britney spears is free. so what comes next?
The pop icon’s 13-year conservatorship is over, but the battle over her finances and legacy is just beginning.
Queering the Burbs is a weekly-ish distillation of pop culture, politics and queerness written by Joe Erbentraut. If you like what you see, please consider subscribing (it’s free!), liking or sharing this piece.
When a judge ruled Friday that Britney Spears was officially freed from the conservatorship that the singer has described as abusive, isolating and terrifying, I was sitting in a plastic chair in the middle of an aisle inside a Walgreens store, waiting to receive my Covid-19 booster. The reasons to celebrate — for science, for justice — were clear. As any true Midwesterner would in a time of triumph, we picked up Culver’s for dinner on the way home.
The Spears ruling capped off a week filled with good news for some of the aughts’ biggest female stars, all of whom were hounded by paparazzi and gossip bloggers during that disturbing decade: Paris Hilton married her (Fox Valley tie-in: Wayne, Illinois native!) Carter Reum in a lavish Bel Air affair that coordinated (incidentally) with the launch of her new Peacock reality show documenting the couple’s engagement and preparation for the nuptials. And Netflix released a first look at what will be Lindsay Lohan’s first proper film role in nearly a decade: an as-yet-untitled holiday rom-com due to be released next year.
To be honest, maybe it’s my ongoing vaccine side effects talking here, but I feel like I’ve yet to fully process the gravity of the news. It almost feels like a fever dream. Like many others, I’ve been concerned for Spears’ wellbeing and admittedly a bit confounded by what was going on with her for some time now, and this almost feels, well, too good to be true.
As Spears has been battling this arrangement for years, there will be a lot to untangle, and I can’t help but wonder what comes next. Between the sips of tea I’ve been downing to try and minimize my post-booster misery — seriously folks, this one has been no joke for me — I’ve been reading everything I can get my hands on. In lieu of a more verbose offering this week, I thought I’d offer up a collection of some of my favorite journalism I’ve seen come out related to the ruling since Friday:
You might recall that Spears is engaged to a Mr. Sam Asghari, whom she met on the set of a Tinashe music video in 2016. But who the heck is this guy? Caity Weaver interviewed Asghari for The New York Times and it’s one of the strangest, most compelling profiles I’ve read in a minute.
Spears’s legal turmoil is clearly not done. There’s still the matter of tying up the loose financial ends concerning where her father, Jamie, and former business manager Lou Taylor, among others, stand. The best overview offering a lay of the land comes from Jia Tolentino and Ronan Farrow in The New Yorker.
If you read the New Yorker piece, you’ll notice Lou Taylor’s name come up quite a bit, because she and her firm, Tri Star, are currently refusing to hand over financial disclosures concerning their management of Spears’s estate to Spears’s legal team. In the Times, Liz Day and Rachel Abrams detail all the tension that has been turning up in recent court documents.
The fans who make up the #FreeBritney movement are, of course, thrilled with the news, but some supporters also fear that history could repeat itself in the months, years or even weeks ahead. It all depends how society responds to a Freed Britney. In NBC News, Doha Madani captured this sentiment.
If you’re still lost in the weeds on all this and need a refresher, Billboard has compiled an extensive timeline that traces the origin of the conservatorship all the way back to early 2008.
Britney’s loneliness ain’t killing her no more. For Spears’s part, she shared a video Tuesday evening on her social platforms to address what she’s doing now. When she said she was grateful for “little things” like “being able to buy candles”? I felt that.
LOCAL QUEER HAPPENINGS:
While not explicitly queer, the Paramount Theatre in Aurora just opened the latest show of its Broadway series — Rodgers and Hammerstein’s Cinderella — and I think it deserves a little love here. There’s a strong argument to be made for why the story of Cinderella is gay canon by default, and the Paramount is a pretty magical place to see live musical theatre. The show will be playing through January 9, get your tickets here.
This Friday, my dear friend Kristen is presenting “You’re Welcome: Closing Reception” at Reunion Chicago, a truly unique incubator and venue in the city’s Humboldt Park neighborhood that has been providing space for LGBTQ+ and BIPOC communities over the past five-plus years. This is where Chicago queer community leaders came together after the Pulse nightclub massacre. It also just happens to be the first place I ever saw Meg Stalter do live comedy (during one of their iconic queer comedy nights). The space will certainly be missed. The event kicks off the space’s closing weekend, which continues through Saturday. Tickets are available here.
Saturday is Transgender Day of Remembrance, an annual event memorializing those who have been murdered due to transphobia. This year, as Kate Sosin recently reported in The 19th, officially marks the deadliest year on record for transgender people, with 45 reported murders reported through last week. These lives will be honored at a vigil from 6-7 p.m. on Saturday at the Community UMC, 20 Center St. in Naperville. The vigil is being co-organized by Plainfield, Naperville and Instill Pride.
LINKS. LINKS. OH MY GOD, LINKS:
If you’ve been following the Kyle Rittenhouse trial and have a functional brain, you might be wondering what the hell is wrong with Judge Bruce Schroeder. He’s made a racist “joke” about Asian food, browsed a holiday cookie catalog during a break in the trial, and most recently he dropped an underage gun possession charge facing the defendant (this story explains why). The jury began deliberations Tuesday.
Speaking of law and order, the arrest of Real Housewives of SLC star Jen Shah was finally depicted on the Bravo show over this weekend, and I had to watch live (yes, instead of the Adele concert). I’ve got to say, the episode delivered.
Laura Ingraham has never had herpes, OK?! This Fox News segment is the dumbest thing I’ve seen in my life. And to think, Netflix didn’t even have to pay for this You promotion.
As you might recall, one of my favorite bits of ‘90s pop culture is music icon Patti LaBelle’s 1996 performance of the song “This Christmas” (Where My Background Singers? Version). This historic performance was just recreated for the stage (and for TikTok) by none other than RuPaul’s Drag Race All-Stars winner and Chicago native Shea Couleé.
Taylor Swift has released the “Taylor’s Version” of her masterpiece Red, which includes a newly extended, 10-minute version of “All Too Well.” This song, as any Swiftie will detail for you, she wrote the song about her fleeting romance with a certain Hollywood star, Jake Gyllenhaal. I do not personally identify as a Swiftie though I vaguely understand that there is an infamous scarf involved with their love story, which prompted this tweet from another music legend, the greatest Twitter celebrity of all-time Dionne Warwick.
Last week I mentioned the Hilary Duff dance challenge, and the former Disney Channel star has just joined the challenge herself by dueting with a fan’s video of her famously robotic “With Love” dance break. This is Duff’s finest social media work since “Dieter get a vape.”
The Beguiled co-stars Kirsten Dunst and Nicole Kidman met on the red carpet of what appears to be an event for Deadline magazine and exchanged the following dialogue. I need the full oral history of this moment. And while we’re talking about Kirsten, how well do you think you know your Kirstens from your Kristens and Kirsties? This Slate quiz will let you know where you stand.
I recently celebrated my birthday and my husband was sweet enough to gift me with This Far, which is the six-album vinyl box set showcasing the full discography of Sade. I am not kidding when I tell you that one of my favorite things in the world to do is to listen to Sade and look out the window at fresh-falling snow, which is exactly was happening when I gave the set my first listen. Here as the QTB bop of the week is “Kiss of Life” off of 1992’s Love Deluxe.
As a sidebar, I’ve been negligent in not featuring the music video of literal (OK, not literal) royalty Kylie Minogue and Jessie Ware’s brand new collaboration of the same name as the Sade track above. Treat yourself to a little pure, disco-swoon happiness below.
And you know what, life is precious and not a guarantee. Also, this is my newsletter so I’ll break my own rules: Here’s a third bop of the week: Charli XCX just dropped “New Shapes,” her latest single and video featuring Christine and the Queens and Caroline Polachek. The trio together bring all that girl-group energy I so often crave. Now, off to cry a bit that I failed to secure tickets to Charli’s live tour in the spring.
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