celebrities, mental health, money, psychology

Britney Spears says, “I deserve to have a life!”

This morning, 39 year old Britney Spears is all over the news. She went to court yesterday to ask a Los Angeles court judge, Brenda Penny, to end the “abusive conservatorship” her father, Jamie Spears, has had over her affairs since 2008 (a licensed professional conservator, Jodi Montgomery, took over direct oversight earlier this year). At this point, Spears’ financial affairs are jointly handled by Jamie Spears and Bessemer Trust. It’s hard to believe 13 years have passed since Britney’s very public mental health breakdown. I was never a big follower of Britney’s career, but I do remember the dramatic news stories and photos of her shaven head. I heard about her impulsive decision to marry Jason Alexander back in 2004, only to divorce him 55 hours later. Clearly, she did have mental health issues at one time. But does she still have them today?

News about Britney Spears. She doesn’t want to perform while her father is still in control. I don’t blame her.

Based on what I’ve read, which is admittedly not very much, it would seem to me that there are grounds to allow Britney Spears more control over her life. I haven’t heard of any other mental health dramas involving her in quite some time. She’s been quietly pushing to end the conservatorship for years. She was even working as an entertainer, at least until 2019. I wouldn’t have expected Spears to be working last year. Practically no one in the entertainment business was doing live shows after March 2020. But she’s clearly still successfully generating money, and people are still interested in her career.

Britney Spears dropped quite a bombshell in her testimony yesterday, claiming that she has an IUD that she would like to have removed so that she might have another child with her boyfriend, Sam Asghari. However, since she has no rights to make her own medical decisions, the IUD remains implanted against her will. She says she’s been forced to take medications she doesn’t want, such as lithium, a mood stabilizer often prescribed for treatment of bipolar disorder. Britney says the drug made her feel “drunk” and unable to carry on conversations with her family. She wants to do therapy at her home, where she might have privacy. Instead, she’s forced to go to another location, where the paparazzi “stalks” her.

Spears also claims that her management has forced her to perform against her will. She claims that she was threatened with a lawsuit if she didn’t do her shows. She says she felt like she was being “trafficked” and should be able to “say no to a dance move”. She’s claimed that she’s been forced to perform, even while sick with a high fever, and she’s been required to enter mental health treatment facilities against her will, based on exaggerated circumstances. Britney has also said that she doesn’t want to perform again, as long as her father is in charge of her affairs.

Finally, Britney Spears says that it makes no sense that she’s trusted and expected to perform at high level shows that involve millions of dollars in investments, yet can’t make the simplest decisions about personal aspects of her life. Frankly, I can see her point on this. It does seem to me like she should have had control over her affairs a long time ago, once the acute mental health crisis had ended. Or, at least she should have had some of her rights restored. At the very least, her affairs should not have been handled by a family member/authority figure like her father, but by a neutral party. But given that, as his daughter’s conservator, Jamie Spears was “earning” $16,000 a month plus $2,000 a month for office space rent, I guess I can see why he’d be reluctant to give up such a sweet gig.

What a mess! And it appears to be mostly over money, which is a real shame.

It’s concerning to read about some of the alleged personal issues Jamie Spears has had that might have made him a poor choice as a conservator in the first place. Lynne Spears’, Britney’s mom and Jamie’s second ex wife, claimed in her 2008 memoirs that her ex husband “verbally abused and abandoned her” and “exhibited erratic behavior.” In 1980, when Lynne Spears first attempted to divorce Jamie Spears, she filed a restraining order against him, worried that he would harass her, particularly if he had been drinking alcohol. Jamie Spears is evidently a notorious alcoholic. Lynne Spears has also spoken in favor of having Jamie Spears removed from his interests in Britney’s affairs.

In 1998, before Britney hit stardom, the family was struggling financially and on the verge of bankruptcy. When Jamie and Lynne Spears divorced in 2002, apparently things got better– Jamie Spears was not that involved in Britney’s life as she rocketed toward fame and fortune. It wasn’t until she had her breakdown that he was suddenly so interested in her affairs. Mr. Spears also allegedly was involved in an altercation involving one of Britney’s teenaged sons. Britney’s ex husband, Kevin Federline, got a restraining order against Jamie Spears, forbidding him to see his sons with Britney.

What especially sucks for Britney is that she is being forced to pay, not only for her own attorneys’ services, but also for the services of opposing attorneys. According to The New York Times:

As the fight drags on, the bills are piling up — and, in a quirk of the conservatorship system, Ms. Spears has to pay for lawyers on both sides, including those arguing against her wishes in court. A recent $890,000 bill from one set of Mr. Spears’s lawyers, covering about four months of work, included media strategizing for defending the conservatorship.

So… it appears to me that a whole lot of people are on Britney’s payroll, and a whole lot of people stand to lose if she regains the freedom to make her own decisions. It’s a really fucked up situation. I feel sad for her, because it looks to me like she’s being abused by someone who should always be interested in protecting her– her father. But instead, it looks like he’s profiting off of her and, perhaps, even getting a charge out of running her life. He’s allegedly referred to Britney as a “racehorse who has to be handled like one.” And at age 68, it’s not as if he’s likely to kick the bucket anytime soon.

Jamie Spears’ lawyer, Vivian Lee Thoreen assures us that Jamie has his daughter’s best interests at heart. She has stated to People magazine, quite nauseatingly, “Any time Britney wants to end her conservatorship, she can ask her lawyer to file a petition to terminate it; she has always had this right but in 13 years has never exercised it… Britney knows that her Daddy loves her, and that he will be there for her whenever and if she needs him, just as he always has been — conservatorship or not.” I don’t know about that… and while my southern mom always called her father “Daddy”, it seems especially inappropriate, disrespectful, and demeaning for a lawyer to address another adult in such a way, as if Britney Spears is just a child who needs reassurance. No 39 year old woman should be addressed like that, or spoken of or to in that way.

I truly hope that the judge in this case exercises wisdom. I don’t know all the details, of course, but from what I’ve read, it’s high time for Jamie Spears to get back in control and support of his own life. He needs to leave Britney alone. And if she really does need help managing her affairs, it should be from someone of her own choosing, who is neutral, professional, and works for her– and in her best interests. That help should not come from someone like her father, who will always have emotional ties to her, for better or worse. He’s not neutral, and from the sounds of it, he’s not particularly mentally stable himself.

No matter what, it sounds to me like Jamie’s time having any say in Britney’s life should end. I’m rooting for Britney. I hope she gets relief very soon. #Free Britney!

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book reviews

Repost: A review of Laid Bare: My story of love, fame, and survival, by Gail Porter

This is yet another reposted book review. I wrote this one in 2014, after having had the book suggested to me by a reader. The review is posted in its unedited form.

I just finished yet another e-book, this time by Scottish presenter Gail Porter.  I’m not sure what made me download this book.  I had never heard of Porter before I read her book, 2010’s Laid Bare, though she is apparently famous in Britain.  Porter is about my age, was born and raised near Edinburgh, and is known for being on Top of the Pops, a show I do remember from my early years in England.  She was also a well-known pin-up model for men’s magazines like GQ.  

Known for being bubbly and cheery, Porter had a good career in television, although no one knew that she was suffering from anorexia nervosa and bipolar disorder. She eventually married Toploader guitarist Dan Hipgrave and, against the odds, they had a daughter named Honey.  Though she adored her baby girl, marriage and motherhood apparently didn’t make Porter’s life perfect.  The issues with eating disorders, bipolar disorder, and cutting continued until she eventually landed in a hospital after overdosing on pills and vodka.  Then her hair fell out when she developed alopecia.

I just finished reading this book this morning.  Porter’s writing is chatty and conversational.  I got a kick out of the British slang, most of which I managed to understand, despite being a Yank.  And I did find her story quite compelling.  I felt compassion and empathy for her, knowing how difficult it is to suffer from mental illness and emotional distress.  I have never been bipolar, but I have suffered from depression.  I know how crazy that made me feel.  Adding to her problems were unsympathetic doctors and long waits for treatment owing to the backlog of patients using the National Health Service (NHS). 

I don’t really feel like the book was finished, though.  As much as I enjoyed reading it, it seems like there was more to Gail Porter’s story and readers are left hanging.  I did enjoy Porter’s pluck, though.  She’s been through a lot, despite her successes, and she’s handled her baldness with grace.  I wish her well and wish that her book were a little more complete.  I am a bit of a sucker for celebrity tell alls, especially when they involve dramatic struggles with illnesses.  Porter’s story is even more intriguing, since she’s British and I find reading about the British healthcare system kind of interesting.

Oddly enough, no one on Amazon.com has reviewed this.  Maybe I should check the British site to see if I’m alone in my thoughts that this book felt a bit incomplete…  Or perhaps my readers from the UK can “weigh in”…  ETA:  Just checked the British Amazon site and one person gave it three stars.  They said it “lacked substance”.  I think I agree.  This book felt rushed and despite being plenty long, didn’t really offer the “meat” I would have expected in a book about such serious subjects.  But it’s certainly not the worst book I’ve ever read.  I think I’d give it three stars too.


A BBC interview starring Gail Porter…

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obits, true crime

RIP Mary Kay…

I woke up to the news that Mary Kay Letourneau passed away on July 6th. She’d been suffering from colon cancer and spent the last month in hospice care. Her ex husband, Vili Fualaau, was at her side taking care of her. This would not seem like such a strange thing, except that Mary Kay Letourneau did seven years in prison for raping Vili when he was almost 13 years old. She’d been his teacher in both the second and sixth grades. Although Mary Kay Letourneau was regarded as an excellent teacher who, to my knowledge, was not a habitual sexual abuser, for some reason she couldn’t resist Vili Fualaau. It cost her everything, including her freedom and access to her four children from her first marriage.

Mary Kay Letourneau also had two children with Vili. They were married in 2005 and split up in 2017, finally divorcing in 2019. I remember reading that the split was mostly because Vili wanted to start a marijuana farm and couldn’t do so legally as long as he was married to a felon. In spite of their divorce, he was with Mary Kay until the end, even though she was technically his rapist.

Mary Kay Letourneau’s story was certainly unusual. In the late 1990s, she was a fixture in the tabloids. Lots of people had, and still have, very strong opinions about her. Just this morning, there’s a thread on RfM about Mary Kay Letourneau’s passing. A couple of posters are steadfastly taking people to task for expressing sadness that Mary Kay died. I am one of those they’re judging. They claim I’m a “rape apologist” because I expressed condolences. Incidentally, I remember a few months ago, someone else on RfM implying that I’m a racist because I described the people who punctured our tire in France as “swarthy”.

The person who implied I’m a racist is also among those claiming that anyone who empathizes with Mary Kay Letourneau is a “rape apologist”. I guess this puts me right down there with Donald Trump. Actually, I think these folks, both of whom are very intelligent, but sometimes quite rigid and argumentative, are guilty of extreme black and white thinking. And they seem just fine with telling other people how and what they should think, too. I’ve learned that there’s no point in having discussions with people of that ilk because it goes nowhere. Their minds are made up, and they simply aren’t willing to consider other viewpoints.

I often get into trouble with people because, for the most part, I try not to engage in black and white thinking, even when it comes to what should be done with rapists, child molesters, and murderers. Perhaps it’s because of my social work training, although maybe if I had actually had to do a lot of work with victims, that “open-mindedness” might have gone out the window. I see most people as capable of being and doing good things, even if they’ve committed a heinous crime. I like to hope that most people are redeemable on some level, even if I know some of them aren’t.

Anyway, my thinking about this case is what it is. I don’t tend to think of most people as all good or all bad. For instance, I despise Bill’s ex wife, but even she has her redeeming qualities if I stop and think about it for a moment. She could have been much worse than she was, although she was certainly bad enough. She did some really terrible things to people– to include rape. But I can still think of worse people in the world. I also realize that whatever I think of her, she still has loved ones who wouldn’t want to see her dead. Or, I assume she does, anyway.

I had a social work professor who did a lot of work in prisons with domestic abusers and child molesters. While that work is certainly considered distasteful to a lot of people, it’s very necessary, just as defense attorneys are necessary to advocate for people who are accused of crimes. My professor explained what it was like to work with pedophiles and child molesters (there is a difference). I remember thinking how difficult it must have been for him to work with that population, but I later came to realize that working with them was a kindness. He provided a much needed service for the offenders, but also for anyone who has to deal with the offenders, including their families and other incarcerated people.

A person can be a pedophile, but not a child molester. A pedophile is someone who is sexually attracted to children, but that doesn’t necessarily mean they have molested children. It could be that they’re just attracted to them and have fantasies. A child molester molests children, but may or may not find them sexually attractive.

Many people think that someone who victimizes children should simply be executed. I can understand why people feel that way. Children are innocent and powerless, and they are never in a position of strength over adults who victimize them. I agree that people who harm children must be punished and prevented from harming other children. However, many people also have issues with the death penalty. Although I grew up being all for executing criminals, my mind changed as I came of age and saw the death penalty unfairly administered. I read horrifying accounts of innocent people being exonerated, sometimes after they had already been put to death. So now, I’m mostly against executing people, unless it’s a matter of public safety, there is absolutely no doubt of the person’s guilt, and there is certainty that given the opportunity, they would offend again. I think it’s something that should be done exceedingly rarely.

What should we do with someone who confesses to being a pedophile, but never actually harms a child? If someone dares to admit to those feelings, especially to someone with training in counseling, should we just round them up and shoot them? Or should we offer them some kind of help? Do pedophiles have any intrinsic worth as human beings, despite their attraction to children? Can they be salvaged? Do they deserve compassion and understanding? As my professor said, people who are attracted to children are dealing with a very powerful drive. If they are brave enough to seek help before they hurt anyone, and even after they’ve hurt someone, I think that should be encouraged.

I also don’t think that all sex offenders are created equally. What Mary Kay Letourneau did was certainly very wrong. She did rape a child. But she was not on the same level as someone like Warren Jeffs, who repeatedly victimized scores of women and children for many years.

From what I have read about the Letourneau case, the relationship Mary Kay had with Vili wasn’t violent. He could not legally consent to having sex with her when they first got together, because he was a child. She certainly abused her power by giving in to having sex with him when she was his teacher. But he was, apparently, her one and only victim, and for whatever reason, he later married her and willingly stayed with her for years.

Did Vili have the right to make the decision to marry his rapist as a consenting adult? Yes he did, even if I don’t agree with his decision. It would not have been right for the government to say that he couldn’t marry his abuser, even if most people think it’s icky and wrong. Americans value their freedoms, as we’ve especially seen during the coronavirus pandemic. And Vili, evidently, did not consider Mary Kay Letourneau abusive, even if the law says differently. Mary Kay was also diagnosed with bipolar disorder, which may have had some bearing on her behavior, too.

I don’t see Mary Kay Letourneau as a monster, even if I definitely don’t condone what she did. I think what matters most is what her victim thinks. Vili Fualaau was Mary Kay Letourneau’s victim, not me, and he hasn’t been a child in many years. Apparently, he loved her, despite what she did. Mary Kay Letourneau went to prison for her crimes against him. She did her time, and to my knowledge, did not reoffend. She can’t ever hurt anyone else because she’s now dead. Colon cancer is also not a very pleasant way to die.

I don’t understand Mary Kay’s and Vili’s relationship, but since Vili is an adult, I respect his choices, and yes, I am sorry for his loss. That does not make me a “rape apologist”. Aside from that, Mary Kay Letourneau was still the mother of six people. I don’t know what her children think of her, although I did read that she managed to “mend fences” with her eldest children. Her daughter, Mary Claire, was even the maid of honor at Mary Kay’s wedding to Vili. They’re probably sad that she died. Or maybe they aren’t sad. They’re entitled to whatever their feelings are. As a fellow human being, I have empathy for them. It’s not my place to demand that they hate her or be glad she’s dead. It’s not my place to demand that anyone thinks or feels the way I do. It doesn’t mean I admire Mary Kay Letourneau or think she was a paragon of virtue. It means I see her as a flawed human being who suffered and is deserving of basic compassion. There are people who loved her and will miss her, in spite of her shortcomings as a person. And I am sorry for their loss.

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Netflix

Spinning out…

A few days ago, I got bored watching old episodes of Intervention and decided to see what was on Netflix. I happened to notice a new show called Spinning Out. It’s about ice skating, a sport I have always loved to watch. Unfortunately, because I don’t get regular TV over here, I don’t get to watch a lot of live sports. That’s not a big problem most of the time, since I don’t really enjoy most sports. I just like the “girly” ones, like figure skating, gymnastics, and show jumping.

Since I can’t watch sports, I’m kind of a sucker for movies about the sports I like. Spinning Out looked like something that would appeal. It’s basically like a mash up of I,Tonya (a great movie, by the way), Ice Castles, and Cutting Edge, with a dash of 2020 era snark. The cast is hopelessly gorgeous, with 26 year old British actress Kaya Scodelario starring as Kat Baker, a beautiful former ladies single skater with bipolar disorder who had a devastating fall that has almost forced her out of the sport, until she’s talked into becoming a pairs partner to Justin Davis (played by Evan Roderick), an evident asshole who skates beautifully. Actually, I don’t think Justin’s an asshole. He’s just supposed to be one. I kind of like his character. He has a lot of snarky lines and Evan Roderick, as Justin, delivers them convincingly.

Kat and Justin will probably develop some kind of romance… although Kat is being pursued by her co-worker, a black skier and bartender named Marcus Holmes (played by Mitchell Edwards). So far, racism is touched on lightly. He and Kat definitely are supposed have some kind of flirtation going on, but I’m not especially convinced by it. And there’s so much other stuff in play that it seems kind of superfluous that a potential interracial relationship is also thrown in. I’ve got no issues whatsoever with interracial relationships, but I don’t see much on screen chemistry between Kat and Marcus. And I’m at the part in the series at which it looks like they aren’t going to be together, anyway… but maybe the writers will surprise me.

Complicating matters is Kat’s beautiful bipolar mom, Carol Baker (played by January Jones), a former skater who is demanding, annoying, and abusive. Carol interferes with Kat’s plans and sabotages her desires to be independent (and at her age, she really should be, right?). Kat has an enchantingly lovely younger sister, Serena, (played by Willow Shields), also a figure skater who jumps like a jumping bean, but isn’t as mesmerizing to watch as Kat is. Carol uses Serena, who evidently isn’t bipolar, to try to control Kat. Carol also dates Serena’s coach, the super cute Brit Mitch Saunders (played by Will Kemp). I might keep watching just because he’s adorable.

Justin’s father is wealthy and demanding. His stepmother is warm and kind. Justin’s and Kat’s coach is Russian and a little loopy. Kat’s best friend, Jenn Yu (played by Amanda Zhou) is quirky and funny… and it’s all set in the fictional resort town of Sun Valley, someplace out west, although it was filmed in Toronto, Ontario and at Blue Mountain Ski Resort in Ontario. Skating doubles are mostly Canadians. So far, I think they’ve done a great job of making the doubles look very much like the actors.

So… what do I think of the series so far? I’m about halfway through. It’s strangely compulsive viewing. I wasn’t very impressed by the first episode, but I decided to keep watching because I have nothing better to do and I might as well use my Netflix subscription. As I watched a couple more episodes, I was a bit more interested… although– and this is going to shock some people– there is one thing about Spinning Out that I don’t like very much. That is… there’s a whole lot of cussing.

I’m not surprised there’s so much cussing on this show. I watched 13 Reasons Why a couple of years ago. In fact, I resubscribed to Netflix because I wanted to see what all the hubbub was about. I didn’t like 13 Reasons Why for a number of reasons, but one of the main ones that I can remember was the gratuitous amount of swearing throughout the series.

I don’t mind and am definitely not offended by cussing. God knows, I do plenty of it myself. A well used cuss word can be quite effective in any communication. However, when every other word is the word “fuck”, it becomes boring, repetitive, and kind of stupid. I understand Kat Baker yelling “Fuck!” when her car breaks down, but is there any reason why incarnations of the f-word need to be used in place of other adjectives? Sometimes, the cussing is just unnecessary and seems to come down to lazy writing.

And while I enjoyed all of the movies this show seems to have been cobbled from, I do think a lot of it is kind of hackneyed and stale. If a blind figure skater shows up in a future season, I know I’ll quit watching… unless I want to turn it into a drinking game (ie; drink every time a figure skating cliche occurs— ETA- sure enough blindness is in the mix). Ditto to all the drinking… do athletes headed for the Olympics really drink that much and have so much sex? I guess if they showed realistic elite athletic training, it would make for a boring show.

Also, I think there was a misstep in casting. January Jones is not really old enough or mature looking enough to be the mother of the actresses who play her daughters. Kaya Scodelario doesn’t look young enough to be her daughter, so I have a heard time suspending disbelief when it comes to their scenes. Sarah Wright Olsen plays Justin’s stepmother, Mandy Davis, but every time I see her, I think of Jessica Simpson. I mean, she can definitely pull off the trophy wife look, although her on screen husband, James Davis (played by David James Elliott) is about 23 years older than she is. It’s kind of icky.

Still, even though I have a few complaints about this series, I’ll probably watch the rest of season 1. Why? Because I might as well. Some of it is kind of entertaining, even if it is kind of ripped off from other works. Some of the lines are witty. I especially enjoy Dasha, the Russian coach, played by Russian actress Svetlana Efremova. Her hair alone is intriguing. It looks kind of like a bad wig, although I’m not sure it actually is. And I’ll be interested in seeing if they do more with the bipolar angle. So far, I haven’t seen much that indicates the bipolar angle is going to be realistically put into play… but I still have a few episodes to go. Something tells me, it’s not going to be done well, but maybe the writers will surprise me.

Maybe I’ll update or write a sequel for this post. Maybe I won’t. We’ll see if I still care enough once I’ve finished the season.

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