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Celebrities and Activists Speak Out in Support of Britney Spears Following Conservatorship Hearing

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“I’m so angry. It’s insane. And I’m depressed. I cry every day,” the singer explained in court Wednesday, breaking her long public silence regarding her 13-year conservatorship.


Celebrities Address Britney Spears

Popstar Britney Spears has received a massive swell of online support from celebrities and activists after speaking out against her conservatorship Wednesday, asking a court to revoke it.

Spears had been in the conservatorship, which strips her from controlling her own personal life and finances, for 13 years. While speaking to Judge Brenda Perry in an over 20-minute-long statement via phone, Spears described the conservatorship as “abusive.”

Among other things, she alleged she was not allowed to get married or have another child, as the management behind her conservatorship refused to let her remove her IUD birth control. She also said she has been forced to go on tour, undergo rehab-like treatments, and take certain medications even when she made it clear she did not want to.

“This conservatorship is doing me way more harm than good,” Spears said. “I deserve to have a life.” 

Following her remarks, singer Halsey wrote that she hopes the star is “awarded freedom from this abusive system.” 

Actress and television presenter Jameela Jamil called Spears’ situation “the most bizarre theft of freedom that has happened right in front of our eyes.”

Spears’ ex, singer and actor Justin Timberlake, also spoke out after the status hearing. Timberlake apologized to Spears earlier this year following the release of the explosive New York Times documentary, “Framing Britney Spears.” The film accused Timberlake of weaponizing their break-up to slut-shame Spears, ultimately contributing to the public pile-on that destroyed her reputation.

“After what we saw today, we should all be supporting Britney at this time,” Timberlake wrote on Twitter. “Regardless of our past, good and bad, and no matter how long ago it was… what’s happening to her is just not right. No woman should ever be restricted from making decisions about her own body.”

Many others used the hashtag #FreeBritney to advocate for the singer. The term is used by the larger #FreeBritney movement, which was started by a group of fans that have spent years advocating for her release. Their engagement helped bring public attention to Spears’ legal troubles.

Activists Speak Out on Reproductive Rights

Celebrities were not the only ones joining forces in speaking up for the “…Baby One More Time” singer. Reproductive and women’s rights activists were vocal about the fact that Spears was not allowed to make her own decisions when it comes to family planning. 

“I have a IUD inside of myself right now so I don’t get pregnant,” Spears told Judge Penny. “I wanted to take the IUD out so I could start trying to have another baby. But this so-called team won’t let me go to the doctor to take it out because they don’t want me to have any more children.” 

“We stand in solidarity with Britney and all women who face reproductive coercion,” Planned Parenthood president Alexis McGill Johnson wrote. “Your reproductive health is your own — and no one should make decisions about it for you.”

Fatima Goss Graves, the CEO and president of the National Women’s Law Center, said Spear’s case is part of a “broad conversation about the way reproductive decisions are stolen from people with disabilities.”

What Else Did Britney Say?

Spears’ conservatorship falls into two separate categories: a conservatorship of the person and of the estate. Her father, Jamie Spears, was in charge of both until 2019 when he stepped back from her personal conservatorship due to health reasons. A woman named Jodi Montgomery was named his temporary replacement and has been in the role since. He remains in charge of his daughter’s estate, and in 2020 wealth management fund Bessemer Trust was appointed as a co-conservator at Britney’s request. 

Wednesday marked her first time speaking out publicly against the conservatorship, though court records reported on this week by The New York Times found that the singer had previously tried to get out of it. In 2016, a court investigator wrote a report claiming that Spears had called the conservatorship “oppressive” and “controlling.”

Spears echoed those concerns in her Wednesday statement. She told Judge Penny that the last time she addressed the court, she felt she was not “heard on any level.” 

Spears said she has been forced to go to therapy two to three times a week at a facility where she is frequently photographed and harassed by paparazzi. She added that one of her longtime therapists, who has since died, “illegally” abused her in his treatment, which left her with a phobia of small rooms. At one point, she claimed she was forced to take lithium despite her strong opposition to using the drug. She also said her father forced her into a rehab facility where she was given no privacy, had to work long hours every day with no days off, and was not allowed to see her own children or boyfriend.

“The only similar thing to this is called sex trafficking,” Spears alleged.

“Not only did my family not do a goddamn thing, my dad was all for it,” she said. “Anything that happened to me had to be approved by my dad.”

“He loved the control to hurt his own daughter 100,000%. He loved it.”

Members of the #FreeBritney movement often speculated that Spears was unhappy in her arrangement. Even though the star had this massive movement in her corner, she would post to social media suggesting all was fine. 

“I’ve lied and told the whole world ‘I’m okay. And I’m happy.’ It’s a lie,” she said.

“I’ve been in shock. I am traumatized,” she continued. “I’m not happy. I can’t sleep. I’m so angry. It’s insane. And I’m depressed. I cry every day.” 

Spears claimed that for a long time, she had no idea she could petition to end her conservatorship, a subject she rarely approached because she found it “demoralizing.” Now, she is making it clear she wants out. 

“The main reason why I’m here is because I want to revoke conservatorship without having to be evaluated,” she stated. “I’ve done a lot of research, ma’am. And there’s a lot of judges who do end conservatorships for people without them having to be evaluated all the time.” 

Spears argued that she has already done enough evaluations and therapy sessions, adding that she does not owe her management or anyone else involved in the conservatorship anything else. She also asked to be able to have her boyfriend drive her in his car, and for her therapy sessions to be limited to once a week at her house.

“And I would honestly like to sue my family, to be totally honest with you,” she continued. “I also would like to be able to share my story with the world.”

Spears said she hopes to get the power to hire her own attorney, as the one currently working for her is court-appointed. She said she wants to tell her more of her story either in a sit-down interview or an open call to Judge Perry that can be accessed freely by the press.

Spears claimed that she is not the only person who is being abused in a conservatorship and argued that more needs to be done to protect people. 

“I shouldn’t be in a conservatorship,” she said. “If I can work and provide money and work for myself and pay other people — it makes no sense. The laws need to change.

See what others are saying: (New York Times) (Variety) (Pitchfork)

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N.Y. State Senate Passes Bill Championed by Jay-Z That Would Restrict Use of Rap Lyrics in Court

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A companion bill currently sits in the state’s assembly.


“Rap Music on Trial” Passes Senate

The New York State Senate passed legislation on Tuesday that would curb prosecutors’ ability to cite rap lyrics and other creative works as evidence in legal battles.

Dubbed “Rap Music on Trial,” the bill aims to “enhance the free speech protections of New Yorkers by banning the use of art created by a defendant as evidence against them in a courtroom,” according to a statement from State Sens. Brad Hoylman (D-Manhattan) and Jamaal Bailey (D-Queens).

“The legislation will protect all artists and content creators, including rappers from having their lyrics wielded against them by prosecutors,” the statement continued. 

Right now, all forms of creative expression, including rap lyrics, can be used as evidence in criminal cases. Rap lyrics, however, are more likely to be weaponized against those who wrote them in trial, experts say. 

The use of rap and hip-hop lyrics in particular is emblematic of the systemic racism that permeates our criminal justice system,” Bailey said in a statement. 

Hoylman agrees that there is a double standard.

“Nobody thinks Johnny Cash shot a man in Reno just to watch him die, or that David Byrne is a psycho killer, but routinely rappers have their lyrics used against them in criminal trials,” he tweeted. 

The bill would not fully ban the use of rap lyrics in court. If made into law, prosecutors would need “clear and convincing proof that there is a literal, factual nexus between creative expression and the facts of the case” in order to use these works as evidence.

Major artists including Jay-Z, Meek Mill, Kelly Rowland, and Robin Thicke previously signed a letter in support of the legislation.

A companion bill currently sits in the New York State Assembly. 

Rap Lyrics in Court

The use of rap lyrics against their artists is not an uncommon tactic. Earlier this month, an indictment charging Young Thug, Gunna, and two dozen others over alleged gang activity and conspiracy to violate racketeering laws used lyrics of the aforementioned artists. 

While the case is in Atlanta and would not be impacted by the New York bill, the use of their lyrics has stirred controversy. In a motion requesting that Gunna be released from jail, his lawyers argued that it was unfair to cite these works.

“It is intensely problematic that the State relies on song lyrics as part of its allegations,” his lawyers said in court documents. “These lyrics are an artist’s creative expression and not a literal recounting of facts and circumstances. Under the State’s theory, any artist with a song referencing violence could find herself the victim of a RICO indictment.”

​​Fulton County District Attorney Fani T. Willis defended the indictment’s use of the lyrics and argued it did not violate the artist’s free speech. 

In the letter signed by numerous recording artists, the authors said this kind of tactic “effectively denies rap music the status of art and, in the process, gives prosecutors a dangerous advantage in the courtroom.”

“Rather than acknowledge rap music as a form of artistic expression, police and prosecutors argue that the lyrics should be interpreted literally — in the words of one prosecutor, as ‘autobiographical journals’ — even though the genre is rooted in a long tradition of storytelling that privileges figurative language, is steeped in hyperbole, and employs all of the same poetic devices we find in more traditional works of poetry,” the letter, which was written by Jay-Z’s lawyer Alex Spiro and University of Richmond Professor Erik Nielson, said.  

See what others are saying: (Billboard) (Pitchfork) (Complex)

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YouTube Touts MrBeast and Mainstream Appeal in First Upfront Presentation

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According to Nielson, over 230 million people in the United States used the video service in just one month. 


YouTube Presents at Upfronts

During its first Upfront presentation on Tuesday, YouTube CEO Susan Wojcicki said the company said it was joining staple broadcast and entertainment companies “because YouTube is the mainstream.”

“Viewers have more choices than ever about what to watch or where to watch it,” Wojcicki said while speaking at the Imperial Theatre in New York City. “And they continue to use YouTube.”

The company had previously done its Brandcast presentation at the NewFronts. This was the first time its pitch came alongside television competitors during the busy Upfronts season.

Many of YouTube’s primary talking points were highlighted in a company blog post. In its address, it marketed itself not just as the future of media consumption, but as the modern-day leader, too. 

It said that over 135 million people watched YouTube on Connected TVs, representing every age demographic from toddlers to viewers 55-years-old and up. It also cited Nielson data that said YouTube has over 50% of ad-supported streaming watch time on TV screens. 

Nielsen also found that YouTube reached over 230 million people in the United States in just one month. 

YouTube Offers Up Its Talent

MrBeast, one of YouTube’s top creators, attended the presentation. The company boasted that if MrBeast were his own streaming service, he would “would have more subscribers than the next three most popular ad-supported streaming services.” In other words, with 95 million YouTube subscribers, MrBeast is ahead of HBO and HBO Max’s 77 million, Paramount’s 33 million, and Hulu’s 54 million in the United States. 

Or course, subscribing to a YouTube channel is very different from subscribing to a streaming service, as YouTube subscriptions come at no cost. Viewers can subscribe to as many or as few creators as they please for free, while each streaming service has a monthly or annual fee to gain access to its content. 

YouTube didn’t only show off its homegrown talent. Popstar Lizzo also took the stage to sing her praises of the company, along with a few of her biggest hits. 

But the company’s most important appeals came from the strengths it offered to advertisers. It claimed that 2020 Nielson analysis showed that YouTube on average had a 1.2 times greater return on investment than television.

It also announced a frequency optimization tool for advertisers that would allow companies to control how many times viewers see their spots in one week. In its blog post, YouTube said this allows for “more efficient” spending and “a better experience for viewers.”
It touted this optimization as “a solution only YouTube can provide.”

See what others are saying: (Deadline) (TubeFilter) (Variety)

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“Saturday Night Live” Faces Backlash for Sketch Mocking the Johnny Depp Amber Heard Trial

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Many fear that jokes about the case could hurt the everyday domestic abuse survivors that see them.


SNL Mocks Trial

After “Saturday Night Light” parodied the ongoing defamation trial between actors Johnny Depp and Amber Heard in its cold open this weekend, many are criticizing the show — and media at large — for making a mockery of the case. 

Ever since the trial began in April, there has been an onslaught of TikToks, tweets, videos, and other posts turning the happenings in the courtroom into clickbait content. Most of the posts use Heard as a punchline as the #JusticeForJohnnyDepp narrative prevails online. 

Depp sued Heard for $50 million over a 2018 op-ed she wrote in The Washington Post titled “I spoke up against sexual violence — and faced our culture’s wrath. That has to change.” While she never mentioned Depp by name, many believed the piece referred to previous abuse allegations she had made about him. Depp, however, alleges that Heard was actually the abuser and concocted the claims to ruin his career. She countersued for $100 million. 

In its most recent episode, “Saturday Night Live” aired a sketch starring Kyle Mooney as Depp, Cecily Strong as the judge, and Aidy Bryant and Heidi Gardner as lawyers in the case. The sketch took place in the courtroom as the involved parties discussed allegations that Heard defecated in her and Depp’s bed. They then watched “video evidence” of house staffers, played by Kenan Thompson, Ego Nwodim, Melissa Villaseñor, and Chris Redd, finding the fecal matter. 

At various points, Strong’s judge said they should continue watching the video “because it’s funny” and she and Mooney’s Depp both said they find the trial “amusing.”

“This trial is for fun,” the judge proclaimed at one point.

Many online did not see the humor in SNL’s parody, arguing that a case involving domestic abuse accusations should not be a punchline. Some said the sketch was “disgusting and desperate.”

“Domestic violence is not a joke. Rape is not a joke,” writer Ella Dawson tweeted. “Abusers using the legal system to continue to terrorize their victims is not a joke. Abusers using accusations of defamation to silence their victims is not a joke.” 

“In twenty years people are going to look back at this trial and all of the media coverage and be disgusted,” Dawson continued. 

You’re free to have absolutely no opinion on the Depp/Heard trial, but thinking it’s ‘for fun’ is for someone with a diseased heart and brain,” Meredith Haggerty, the senior culture editor at Vox, wrote.

Many felt that regardless of how someone feels or who they support in this case, those making fun of Heard are “making a joke of victims everywhere.”

Criticism of Media’s Trial Coverage

Others argued this sketch was part of an overall disturbing trend in the media’s coverage of this case where serious allegations were being played up for laughs. 

The hashtag #JusticeForJohnnyDepp has trended on Twitter several times throughout the trial as fans defend the actor. Many also use it to mock Heard, share clips of her crying, and in some cases, spread misinformation about her courtroom claims. The tag is also popular on TikTok, where it has been viewed over 11 billion times as of Monday morning. 

Many of the videos involve jokes about the case, memes, fan cams, and other content meant to belittle Heard. On TikTok, the tag #AmberTurd has raked in over 1.6 billion views. Some videos involve animated renderings of courtroom videos meant to make Heard look careless or dumb. Others use audio of Heard alleging that Depp hit her along with silly imagery to make those claims look like a farce. Many involve people making fun of the way Heard has cried on the stand.

Experts have told numerous media outlets that by ridiculing Heard, Depp’s supporters are potentially harming abuse victims that may come across these posts. 

“I can’t imagine what this might be doing to someone who may eventually want to seek safety and support,” Ruth M. Glenn, the chief executive officer of the National Coalition Against Domestic Violence, told NBC News. “Whether it’s Amber Heard or Johnny Depp, how dare us make fun and make light of someone who is sharing something very personal — no matter how we feel about that person.”

The trial is being broadcast live so interested parties can watch it unfold in real-time. The viral clips have allowed the case to become a massive entertainment spectacle.

Public discourse of the trial has sorted people into either “Team Depp” or “Team Heard,” and just a quick glance online will show that Depp has so far won a good portion of public favor. Still, no matter how one views the trial, many think jokes at the expense of Heard’s claims are a bridge too far.

“In the commentary, it’s almost as if people are forgetting that this is real life, that this is not a show that we’re all watching,” Laura Palumbo, communications director at the National Sexual Violence Resource Center, told USA Today. “Many victims of domestic violence and sexual assault will go into a courtroom at some point and have an experience that is largely outside of their control, in a setting like this.”

“There’s such a strong desire in the public discourse for [Heard] to be the villain, for her to be the example of the fact that there are victims who have ulterior motives, that there are victims who are not telling the full truth,” Palumbo continued. “It doesn’t seem like there’s a lot of folks thinking critically or wanting to understand the nuances of abuse or of unhealthy relationships.”

See what others are saying: (NBC News) (USA Today) (Rolling Stone)

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