The Long Fight to ‘Free Britney’


Britney Spears hasn’t been able to fully live her own life for 13 years, stuck in a court-sanctioned conservatorship. A new documentary by The New York Times examines what the public might not know about the pop star’s court battle with her father for control of her estate.

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A new episode of The New York Times Presents, on FX and Hulu, coming Friday, Feb. 5, at 10 p.m.CreditCredit...Ting-Li Wang/The New York Times

Producer/Director Samantha Stark

Watch on Friday, Feb. 5, at 10 p.m. on FX and streaming on Hulu.

“My client has informed me that she is afraid of her father,” Britney Spears’s court-appointed lawyer told a judge in November. “She will not perform again if her father is in charge of her career.”

The career of one of music’s biggest superstars — and her life, in some ways — is at a standstill.

The country was enthralled with Spears in the 1990s as she suddenly ascended to global superstardom. Then the public seemed to relish watching her personal struggles, turning her life into fodder for late-night talk show zingers, sensationalist interviewers and a thriving tabloid magazine industry.

That was a long time ago. These days, Spears is enduring a stranger, and maybe even darker chapter: She lives under a court-sanctioned conservatorship, her rights curtailed. She is not in control of the fortune she earned as a performer.

Spears entered the conservatorship in 2008, at age 26, when her struggles were on public display. Now she is 39, and a growing number of her fans are agitating on her behalf, raising questions about civil liberties while trying to deduce what Spears wants.

A new feature-length documentary by The New York Times captures what the public might not know about the nature of Spears’s conservatorship and her court battle with her father over who should control her estate.

Credit...The New York Times Presents/FX/Hulu

The documentary, “Framing Britney Spears,” features interviews with key insiders, including:

  • a lifelong family friend who traveled alongside Spears for much of her career

  • the marketing executive who originally created Spears’s image

  • a lawyer currently working on the conservatorship

  • and the lawyer Spears tried to hire in the early days of the conservatorship to challenge her father

The new film, on FX and Hulu, also explores the fervent fan base that is convinced Spears should be liberated from the conservatorship, and re-examines the media’s handling of one of the biggest pop stars of all time.

Senior Editor Liz Day
Producer Liz Hodes
Director of Photography Emily Topper
Video Editors Geoff O’Brien and Pierre Takal

“The New York Times Presents” is a series of documentaries representing the unparalleled journalism and insight of The New York Times, bringing viewers close to the essential stories of our time.