BRITNEY Spears was one of the most talked about celebrities on the planet in the noughties – and is now one of the biggest trends of 2021.
The #FreeBritney movement has gained the public support of A-list celebrities from Miley Cyrus to Sarah Jessica Parker pushing the once obscure campaign to the top of the Hollywood agenda.
It comes after the release of Framing Britney Spears, a documentaryexploring her controversial conservatorship case which is heading back to court this week.
The arrangement means her dad, Jamie, has control over aspects of the 39-year-old singer's life and fortune.
He argues this is for Britney's own good, but the star – and other celebrities – disagree.
"#FreeBritney" Sarah Jessica Parker tweeted on Sunday, with the Sex and the City star tweeting the title of the documentary a day later.
"We love Britney," Miley Cyrus sang during her Super Bowl TikTokTailgate performance at the weekend.
And Courtney Love Cobain tweeted an image saying: "We are sorry, Britney"on Monday.
Here's how the #FreeBritney movement became one of the biggest celebrity trends of the year so far.
Highly publicised unravelling
It's the movement of the moment – but it actually began over a decade ago.
In 2009, FreeBritney.net was launched in response to her court-approved conservatorship.
Known in some states as legal guardianship, the arrangement allows her dad to have control over her finances and many personal decisions.
It came after her very public mental health crisis in 2007, which included her shaving her head and being constantly pursued by paparazzi.
In 2008, after Britney was committed to a psychiatric ward, her dad was granted a temporary conservatorship which became permanent by the end of the year.
Lawyer Andrew Wallet was also made a co-conservator to focus on managing her financial assets.
Conservatorships are supposed to protect people who can't look after themselves – but Britney carried on making albums and going on world tours.
Nevertheless, Jamie has maintained power over many aspects of Britney's life for years, including being able to sell her property and even restrict who she sees.
Despite some fans' protests at the arrangement, the conservatorship has been kept in place and wasn't a widely-discussed issue.
That all changed in 2019 when the #FreeBritney movement came back into blistering focus.
After Jamie nearly died from a ruptured colon, Britney cancelled a planned residency in Las Vegas.
“We’re all so grateful that he came out of it alive, but he still has a long road ahead of him,” she wrote on Instagram.
“I had to make the difficult decision to put my full focus and energy on my family at this time. I hope you all can understand.”
Some fans wondered if something else might be going on behind the scenes and, in March, Andrew Wallet suddenly resigned as co-conservator.
A month later, Britney checked into a mental health facility – and speculation boiled over.
All these conspiracy theorists don’t know anything
An episode of the "Britney's Gram" podcast alleged that the star's life was being micromanaged by handlers and a source on the show claimed Jamie was involved in the decision to drop the Las Vegas shows.
#FreeBritney started trending after the podcast was released with fans arguing she was essentially being held captive by the conservatorship.
A week after the episode's release, Britney shared a video on Instagram assuring her fans saying the rumours had gotten out of control.
"Your love and dedication is amazing," she captioned the post, "But what I need right now is a little bit of privacy to deal with all the hard things that life is throwing my way."
Then in 2020, the singer released a series of unusual TikTok videos which fans took as messages that she was being held hostage in her home.
Supporters of the singer even protested outside courthouses during Britney's conservatorship hearings.
“All these conspiracy theorists don’t know anything," Jamie told Page Six last August in response to the demonstrations.
"The world don’t have a clue,” he said. “It’s up to the court of California to decide what’s best for my daughter. It’s no one else’s business.”
Back in the spotlight
The conservatorship will be discussed in court again on Thursday – this time under intense scrutiny.
After the New York Times documentary aired in the US, interest in the case exploded, with the hashtag #FreeBritney trending on social media.
It's unclear if Britney will attempt to end the conservatorship in the near future, but her lawyer said in a hearing in November that she is "afraid of her father" and she "will not perform again if her father is in charge of her career".
It's now been 13 years since the conservatorship came into force and, for outspoken fans and celebrities alike, they think it's time to come to an end.
Britney appeared to make reference to the situation in an Instagram post to her 27.5million followers on Tuesday.
"I'll always love being on stage …. but I am taking the time to learn and be a normal person," she wrote.
"Remember, no matter what we think we know about a person's life it is nothing compared to the actual person living behind the lens."
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