The New York Times brings us a documentary about the life of a trapped celebrity.
Britney Spears is one of the most successful pop stars of the last 20 years, being the highest-earning musical performer for two different years since 2000. Despite that (and an estimated net-worth of almost $60 million), Britney has been legally under the control of her father, Jamie Spears, since 2008, when she had a mental breakdown. This documentary tracks her life from her youth and her appearance on the Mickey Mouse Club to her current fight to have her father’s conservatorship removed. Along the way, we see the story of what fame and America’s obsession with stars has done to her life.
It’s honestly hard to watch this documentary at some points because it does a good job of bringing home how much America’s love of watching famous people fall from grace has caused this woman pain. She has lost control of her children and even of her own business decisions, because the press refused to leave her any amount of privacy. When a paparazzo, who made a career out of taking candid photos of Britney, is asked whether he feels guilty, he immediately tries to deflect it by saying that she never asked to be left alone (then has the ridiculous nature of this statement thrown back at him). It’s clear that these people knew they were hurting her, but that the amount of money they were making on it made them ignore it. Of course, the only reason they were being offered that much money was because the public was insanely obsessed with any information about Britney, but particularly with trying to destroy her wholesome image.
The documentary also does a great job of investigating the conservatorship, which is itself already a bit of an oddity, since conservatorships are usually for the mentally unfit or the elderly. It seems unusual that the conservatorship has been maintained despite the fact that, for most of the time since 2008, Spears has been performing publicly. If her fame and exposure have been making her mentally incompetent, then it seems like having her continue is inherently against the purpose of the conservatorship. It becomes even sketchier when the conservatorship is literally described as being “a hybrid business relationship.” That’s very much counter to the purpose of the conservatorship. However, Spears, not being competent to make her own legal decisions, has limited options to appeal or change it. It’s even stranger that the judge denied her initial request to have an independent third party administer her affairs, but I suppose there are reasons that might have happened.
The film does a decent job of addressing many of the “#FreeBritney” people who think that Spears has been sending covert messages to the public so that they will help her escape her father. While it doesn’t endorse the conspiracy theories, it does point out that the situation in which Spears has found herself is not normal, is not healthy, and is only likely to change with public pressure. Fortunately, it’s gotten a little better since this came out, with an independent company now partially in charge of her conservatorship.
Overall, this was a really well-done documentary. I recommend it if you grew up in the early 2000s, especially.
If you want to check out some more by the Joker on the Sofa, check out the 100 Greatest TV Episodes of All Time, Collection of TV Episodes, Collection of Movie Reviews, or the Joker on the Sofa Reviews.
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