Britney Spears: No, She Can’t (Speak To You Without A Chaperone)

Britney Spears’ triumphant comeback lost a little bit more of its romantic luster today, thanks to Rolling Stone publishing an interview with writer Jenny Eliscu where she opens up about how Spears had become much more sheltered between the time the two first met in the summer of 2001—when a chatty Spears walked Eliscu through her then-new Hollywood Hills mansion—and earlier this year, when there were instances where the two people breathed the same airspace, but didn’t speak to one another. Eliscu also talks about how Spears’ legal status affected her reporting:

You’ve heard her quote from the documentary Britney: For the Record about how she feels like a prisoner. Did you get that vibe from her? The thing is, when I met with her, I wasn’t looking for that. I had started to feel uncomfortable with all the restrictions, like submitting my questions for approval and not being left alone with her. And whenever I asked who was making these rules, I was told it had to do with the conservatorship. Like most people, I didn’t know much about conservatorships or how they’re supposed to work. Of course, the funny coincidence is that the most famous conservatorship in recent years isn’t even Britney’s: Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac were being run by a government conservatorship. And we see how brilliantly that turned out.

Anyway, I had done some preliminary research into it, but I was not yet aware how hard Britney had tried to fight it initially and why. As my research progressed, it started to become clear to me that this might not be something that should still be in place. Because it is designed, ideally, to protect people who are seriously ill. We’re talking about people who are non compus mentis, according to the lawyers I consulted. Or they’re in a vegetative state. Or they’re just so old that they can’t take care of themselves anymore. But Britney? It was making less and less sense as time went on.

So, as I say, it wasn’t until after my last meeting with her that I realized how far beyond the scope of my interview this level of control extended into all facets of her life. And so, unfortunately, I wasn’t, like, checking to see if she blinked out an S.O.S. code or whatever. But in hindsight, I did have a new understanding of the quote of hers at the end of the story, which is the last thing she said to me, in the context of being interviewed. She was describing this song she wrote about artistic expression and masquerade — pretending to be other people and putting on shows. And she says, “Through this, you create your world.” The song is about a girl who likes to live in a world of make-believe, and she’s got all these people trying to come into her world that she didn’t invite in. It’s pretty telling. When you think about it, Britney Spears is an artist — a pop artist, in the truest sense — and sometimes artists do crazy things. I’m not sure why Britney isn’t allowed to act out in the ways that we normally consider acceptable from artists. And we’re guilty too because we created this Britney Spears character and we won’t let her change.

Eliscu goes on to note that one of the reasons Spears is under lock and key is because of “political pressure to keep Britney off the streets,” what with the paparazzi around Los Angeles organizing themselves into mini-militias any time she tries to head out to rehearsal. And given that she’s been betrayed by many people she’s let into her life (oh, hi, K-Fed), the impulses behind protecting her from the unknown probably come from a place that isn’t totally motivated by having her hold on to her fortune. But either way, the curious, sheltered state that Spears finds herself in while she’s still pretty much the biggest pop star in the world certainly puts the line “my loneliness is killing me” in a new light as well.

Behind the Britney Story: A conversation with writer Jenny Eliscu [RS]