The conspiracy theory has been raging for over a decade – is pop icon Britney Spears being held hostage by her father so he can control her finances, or is he just trying to protect her well-being? Her army of loyal fans believes it is the former, and they are so intent on saving her that they have launched a ‘Free Britney’ movement that is gaining momentum.
Since 2008, Britney has been under conservatorship, which means that others – including her father Jamie – control what she does, who she sees and how she spends her money. The official rule is that it’s about protecting her money, and even her life, after years of struggles with mental health.
But fans claim it is a violation of her human rights. Britney has recently taken steps herself to remove her father, and now a new BBC2 documentary from BAFTA-winning journalist Mobeen Azhar dives in and asks if the former teenage pop princess will ever taste freedom again.
The only access her fans have to their idol is through her social media accounts, which some believe are even under control, while others say she sends encrypted messages asking for help.
Britney Spears (pictured) is under conservatorship which means others – including her dad Jamie – control what she does, who she sees and how she spends her money
Billy Bradfield, Britney’s longtime boyfriend and makeup artist, says she clearly knows what she wants. “It’s a super complex thing, but she just wants to be able to drive her car if she wants to. She currently does not have that right. ‘
Born and raised in Kentwood, Louisiana, Britney was prepared for stardom by her mother Lynne. She signed her up for talent shows, put her on as many TV shows as possible, and got her an agent.
And it worked – at the age of 16, Britney got the record deal that launched her career and her first two albums, Baby One More Time and Oops I Did It Again, made her a household name.
But it soon became apparent that Britney was struggling with life in the spotlight and in 2007 she had a very public slump where she shaved her head and attacked a photographer’s car with an umbrella. She ended up in a mental institution and in early 2008 her father took matters into her own hands by securing the conservatorship.
A conspiracy theory about whether the pop icon is being held hostage by her father (pictured together in a photo shared in 2015) so he can control her finances or whether he’s trying to protect her well-being has been raging for over a decade
But Billy refutes any suggestion that it is for her own protection. “That’s not true,” he says. It is important to point out that there is an army of lawyers on the side of the conservatoire working against Britney, and that her money pays for them, when she only has a court-appointed attorney.
Britney is now in a place where she should be ashamed of nothing. She has no problem with anything that happened, she is over that. We know she had challenges, as we all do, but she would like her family not to be involved, so there could be some healing. ‘
At the heart of the matter is her fortune, believed to be £ 50 million, with Britney’s supporters believing that it is her bank balance that is driving the legal battle and not what’s best for her. Samuel Ingham has been a court-appointed attorney for 12 years. Lisa MacCarley, a conservatory legal expert, reveals the eye-watering legal bills Britney’s legacy has to pay him.
“It is my understanding that Mr. Ingham receives $ 10,000 a week,” she tells Mobeen. When they robbed her of an attorney of her choice, that was the day justice died for Britney Spears. There is no outside body that you can approach to say that this is a systemic error. ‘
Her loyal fans believe she is being held hostage and are so determined to save her that they have launched a ‘Free Britney’ movement that is gaining momentum.
Mobeen meets a host of people who think they know what’s going on, from blogger Jordan Miller who orchestrated ‘Free Britney’ and says Jamie Spears threatened to destroy him, to famed journalist Perez Hilton who believes Britney would die. are without command.
Still, Mobeen is no wiser as to what the truth is. “It feels like the only people winning are the lawyers,” he says. ‘Like the fans, I was hoping for a happy ending, but I don’t know what that is.
There is no doubt that the law is susceptible to abuse. At the center is Britney in a gilded cage. She never asked to be the poster girl of legal reform, she just wanted to be a star. But that status could eventually hold her captive. ‘
The Battle For Britney: Fans, Cash And A Conservatorship, Wednesdays, 9pm, BBC2 and now on BBC iPlayer.