Where Have We Seen This Britney Spears Coverage Before?

TMZ reported that Spears was acting "manic" and speaking "gibberish" at an L.A. restaurant this weekend, as everyone filmed and stared at her. You don't say?

Where Have We Seen This Britney Spears Coverage Before?
Photo:Getty (Getty Images)

Britney Spears fans have been concerned with the pop star’s general well-being for decades, but especially in the past few months, as her Instagram account appeared to be just recycling old videos. Is she missing? Is she in trouble? Has her husband, Sam Asghari, been controlling her, much in the same way her dad did under that horribly exploitative conservatorship?

In December, Spears put at least some of those concerns to rest, confirming that she was alive and thriving in Mexico via a series of…well, strange but at least contemporaneous-seeming shower videos. But now, the internet is abuzz again with concerns for Spears’ mental health after TMZ reported that she had a “bizarre meltdown” in a Los Angeles restaurant, appeared to be “manic” and was speaking “incoherently”—while throngs of people gawked at and harassed her.

Per TMZ:

From the start … the dinner was a bust for Britney. Patrons pulled out their cell phones and began shooting footage of her. Britney got pissed and things went south quickly.
Eyewitnesses say Britney became “manic,” yelling and talking gibberish — not another language, just unrecognizable speech. We’re told Sam got visibly upset, abruptly stood up and stormed out the door.

Now, on the one hand, I’ll admit that speaking “gibberish” does sound a bit concerning. But also: Where have we seen this kind of thing play out before with Britney? Oh yes, that time she got so fed up with the paparazzi harassment, negative tabloid headlines, and general obsession with her every move that she shaved her head and attacked a pap’s car with an umbrella. It was that incident and others like it that led to Britney’s 13-year conservatorship, which gave birth to the #freebritney movement that wasn’t initially taken very seriously. Then a 2021 Hulu documentary revealed just how poorly the public and everyone around Spears had treated her—and how much of her bizarre-seeming behavior was a pretty understandable reaction to the onslaught of harassment—and suddenly the Free Britney movement didn’t seem like a such a fringe, silly campaign after all.

So what did we learn from all this? Nothing, apparently, as a now “free” Spears is again being harassed and heavily monitored in public spaces to the point where she appears to snap at the people filming her. I’m no psychologist, but this very well could be a pretty reasonable trauma response to the rinse-and-repeat nature of all the horrors she’s endured throughout the past two decades.

Everyone knows what a headline means when it says Britney was being “manic”: that she’s crazy. That she needs help. That she needs someone to take the reins of her life again. But even if Britney does need some kind of psychiatric help right now, are the paparazzi, people with cell phone cameras, and all the inflammatory headlines providing that kind of help in any way? Certainly not.

It’s been roughly 16 years since Cara Cunningham’s “Leave Britney Alone” video went viral on YouTube. And while we can’t expect any celebrity that famous to ever be truly left alone—here I am, for instance, blogging about a blog about Britney from Friday night, even if my intentions are different from TMZ’s—I do hope to remind all the people who purport to care about this woman that all this is exactly what cost Britney her freedom in the first place.

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