Britney Spears is one of the most recognised celebrities across the world. While the singer is known for her musical achievements, she has recently been in the headlines for a very different reason.
A confusing conspiracy theory suggesting that Spears is being held against her will has long been discussed online. Now, the #FreeBritney campaign has found its way back into the spotlight once again, after initially emerging more than a decade ago.
This is everything you need to know about the #FreeBritney hashtag - from when it started to why people think the musician is being held against her will.
Why did #FreeBritney begin?
The #FreeBritney movement began in 2009, when a Britney Spears fan site started the campaign in response to the news of her conservatorship.
Those behind the #FreeBritney hashtag fear that the singer is being controlled and manipulated, despite the people close to Spears communicating to the media over the years that the singer is still very involved in her own business and life decisions.
The #FreeBritney movement really got going after a podcast called Britney’s Gram (dedicated to analysing the singer’s Instagram posts) received a voicemail on the podcast hotline.
The message was from a man who claimed to be a former paralegal for an attorney who worked with Spears’ conservatorship, and who made various claims about the singer's personal autonomy and wellbeing.
Fans of the singer also believe that the pop star has previously been sending indirect messages through her social media pages.
What is conservatorship?
Conservatorship is a legal concept in America, wherein a guardian or protector is appointed to someone if a court finds that they cannot manage their own affairs.
There are many reasons why a court might invoke conservatorship. It could be due to old age, being a minor, or if the person in question suffers from a serious mental illness.
The role of the conservator can vary, but usually they handle their conservatee’s estate and finances, as well as also possibly being responsible for their career negotiations, health care or living arrangements.
Why does Britney Spears have a conservator?
Many will remember that, in the late 2000s, Spears underwent a very public breakdown. As well as her infamous head shaving incident, she was also seen driving with her son on her lap, hitting a photographer’s car with an umbrella, and went through a phase of speaking with a faux British accent.
In 2008, she was committed to a psychiatric ward twice. After the second hold, her father, Jamie Spears, petitioned the LA County Superior Court for an emergency ‘temporary conservatorship.’ This arrangement was made permanent by the end of that year.
Her father was appointed to oversee Spears’ estate and physical wellbeing, while LA attorney Andrew Wallet was brought on as a co-conservator to also help manage the singer’s financial assets.
The #FreeBritney movement centres around the fact that, for the past 12 years, Spears has had no legal control over her estate, financial or personal assets.
Why has #FreeBritney started trending again?
While the #FreeBritney campaign has been around for over a decade, the hashtag has recently experienced a flux in popularity once again.
Spears is now active on the video sharing app, Tik Tok, where she has been posting various videos of herself. The content of these includes the star working out, dancing and also singing. However, fans claim that the videos prove that something is wrong.
One of the videos to generate the most concern for her wellbeing is one that shows her working out with her boyfriend, Sam Asghari. Fans claim that they can see Asghari tell Spears to “smile” in the video.
Those involved in the #FreeBritney movement believe this shows that the singer is being controlled outside of her own will.
Spears’ conservatorship was recently extended until at least 22 August 2020, and with that date approaching, fans are campaigning for Spears’ to have access to her own lawyer to get herself out of the conservatorship agreement.
What has Britney Spears said about the campaign?
While Spears is yet to speak directly about the claims made about her being controlled and manipulated, she has commented about her unusual Instagram posts.
In one post she wrote, “I get how some people might not like my posts or even understand them, but this is Me being happy ….. This is Me being authentic and as real as it gets!!!!
“I want to inspire people to do the same and just be themselves without pleasing otters…. That’s the key to happiness!!!!”
In 2019, Spears also took to Instagram to reassure her fans that everything was okay and that she just needed some privacy.
She wrote, “I wanted to say hi, because things that are being said have just gotten out of control!! Wow!!”
The singer explained that her situation was “unique” and that she’s doing “what’s best at this moment”. She also thanked fans for their “love and dedication” but emphasised that she needed privacy to deal with some things going on in her life.