At the end of a day of testimony, she recalled, the judge looked at her and cautioned, “I can turn the clock forward, but I can never turn it back. Are you ready for that?”
She was and, just like that, became an adult in the eyes of the state, and, in Hollywood, another entry for the “VIP v parent” files.
Circumstances differ from person to person, but it’s a lesson learned over and over again: family, fame and fortune can be highly combustible combination.
“Families are ripe territory for sensitive privacy issues and reputational requirements and the stars of the silver screen, the stage and the stadium have family members like we mere mortals,” Amber Melville-Brown, a New York-based partner and global head of media and reputation at Withersworldwide, an international law firm. “Throw in large amounts of money, a dash or two of ego, a pinch of jealousy and a power struggle all carried out under the spotlight of the media, or the threat of publicity, and you have a heady mix.”
“I cried on the phone for an hour, and he loved every minute of it,” Spears said in her testimony, describing when she learned she was being forced to attend an expensive rehab program. “The control he had over someone as powerful as me — he loved the control to hurt his own daughter, 100,000%. He loved it.”
Back in 2006, Backstreet Boy Nick Carter and brother Aaron Carter opened up about their familial falling out with their mother, Jane, in an interview with ABC’s “20/20.” The singers said they felt their mother was more focused on managing than parenting.
“I think when it’s your child, you go over and above anything that would be required of you if you were just a proper person getting a typical paycheck,” she said.
Her famous daughters agreed.
Melville-Brown acknowledged that some families “work exceptionally well” together, but “professional advisers can provide a distance and clarity of thought away from the heat of the beating family heart, to allow decisions to be made by a cooler head.”
“Blood can be thicker than water, but it can also be hotter than water, and when a dispute bubbles up family members may be too close to the situation, too fogged up in the emotion to be able clearly to see the way out,” she said.
Spears made it clear in her testimony that her freedom — not repairing family bonds — is her priority. And though she may desire to turn back the clock in some regards, what lies ahead can be bright.