SHOWERS of pink confetti and boisterous celebration filled the air last Friday in Los Angeles when pop superstar Britney Spears was finally released from her 13-year conservatorship.
For the first time since 2008 the ...Baby One More Time and Toxic hit-maker had control once more over her $81 million fortune, which had been previously in the hands of the singer's estranged father Jamie Spears.
For many the saga is just another bizarre celebrity story that's spawned a passionate social media-driven Free Britney Movement, at least three documentaries and countless news articles.
But for journalist Edwina Stott it's a deeper story. It's a sinister tale about society's ingrained misogyny and how the legal system can abuse those it's designed to protect.
Stott has produced a podcast series called Unpacked, which for the last month has delved into Spears' conservatorship and how one of the world's premier pop stars lost control of her own money and body.
"I feel this is a story that shines a light on the worst parts of society," Stott says.
"The fact that Britney was exploited by the media, the music industry and potentially her own family, to such an extent, was really shocking to me."
The conservatorship began following a traumatic time in the 39-year-old's life. Spears had suffered a public mental breakdown as she was hounded by swarms of paparazzi and embroiled in a bitter battle with ex-husband Kevin Federline for custody of their two sons.
Stott argues that Spears' conservatorship is indicative of how many famous female entertainers are controlled. Other examples from Spears' 2000s era would be Hollywood actress Brittany Murphy and English musician Amy Winehouse, who were controlled to differing degrees by their husband and father respectively.
"Watching Britney's story, it's a cycle that happens to big female stars a lot," Stott says.
"Which is when they get to a certain stage of their career and when they earn a certain amount of money and prestige and fame, their people swoop in and start to control them.
"It's the kind of control that doesn't happen to male stars. We've seen Kanye West go through this very public meltdown and he's been treated quite differently by the media.
"Some of it is the time, but also a lot of that is the fact he's a man. It would be absurd of Kanye West's father to come in and demand control of his life and his body and his money.
"But when it happens to a female star like Britney there's a level of acceptance and that's what interested me in the case."
In California conservatorships are usually used for older people with dementia or when young people have suffered brain injuries and cannot manage their own lives adequately.
It's estimated 1.3 million Americans live under conservatorships or guardianships.
Some critics have dismissed the Free Britney Movement as trivial celebrity worship and questioned why the protestors do not campaign for people without Spears' money and profile.
However, Stott believes Spears' case has shed a light on the practice of conservatorships which will potentially benefit many people caught in the legal arrangement unnecessarily.
The thing that shocked most people about this case is if it can happen to somebody as powerful, as rich, as famous as Britney Spears and she can't get out of it, if this happens to the rest of us, what hope do we have?- Edwina Stott
"The thing that shocked most people about this case is if it can happen to somebody as powerful, as rich, as famous as Britney Spears and she can't get out of it, if this happens to the rest of us what hope do we have?" she says.
"There's a lot of people I've spoken to who say there's huge holes in conservatorships for exploitation and that a legal situation that's been set up to protect people actually does the opposite.
"That's not to say there aren't situations where conservatorships aren't the right thing to do, but definitely in Britney's case there's less strict things that could have been put in place to protect her rather than going straight for the conservatorship."
Now that Spears is free after Los Angeles superior court judge Brenda Penny dissolved the conservatorship in 30 minutes, where to now for the pop star?
"If you've followed Britney's career for a long time you see how much she adores performing and loves what she does," Stott says.
"We'll see whether she performs again. As fans we can hope to see her up there again, but the best thing is that Britney's career is back in her hands."
The Unpacked podcast is out now.
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