By Pui Kuan Cheah
One of the biggest pop culture moments of the year was that Britney Spears’ 13-year conservatorship seemed like it was finally coming to an end. Spears’ father Jamie Spears has recently asked for “immediate termination” of the conservatorship – an outcome that many fans would think is long overdue. However, the #FreeBritney movement that preceded this has been going on for years, and Netflix’s documentary film Britney vs. Spears capitalises on the resurfacing of this case in particular.
Britney vs. Spears joins the ranks of other documentaries that have come out about the conservatorship – but unfortunately it fails to present anything particularly groundbreaking. Spears’ story is widely known, especially given that her career has spanned decades. With media saturation nowadays, the information regarding her conservatorship are familiar to many as well, at least on a basic level.
Netflix’s documentary is structured chronologically, starting off with director Erin Lee Carr’s recollection of her childhood which like many kids of the 90s, involved Britney Spears. From there, we accelerate to 2008, when the conservatorship started, and track the case alongside several interviews with people who were in some way entangled in it throughout the years. These include Spears’ past partners, people who have worked with her directly, and even lawyers specialising in conservatorships that help break down what it means for those of us who don’t.
The biggest takeaway viewers are likely to get out of watching this documentary is how suffocating Spears must have felt all these years – the documentary discusses the conservatorship’s rules that are fairly strict and limiting. It exposes certain flaws in the legal system that can unfortunately work against the conservatee, which are also mentioned periodically throughout. The scale of Spears’ case is further emphasised when it is revealed that the producers received an anonymous tip, offering to provide confidential documents like medical reports that turned out to be revealing.
However, one complaint is that the documentary is rather one-sided, though given the legal course this case has charted, it might have been hard to convince the other side to speak on camera. Due to this, most of the testimonials we get are in favour of Britney, and some even choose not to comment when questioned about certain things.
Greater perspectives could have shown both sides to the story to give us a better understanding, given how long the conservatorship has been in place for. Balance would have been beneficial, making the documentary more objective than it currently is, and viewers would have been able to form opinions on their own, keeping them invested in the story being told.
Nonetheless, Britney vs. Spears manages to provide a detailed breakdown of Britney Spears’ conservatorship that is simpler and easier to comprehend through a visual medium, as compared to having it presented as a lengthy article. It’s a solid documentary on its own, and a good introduction for those curious about Spears’ case and want to know more. Additionally, at the time of writing, it was just announced that Spears’ 13-year long conservatorship has officially ended, meaning that Netflix’s documentary can serve as an informational in the coming years, of what unfolded before the eventual conclusion.