I greatly enjoy listening to the music of Britney Spears. (And I listen often: her greatest hits compilation is one of five CDs in my car.) But after reading the harrowing New Yorker investigative piece on Spears’ conservatorship, out this week from staff writers Ronan Farrow and Jia Tolentino, I began to wonder if I could ever listen to it the same way again. 

There are constant references to control, and the lack thereof, in Spears’ music. And over the past few years, numerous reports have revealed that Spears does not have very much control over her life, which is a fact that gives increasing credence to the #FreeBritney movement—a movement that was, for a while, painted to be the paranoia of crazed fans, but as we’re learning, has been the grassroots fanbase behind a very reasonable demand: give a high-functioning adult woman, one making millions for the people around her, basic legal rights. 

This new Britney Spears conservatorship report, which dropped Monday morning, is the first to receive the in-depth Ronan Farrow and Jia Tolentino treatment. 

It’s also one of the first pieces of journalism devoted to the situation that doesn’t feel entirely voyeuristic. Listening to a podcast or documentary—even one as sympathetic as the New York Times’ documentary Framing Britney Spears—still carries with it the vague, glossy thrill of entertainment.

The New Yorker report is less easy to stomach. In the process of writing the piece, Tolentino and Farrow spoke with Spears’ mother, former friends, a housekeeper, a colorist, a court-appointed monitor, and numerous other people close to the situation. Among other revelations: Spears called 911 to report herself as a victim of conservatorship abuse. 

The piece details the abuse by her father (at one point, he bellows “I am Britney Spears!”) and explores the exploitative possibilities of conservatorship, a subject that the New Yorker has reported on before, with special attention to how control is wrested away from the elderly, without their consent, and given to third-parties who stand to profit massively. 

The piece had an impact, too. Following publication of the story, Spear’s court-appointed lawyer stepped down after mounting criticism of his handling of her legal case against her father. A couple of days later, Spears’ mother filed a petition for permission to hire private counsel on behalf of her daughter. 

Read the piece. It’s damning, well-reported, and will make you very, very angry. We talk often about how celebrity is a prison, but this piece is not about how celebrity makes a person lose control; it’s about how a misogynistic, exploitative, predatory legal system can. 

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Follow Arts & Culture Editor Sarah Edwards on Twitter or send an email to sedwards@indyweek.com.