’re under a microscope. There’s so much pressure for a celebrity mother to bounce back and look like she’s 19 again.
Tabloids slut shamed her and called her a bad parent for driving around with her son in her lap in the driver’s seat. Not defending her actions, but Britney was in public and desperate to get away from the paparazzi. At the end of 2006, she divorced Kevin Federline and being a celebrity divorce there was a lot of publicity and nastiness. 2007 got to a rocky start with Britney losing her aunt to ovarian cancer and checking into rehab only to leave not even 24 hours later. Then the infamous head shaving incident happened and then she hit a photographer’s car with her umbrella.
Hitting a photographer’s car isn’t right and yes she shouldn’t have driven with her babies in her lap, but a lot of the mockery was about the head shaving. Shaved head? Who cares? It’s not hurting anyone and I think she wanted to send a message to the world that she isn’t your fantasy or a sex doll or someone to be objectified and shaving her hair, a signifier of femininity was a symbol and a message to the world. Britney Spears is a human being and her own person, but it certainly didn’t feel like it to her because when you’re a pop star, everyone’s trying to control you. You don’t have freedom to do what you want, wear what you want, or say what you want. You’re surrounded by handlers, stylists, publicists, music business people.
The last thing Britney needed was negativity, judgement, and a lack of privacy. She needed help and support from the people closest to her and space away from publicity. People forget that celebrities don’t owe us anything. Being a touring musician is hard work too. Sure not the same kind of work as an office job or a manual labour job, but it’s still a very difficult job and one that is mentally tiring. No wonder musicians often turn to drugs. It’s hard to keep up the same energy day in, day out with touring. Even the most extroverted person gets tired of people.
After her MTV VMAs performance where everyone made fun of how she performed and looked (which honestly, I don’t think she looked fat at all – if an average woman with a body like that wore a bikini at the beach no one would say anything), she lost custody of her kids and that is devastating to any parent. She refused to give her kids to Kevin Federline and she ended up getting 5150’ed, which means she was hospitalised because she was deemed a threat to herself or others.
And that’s how the whole conservatorship thing happened. The court determined she was not of sound mind and gave all control of her assets to her father. That conservatorship has been in place for 13 years. For years, Britney has tried to break free, but she hasn’t yet. She deserves justice. This year, she broke her silence and revealed that what she has gone through is akin to trafficking and slavery. I encourage you to read what she has said in court. I warn you though, it’s disturbing and will make you sick.
What does a conservatorship entail? Well basically an adult is placed into a conservatorship if they are gravely disabled such as having severe mental illness or having dementia or a stroke.
Britney has been treated like a prisoner. She can’t control her own money. Any money she makes goes to her greedy dad. She can’t buy whatever she wants. She can’t drink or purchase alcohol. She can’t take days off when she wants to or needs to. She can’t make her own business deals or reject deals. Her dad can control whether or not she gets a phone and what goes up on her social media. She can’t get married. She also doesn’t have any control over her reproductive health. In fact, an IUD placed inside her without her consent. Allegedly, she isn’t able to vote either. She can’t leave the country because her dad has control over her finances and her passport isn’t in her possession.
Ever since Britney was a kid, her father saw her as a meal ticket. He didn’t truly care about her. There’s a lot of toxicity around her. Britney Spears deserves to be free. The conservatorship is abuse.
I can’t help but think there has to be misogyny and a lot of stigma against people with mental health problems at play here. We need to look at the conservatorship through a money lens too.
If Britney were a man, the paparazzi wouldn’t have treated her like this, which no doubt led to her mental health problems and this conservatorship. Imagine not having a normal life as a teenager, being thrust into fame from a young age, you find it hard to relate to people your age. What comes with fame is lots of attention, fun at first but then it gets really old and you just want time to yourself. As you climb up the ladder in show business, you find that you get less and less alone time, you start to crave it more and more. Then the marketing and record label people are scrutinising your appearance, choosing what you wear, telling how you act, shooting down your ideas. You feel less and less yourself. People around you start to become more suspicious and betray you and sell you out for a quick buck for tabloid stories. You can’t trust anyone anymore. That would make anyone go crazy: man, woman, young, old.
The truth is women face a lot more pressure when it comes to their looks than men do. No one really bats an eye when a male celebrity puts on weight or goes grey or loses their hair, but if the same happens to a female celebrity or even to a lesser extent, everyone’s like “OMG what happened? They really let themselves go!”. Working out is good for you, but sometimes people need a break. Oh how dare she go on holiday for a week, have some cheat meals, and gain a couple pounds. She’s barely a normal weight. Is it any wonder so many celebrities have eating disorders?
Women, while they have all the same rights as men on paper, are clearly not treated the same in society and are seen as fragile, helpless, and without agency. If a woman tries to stand up for herself, she’s called a bitch. If a man does it, he’s called assertive. Women are more often dismissed as crazy or as liars. Attitude changes are still needed.
Yes, there are many examples of male musicians who have struggled with their mental health and even had breakdowns. Of all of them, I can only think of one of these musicians who experienced anywhere close to the treatment of Britney Spears and that was Brian Wilson. In short, Brian Wilson’s father was abusive and he was scarred by that. In the 60s he had a nervous breakdown and had to take a step back from the band. He turned to some maladaptive coping mechanisms and eventually his family had to stage an intervention. For about a decade of his life, quack psychologist Eugene Landy controlled him and his every move, taking lots of money and involving himself in every Beach Boys business deal too.
Money is also an issue in the conservatorship too. Mental illness is more common than you’d think and most people with mental illnesses are not in a conservatorship. The reason Britney Spears’s dad wanted to be her conservator is purely because of money. Britney Spears has made hundreds of millions of dollars from her music and he wants that money. If she were just an average person, I doubt he would be trying to do this.
The world asked for Free Britney and instead, Bill Cosby was freed. No justice.
Shoutout to Patrick and Jeffrey from Maryland for supporting the blog!
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