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Amanda Bynes Has A Conservatorship Just Like Britney Spears — Here's Why People Aren't Talking About It

“The public perception of the two women is totally different. Britney Spears has been in public — very public — for years. Whereas Amanda Bynes, her life is so private, we only get these little glimpses into it.”

On today's episode of BuzzFeed Daily, we broke down the top pop culture headlines AND discussed Amanda Bynes' conservatorship and the way it has (and hasn't) been covered by the media. You can listen below or scroll down to read more about the interview!

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So let's dive right into it! Recently we talked to Doha Madani about why there’s such a huge difference in the public perceptions of Britney Spears’ and Amanda Bynes’ conservatorships. Here's some of what we learned:

BuzzFeed Daily: You recently reported on a judge's ruling to extend Amanda Bynes' conservatorship. But it doesn't seem like that many people are necessarily even aware that Amanda has been under conservatorship. Can you give us some background on this?

Photo of Amanda Bynes in a purple dress
Patrick Mcmullan / Getty Images

Doha Madani: Well, people might not remember, but Amanda Bynes retired from acting in 2010. I believe her last project was Easy A. She went on some Twitter rants — some pretty wild statements were made very publicly. She has now admitted to abusing some substances in that time period. And I think the one that's most famous of her Twitter rants is that she asked Drake to do some inappropriate things to her very publicly. 

She also accused her dad of abuse, which she has since recanted. She said that was because there was a microchip in her brain — just some really concerning moments very publicly. She also got into some legal trouble with a DUI, and her parents filed to put her under conservatorship, I believe, in 2013. And so she's been in a conservatorship for several years now. 

One of the biggest things is that Amanda Bynes just has not gotten as much attention, in part because she's led a very private life since then. She's now been studying at the Fashion Institute of Design and Merchandizing for quite some time. She's got a pretty quiet, private life for someone who's been in the spotlight since she was 6 years old. 

BuzzFeed Daily: So she's under this conservatorship now. I believe her mother is in charge of it. It's obviously hard to know what actually goes down inside of these conservatorships because they're so private in nature. But is there any evidence to suggest, or maybe concern about Amanda's family benefiting financially from her conservatorship, the same way that Britney Spears' father has clearly been taking money from Britney's?

Closeup photo of Amanda Bynes smiling at something off-camera
Jon Kopaloff / FilmMagic

DM: You know, that's a hard thing to answer because there are really two sides to that coin. There are a lot of people who are concerned that Amanda Bynes is being taken advantage of. However, there's also significantly less money at stake. Like I said, Amanda Bynes has not been acting for 11 years. And obviously there are residuals. A lot of her stuff is on streaming. I myself have recently rewatched all of What I Like About You on HBO Max. 

There's money coming in  — there's no doubt about that. But it's not the significant level of income that Britney Spears has had. Britney Spears has, in her words, been forced to work a schedule that she's said is overwhelming and hasn't been able to take a break. She's released several studio albums, gone on tour. She's had these huge Las Vegas residencies. So there isn't the same level of financial concern. Also, Amanda Bynes' father had a pretty successful career even before she started acting. He was a dentist in Thousand Oaks, California, which I can only presume is a decent income.

BuzzFeed Daily: It was inevitable that there would be comparisons made to Britney Spears' conservatorship. Both women started out as child stars and reached high levels of fame before having some very public mental health issues. Financial issues aside, what are the most significant differences between their cases?

Selfie of Amanda Bynes and selfie of Britney Spears
@rlamandabynes/@britneyspears / Instagram / Via

DM: There are huge differences in their cases. First and foremost, Amanda Bynes is no longer under a financial conservatorship. Her mother filed in 2017 to give her control of her money back. She told the court that in 2017 she was in a great place. [Amanda] was doing much better, and she wanted to allow her more financial control over her life while still retaining some medical conservatorship powers. So we don't necessarily know what that situation looks like anymore, because from what my sources and experts have told me, when you're not under a financial conservatorship, you're not in court every other week asking for certain financial allowances and not having the court overview it. 

But there's a 2016 court document that indicates Amanda Bynes' money was put into a trust. And what that means is that they name basically a successor. So if I have a medical emergency, I am incapacitated, and the court has declared me incapacitated, that person has the ability to — it's basically a power of attorney — make decisions in my stead. 

And so that seems to be the case. Last year she came out and said that she was only 14 months sober and she had been in rehab. So that's another aspect of the case. She appeared to have a pretty significant relapse. We don't know a lot of those court documents are sealed. I don't know if she was declared incapacitated in that time and her father took over her money, or what that case might be. No one knows what the case might be in that. But again, that is a huge difference in the two cases.

Aside from the financial stuff, what a lot of experts have told me is the public perception of the two women is totally different. Britney Spears has been in public — very public — for years. She's doing all of these performances. She's making all of these albums, and that's a full-time job. And it's only natural for her fans to say, "Well, she can do all of this stuff. Why can't she be in control of her life?" She looks like she has her shit together, for lack of a better phrase. Whereas Amanda Bynes, her life is so private; we only get these little glimpses into it. And the glimpses that we have are not that great. She's a little erratic on social media — both women are, to be fair — but her erratic behavior makes people feel as if maybe she still needs this conservatorship.

Whereas Britney, sure, she's a little weird on social media, but she's also got no other outlet for her life. So that's really the core difference. You know, you don't know celebrities at all. I think that that's a really important perspective to maintain. However, it's the little glimpses into their lives that give us and shape the perspective of their lives. What we've seen from Britney Spears seems to be a lot better than what we've seen from Amanda Bynes.

BuzzFeed Daily: I think another key difference between these two cases is just the sheer amount of attention that has been put on Britney's case. There's the Hulu documentary Framing Britney Spears, and Netflix just released the trailer for its own Britney doc. Plus, there's a "Free Britney" Instagram account with nearly 100,000 followers. Meanwhile, the biggest "Free Amanda" Twitter account, which you mentioned in your article, has less than a thousand followers. I wonder, do you think we're going to see that level of attention move on to Amanda Bynes? Or do you think because of all these differences you've outlined about the way that Amanda's life has played out in the past few years, that the public is going to accept that maybe the conservatorship is the right thing for her?

Photo of someone waving a pink #FreeBritney flag
Kent Nishimura / Los Angeles Times via Getty Images

DM: I'm a professional paid skeptic, so I'm going to probably lean towards I don't think that she's going to get that much more attention. What is really the key factor at stake is whether she comes forward and says something — that is really what lent credibility to Britney Spears' case.

The Framing Britney documentary really moved #FreeBritney into the mainstream. It legitimized what was really derided as some social media thing and conspiracy theories. But then Britney Spears filed to unseal her case, which changed everything for us as journalists. We were able to listen in to a lot of these court hearings, including the June 23 testimony, which just was an explosion. As many people have said, we thought it was bad, but we didn't think it was that bad. 

We have not heard really from Amanda Bynes how she feels. We have not heard from Amanda Bynes a consistent story about what she's going through. I do believe she came out and had some concerns about her finances and her treatment and how much it costs. Yeah, sure — that's completely legitimate. And that's something that a lot of her fans are citing as a really huge concern for them. And that's also a very legitimate concern. But Amanda Bynes' case is really, really behind a curtain for us, especially because now she's not in court for her finances. It's all medical and personal conservatorship, which means that she has a right to privacy. She has a right to medical privacy. That is a huge concern for her as a private citizen. We don't get to have access to her medical diagnoses. 

So it really, really depends on what she wants to do going forward. If she comes out and says, "Hey, this is really bad for me; these are the reasons why," then we have to listen, and we have to pay attention. But if she doesn't, then I don't think that that's going to have the impact that #FreeBritney did.

BuzzFeed Daily: So, do you think the way Britney's case has played out over the past few months could serve as sort of a blueprint for the future of Amanda's case or conservatorship cases in general?

Photo of a person holding a Free Britney sign at a rally
Kevin Dietsch / Getty Images

DM: Absolutely. I mean, Britney Spears' case has already opened the door to more scrutiny on these kinds of conservatorships from Congress, which is huge. There's definitely a lot more attention paid to disability rights because of it. Her statement about not being able to remove her IUD in court was something that really shocked so many people, except for disability rights activists who have been saying this for a long time, that forced sterilization of disabled women is not uncommon. So it really has already made a huge impact. 

However, the biggest thing for me is Britney Spears told us in court that she remained silent because she didn't think anybody was going to believe her. She didn't think the judge cared. She didn't believe anybody cared. She said the last time she was in court, she felt dead inside. That, to me, is the largest change to go forward, is listening to the people who are in these cases and not brushing them off as crazy and really paying attention to what they're going through, and understanding that just because someone has mental health issues does not mean that they lose autonomy over their own lives. 

BuzzFeed Daily: What do you think is next for Amanda Bynes? Are there any next steps that she's going to take, do you think, or do you think that she's content in her conservatorship as it exists right now?

Jeff Kravitz / FilmMagic

DM: I really don't know. Amanda Bynes has had some issues in the last year. I think who hasn't in the last year and a half had some struggles? She's had to go into treatment for what she called really severe social anxiety issues. She is engaged, from what I understand. She has wanted to get married, so maybe that might be a motivating factor to terminate the conservatorship because people in conservatorship are technically not able to make legal decisions or enter into legal contracts, which includes marriage. A conservatee can always file to terminate their conservatorship. It might not always be easy, but it's possible. 

I just genuinely don't know enough about what Amanda Bynes is going through right now to give an answer to that. I think I'm very sympathetic to the fact that she's a child star. She has constantly been working since she was a little girl, and she finally has some space to be a private person, and that's fantastic. I hope the best for her, and I hope that she's doing better than she was a year ago. But I also haven't really heard much about what she's personally been going through since she was in treatment, which is really part of the problem. Every single little glimpse of her life is usually something bad and tabloidy. It's not "Amanda Bynes is having a great time at Disneyland."

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