“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)
Joe Rogan Faces Backlash For Promoting Antisemitic Stereotypes
His comments come as antisemitic hate incidents have increased both online and in the real world.
Rogan’s Antisemitic Comments
Joe Rogan is facing backlash over a Saturday episode of his podcast where he claimed that “the idea that Jewish people are not into money is ridiculous.”
While the “Joe Rogan Experience” episode was posted to Spotify on Feb. 3, the controversial podcaster’s comments did not receive criticism until clips started circulating around social media on Tuesday. Rogan was speaking with “Breaking Points” hosts Krystal Ball and Saagar Enjeti when the subject of Rep. Ilhan Omar’s recent removal from the Foreign Affairs Committee came up.
Omar was ousted over a 2019 tweet where she said that American support of Isreal was “all about the Benjamins,” referring to a slang term for money. After she was condemned for promoting antisemitic tropes, she apologized. Some Democrats have accused Republicans of hypocrisy for removing Omar over the remark.
“She’s apologizing for talking about ‘It’s all about the Benjamins,’ which is just about money,” Rogan said of the incident. “She’s talking about money.”
“She shouldn’t have apologized,” Ball responded.
“That’s not an antisemitic statement, I don’t think that it is,” Rogan continued. “Benjamins are money. The idea that Jewish people are not into money is ridiculous. That’s like saying Italians aren’t into pizza. It’s fucking stupid.”
Condemned for “Vicious Lies”
His comments were condemned after several Twitter users shared clips of the podcast on the platform. Jonathan Greenblatt, the CEO of the Anti-Defamation League, said it was “disturbing” that Rogan chose to spread antisemitic stereotypes “at a time of rising anti-Jewish violence, when growing numbers of Americans believe in antisemitic conspiracy theories.”
“For centuries, people have used these longstanding tropes to spread vicious lies about the Jewish people,” Greenblatt wrote.
“The thing is, Joe Rogan, Italians were never slaughtered because of the pizza stereotype,” writer and essayist Howard Lovy tweeted. “But because idiots like you believe Jews are into money,’ we have been marginalized, brutalized, and murdered for thousands of years.”
“The ‘Jews are into money’ thing is a generation-spanning smear used as the basis to discriminate against Jews the world over,” attorney Bradley P. Moss added. “Everyone is into money. But we have been accused of secretly hoarding $ to control everything.”
Writer David Baddiel noted how alarming it was that Rogan was able to “breezily” spew “a racist myth.”
“One of the biggest podcasts in the world and no one gives a fuck,” he wrote.
Rogan’s comments come as antisemitism has been increasingly present in media and everyday life for Jewish people.
Upon billionaire Elon Musk’s takeover of Twitter, the platform saw an increase in racial slurs and hate speech, including language targeted at Jewish people. The Center for the Study of Hate and Extremism found in December that antisemitic hate crimes rose between 2021 and 2022 in major cities like New York and Los Angeles.
Kanye West also made headlines late last year for going on several antisemitic rants, including one where he praised Hitler. While he was dropped by major brands like Adidas over his comments, his words have amplified dangerous conspiracy theories far and wide. He even inspired several neo-Nazis to hang “Kanye is Right” banners in Los Angeles, among other antisemitic actions.
See what others are saying: (The Daily Beast) (Variety) (The Independent)
“Seinfeld” AI Parody Suspended From Twitch After AI Wrote Transphobic Jokes
The parody’s version of Jerry asked if he should make jokes about “how being transgender is actually a mental illness.”
“Nothing, Forever” Suspended
What’s the deal with AI?
While that has been a big question in the media world for the last few weeks, it is being raised yet again after AI software wrote transphobic jokes for an AI parody of the hit sitcom “Seinfeld.”
Titled “Nothing, Forever,” the heavily pixelated program runs 24/7 on Twitch, using Open AI to create endless “Seinfeld” parody content. In this AI version, Jerry is called Larry Feinberg. Larry’s friends, Yvonne, Fred, and Zoltare — who are stands-ins for Elaine, George, and Kramer — often sit around Larry’s apartment, just like in the NBC series.
Also mirroring “Seinfeld,” Larry is a stand-up comedian who does a cold-open set of jokes in front of a brick wall. On Monday morning, he asked if anyone had suggestions for jokes before going on a transphobic rant.
“I’m thinking about doing a bit about how being transgender is actually a mental illness,” Larry said. “Or how all liberals are secretly gay and want to impose their will on everyone. Or something about how transgender people are ruining the fabric of society. But no one is laughing, so I’m going to stop.”
“Thanks for coming out tonight. See you next time,” he continued. “Where’d everybody go?”
Plans to Return
The bit could almost come across as self-aware commentary about how pervasive transphobia is in stand-up comedy, but it’s unclear what the AI’s intent was or if it deserves that much credit.
Soon after the jokes aired, the “Nothing, Forever” Twitch page was closed, showing only a message announcing the channel “is temporarily unavailable due to a violation of Twitch’s Community Guidelines.” It did not specify what rule was broken, but Twitch does have a Hateful Conduct policy that bars attacks against someone’s gender, gender identity, sexual orientation, and other protected identities.
Skyler Hartle, one of the co-creators of “Nothing, Forever,” told The Washington Post that the team was “super embarrassed” by the transphobic rant, which “in no way reflects the values or opinions of our staff.”
Hartle said they hope to resume airing the AI parody with new safeguards in place soon. According to The Post, the suspension will last for 14 days.
See what others are saying: (The Washington Post) (NBC News) (The Verge)
Grammy Awards Face Backlash For Snubbing Beyoncé of Top Prize
This marks the fourth time the “Renaissance” singer has lost Album of the Year.
Beyoncé Loses Top Awards
Beyoncé may have broken the record for the most Grammy wins on Sunday night, but her snub for the top prize of Album of the Year has left music fans outraged.
Beyoncé nabbed Best Dance Recording, Best Dance/Electronica Album, Best Traditional R&B Vocal Performance, and Best R&B Song on Sunday night, all related to her latest album, “Renaissance.” While that crossed her Grammy total to a record-breaking 32 trophies, she was shut out of all the major categories she was nominated in: Record, Song, and Album of the Year.
This was the fourth time Beyoncé was nominated for and lost Album of the Year, largely considered the show’s most coveted prize. This year, Harry Styles took home the Grammy for “Harry’s House.”
In his speech, Styles said, he has been “so inspired by every artist in this category” and claimed there is no “best” in music. People in the crowd were heard shouting “Beyonce!” while he spoke, outraged the singer had lost the award yet again.
The moment was reminiscent of the 2017 Grammy Awards when Adele’s “25” beat out Beyoncé’s “Lemonade” for the same category. While accepting the prize, Adele suggested that the “Lemonade” should have gotten the gold.
“The ‘Lemonade’ album was just so monumental, Beyoncé, it was so monumental,” Adele said on stage.
Beyoncé’s History of Grammy Losses
This is part of a long trend in Beyoncé’s Grammy history, as she is almost always shut out of the major categories. Of her 32 Grammys, only one belongs to one of the top slots: her Song of the Year win in 2010 for “Single Ladies.” She has yet to ever win Record or Album of the Year, and most of her wins come from genre categories like R&B.
Many fans think that is an abysmal record for an artist who is considered one of the primary musical talents of her generation. Compare those stats to the similarly-adored Taylor Swift, who has three Album of the Year wins out of 12 Grammy trophies, and it’s not hard to see their point.
“Beyoncé represents every Black woman that is constantly applauded for their work but when it comes to promotion time their white colleague gets it instead,” culture reporter Ada Enechi tweeted in response to Sunday night’s snub.
The Grammy Awards have long been accused of having a racial bias, especially when it comes to Black women. In Beyoncé’s case, every time she has lost Album of the Year, she lost to a white artist.
Even some of the progress made during Sunday night’s telecast only proved how frequently Black women are excluded from major awards. For example, Lizzo won Record of the Year for “About Damn Time,” marking the first time a Black woman has won that award since Whitney Houston in 1994. That’s a nearly 30-year gap.
Backlash From Music Fans
Beyoncé’s repeated snubs have consistently been used as a prime example of the strides yet to be made in the music industry.
“Renaissance not winning AOTY is another example how of a Black woman can consistently deliver excellence, reinvent the wheel + shake the culture, AND still not be recognised to the extent that she deserves,” another person said on Twitter.”
“Absolutely wild that the person with the most Grammys ever is still the underdog who was robbed,” BuzzFeed News reporter David Mack pointed out.
Podcaster Sam Sanders called her loss “criminal.”