If you’re a celebrity conspiracy theory expert like me or just a casual browser of internet gossip, you may have encountered the curious case of #FreeBritney. The cause became such a big deal online that Ms Britney Spears herself had to refute it, but you can’t let a little thing like the person at the centre of the conspiracy calling it out as bullsh*t get in the way of some good old-fashioned tin-hatting. Now, the flames have been fanned even further thanks to Miley Cyrus.
Cyrus performed at the Beale Street Festival in Memphis, courtesy of Facebook, for a 20-minute set. She duetted with Marc Cohn on his hit Walking in Memphis and a few of her own hits, including Party in the USA. That song, you may remember, features the line, ‘And a Britney song was on.’ As the crowd sang along, Cyrus called out ‘Free Britney!’
It’s very possible that Cyrus is just being facetious (or just bein’ Miley) with the call-out, and she hasn’t commented on it since. That doesn’t seem to matter much to the supporters of this conspiracy, who are sharing the clip in earnest and thanking Cyrus for her support.
For those of you out of the loop, #FreeBritney is a conspiracy rooted in the idea that Spears is being mentally and emotionally manipulated by her father and minders so that they can profit from her via the conservatorship she is still legally bound to. Spears was famously placed under a conservatorship in 2008 by her father Jamie Spears and a lawyer, Andrew M Wallet, managing her estate and persons. A guardian is appointed by a judge to manage an individual’s financial affairs and/or daily life if they are deemed to be unable to do so themselves. Britney, who is now 37 years old, the mother of two children, and worth an estimated $215 million, is still legally the ward of her father. Spears’ conservatorship has been much debated over the past decade. Even The New York Times stood in Spears’ corner and said she was wholly ready to stand on her own two feet.
Conversations around the conservatorship and surrounding conspiracies heated up last year when Spears cancelled her planned second Las Vegas residency due to the illness of her father. Her team then announced that Spears planned to put her work plans on hold indefinitely so that she could care for him. She then laid low for a while, until last month when TMZ reported that Britney had checked herself into a mental health facility. The drama went into full speed when the podcast Britney’s Gram began to speculate that Spears was being held against her will at said mental health facility and had been there since January. The ‘source’ for this claim, allegedly a paralegal who used to work at a firm involved with Britney’s affairs, added that Britney had refused to take specific drugs given to her by her dad and lawyer, Mr. Wallet, and that they threatened to pull her Vegas residency if she did not comply. According to court documents retrieved by The Blast, Wallet resigned as Spears’ co-conservator in March 2019, stating, ‘Substantial detriment, irreparable harm and immediate danger will result to the conservatee and her estate if the relief requested herein in not granted on an ex parte basis.’
Things only got more muddled from there. The Blast reported that Spears’ father feared that she would die if she did not seek treatment for her ‘out of control’ condition. Fans organised a protest in LA. TMZ posted then quickly deleted a video where they claimed that Spears was forced to take medications that mimic the symptoms of bipolar disorder. Eventually, Spears appeared on her own Instagram account to assure fans that ‘all is well’. She addressed the conspiracy and called out emails allegedly from her that talked about a woman named Lou Taylor, who fans allege is the driving force behind the conservatorship.
View this post on Instagram
I wanted to say hi, because things that are being said have just gotten out of control!!! Wow!!! There’s rumors, death threats to my family and my team, and just so many things crazy things being said. I am trying to take a moment for myself, but everything that’s happening is just making it harder for me. Don’t believe everything you read and hear. These fake emails everywhere were crafted by Sam Lutfi years ago… I did not write them. He was pretending to be me and communicating with my team with a fake email address. My situation is unique, but I promise I’m doing what’s best at this moment 🌸🌸🌸 You may not know this about me, but I am strong, and stand up for what I want! Your love and dedication is amazing, 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. If you could do that, I would be forever grateful. Love you ❤️❤️❤️
Spears said, ‘These fake emails everywhere were crafted by Sam Lutfi years ago… I did not write them. He was pretending to be me and communicating with my team with a fake email address.’ Lutfi, you may remember, was Britney’s ‘manager’ during her darkest period in the mid-2000s and was mostly known for being a parasitic sort. So it surprised nobody when he denied Britney’s claims and said they were the machinations of Lou Taylor on his own Twitter page. Even Shea Coulee from RuPaul’s Drag Race fanned the flames of panic.
Like, part of her conservator agreement prevents Britney from owning a phone. So who took that video? Even the caption with its accusations against Sam Lutfi don’t sound like Britney. Y’all I’m not buying it. #FreeBrintey— Shea Couleé (@SheaCoulee) April 24, 2019
According to Entertainment Tonight, Spears has a new conservatorship hearing this Friday. It will probably receive far more press and fan attention now than it would have had this conspiracy not blown up. The thing about a highly effective conspiracy theory is that it becomes utterly impossible to disprove, especially when there’s even the tiniest kernel of truth nestled in its core. The unavoidable reality of this nonsense is that it remains painfully true that Britney Spears is a woman pushing 40 who does not have control over her own life. It is ridiculous and ethically questionable as to why she remains under a conservatorship, as many people who actually know what they’re talking about have discussed. It almost doesn’t matter to these theorists that Spears herself has called out their claims as nonsense or that what they’re spreading is undoubtedly causing emotional strain for the people involved. There are always ways to justify the pain: Oh clearly that’s not Britney saying those things. Or maybe it is but she doesn’t want to say them. Someone’s making her do all this.
Britney Spears is incredibly easy to root for. She’s a former child star who became the biggest singer on the planet for a while, had the most public and cruelly scorned mental breakdown, then returned to business without ever talking about the elephant in the room. She seems like a genuinely sweet person who just wants to hang out with her sons, dance with her cute boyfriend, and leave inspirational messages on social media. Clearly her fans want what’s best for her, but there is something so sleazy about dragging a woman out of recovery to deny a conspiracy theory about her life, only for those same people to claim it’s further proof that they’re right. For those who want to tackle the issue of her conservatorship, this conspiracy became a foundation for them to do so, but it’s built on shaky ground and there’s only so long you can perpetuate something like this before you begin to look like a concern troll.
Based on the unsubstantiated claims made by an anonymous man on a podcast run by two comedians, this conspiracy was born, but the roots of it were a decade in the making, and once again, it seems that far too many people are desperate to make Britney Spears a puppet in her own life.
Header Image Source: Getty Images.