On September 28, Netflix released Britney vs Spears, the newest documentary investigating Britney Spears’ infamous conservatorship scandal. The movie was released along with the news that Britney’s father, Jamie Spears, will no longer be her conservator.
Britney’s mental stability became a media fixation in 2008, after she was admitted to a psychiatric ward. Spears then lost custody of her two sons, and her father filed for temporary conservatorship, arguing that she no longer had the capacity to make good decisions. With his newly acquired power, Jamie Spears had control over when she worked, who she saw, what she did, and how she used her money.
The singer made multiple attempts to convince the court to replace her conservator with someone outside of her family, but was continuously classified as mentally unfit to make that choice. Over the past 13 years under the conservatorship, Britney completed four world tours and performed at more than hundreds of shows. She made millions of dollars, none of which she got to handle.
Earlier this year, Hulu and The New York Times released Framing Britney Spears, which investigated how her history with mental illness and the press has led up to her current situation. It also examined the Free Britney movement and its dedication to Britney’s autonomy over her career, finances, and life.
Britney vs Spears reiterated its predecessors’ themes, but took a different route by diving deeper into its focal point, which was how Britney wanted out, but no one listened.
Throughout the film, key figures were interviewed, such as Felicia Culotta, Britney’s longtime friend and assistant, Sam Lutfi, her former manager, and Adnam Ghalib, a former boyfriend. However, neither Britney vs Spears nor the previous documentary were able to include interviews with Britney or her father. Thus, a lot of the information was secondhand and therefore biased, which isn’t typical for a film that is supposed to be an exposé. Britney even said on Instagram, “I watched a little bit of the last documentary and I hate to inform you but a lot of what you heard is not true!!!”
Britney vs Spears brought up several controversial issues and figures, including Sam Lutfi. He is blamed by her father, and by most of the public, for Britney’s mental health issues, and was even accused of drugging her at one point. He was the “undue influence” that made Spears think she needed someone to take over. This documentary provided a previously unexplored perspective on Lutfi, by interviewing the former manager himself. According to Lutfi, Britney has reached out to him over the years to complain about her conservatorship. This would sound realistic, except that two restraining orders were filed against him by the Spears family, Britney even saying that he caused her “severe mental harm.”
Netflix’s Britney vs Spears reminds us that we, as naturally biased creatures with access to partial media, pick and choose what information we pay attention to. If we had been criticizing the men who stripped Britney of her rights instead of laughing at her “outbursts” for the past 13 years, we might have advocated for her freedom sooner. Regardless, Spears’ removal as conservator is a win for the Free Britney movement, and most importantly, for Britney herself.