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Miss American Dream
June 13, 2014 11:58 AM   Subscribe

How Britney Spears went to Vegas and became a feminist role model. No, really.

The Secret History Of Britney Spears’ Lost Album - "Ten years ago, Britney Spears said she was working on an album called Original Doll, but her label denied its existence. The search for Britney’s “lost album,” and the freedom that still eludes her."
posted by the man of twists and turns (53 comments total) 9 users marked this as a favorite

 
A woman of twists and turns
posted by dances_with_sneetches at 12:30 PM on June 13 [4 favorites]


I don't see Britney as a role model, more of a tragic cautionary tale about what life is like when you give over your entire identity/agency to a cluster of mercenary, amoral "protectors."
posted by mynameisluka at 12:34 PM on June 13 [10 favorites]


Proposed: All women are feminist role models. We don't have to judge which women are good feminists and which are not.
posted by chrchr at 12:39 PM on June 13 [12 favorites]


These are quite long articles. Do they have anything to do with one another, other than both being about Britney Spears?
posted by Curious Artificer at 12:41 PM on June 13


Ok. I read that whole god-damn article where a WHOLE bunch of things were discounted like the fact that Celine actually OWNED that shit at her first residency. ALL of her concerts were sold out for 5 years. I'm not entirely sure, but I think she was doing 3 shows per week or something crazy, as opposed to britney's 50 per year. And now she's back...and people are saying that if she sold out for 5 years..she'll be able to do it for 10 years now.

And seriously, dont get me started on how Cher pretty much owns everything from Malibu to LV. She's a legend...and I don't really buy that Cher stopped doing her shows because there were old people in her concert. She's VERY vocal about her age on twitter and is definitely not one to run the fuck away.

But, really, Cher couldn’t stand the old people. Playing a concert and seeing the walkers up and down the aisles and the blue hairs and the wrinkles filled her with an existential dread that sent her running back to Malibu.

Its like the author of that clickbait doesn't even know Cher. Don't talk about her like that.

As for Britney being a 'feminist role model', this is the support of that:

On the surface, “Work Bitch” is a bizarre dance song with depressing lyrics. It is the first song she sings in Piece of Me:

You want a hot body? You want a Bugatti? You want a Maserati? You better work bitch

Without getting into the politics of a woman calling herself or another woman a bitch, consider what Britney is trying to tell us. She’d promised that this album would be her most personal album yet, and what do we get? “Work bitch”? Is she the bitch? Are we calling her a bitch? Is she instructing another bitch as to the secret of her success? How is this personal?

Vulture published a disgusted review, calling her not just the most boring singer on the planet but “the most boring person,” and “anti-matter in a belly shirt.” Flavorwire kindly rushed to Britney’s aid, asking why we talk about Britney as if she’s not a prisoner. (A reference, again, to her conservatorship.)

I’d like to submit a different theory: What if this is a personal song? The song’s sentiments are certainly the only ones in current pop that I can relate to. Its message is that nothing comes easily, that you can’t keep your kids in private school and your community gated and your ex-husband in his nation-building ambitions without work. Britney isn’t the fuck-up we decided she was during a relatively short but well-publicized period of her life. She drops off her kids and picks them up from school just about every day. She shows up on time, hits every mark, is polite and soft-spoken. She rehearses five or six hours every day, saying, “Let’s run through it one more time.” Britney works.

So, are we prepared to dismiss our preconceived notions of her as some sad gum-chewing has-been to make room for another interpretation? What if Britney has somehow become a feminist role model for single working mothers here and everywhere?


This is weak.
posted by hal_c_on at 12:46 PM on June 13 [13 favorites]


This is weak.

The feminism bit was tacked on--there's certainly an argument to be made there, but this wasn't it--BUT, the article still wins for the use of "upwardly motile."
posted by mittens at 12:57 PM on June 13 [3 favorites]


Yeah, the bit about her being a feminist role model is not the centerpiece of that article. It's like some bizarre form of clickbait.

"Famous pop star takes up residency in Vegas and a circus forms around her. You won't believe how much feminism happens next!"
posted by hippybear at 12:59 PM on June 13 [10 favorites]


There was a great line in a recent marginally positive review of Madonna's new album, which almost applies to Britney: "Pop: come for the sexism, stay for the ageism."

Las Vegas? Never been there. Just saw it fly by from the car window a half-dozen times.

But my daughter told me about it. When a bunch of enthusiastic beautiful 21-year old women hit the town (from L.A., natch), they get in all the clubs free. The men pay to get in. Yeah, Vegas is getting younger, as the too-long article mentioned, and they pay DJ's 500K a night to pump out EDM, or so I've read.
posted by kozad at 1:00 PM on June 13 [1 favorite]


I couldn't get very far into that article before the apathy I have for celebrity mercifully made me stop reading it. Seemed like the sort of breathless puff piece you'd find in an old 60's film stars magazine.
posted by Catblack at 1:02 PM on June 13


"Proposed: All women are feminist role models. We don't have to judge which women are good feminists and which are not."

Um, no. All women are not feminist role models. As evidence I offer Phyllis Schlafly.
posted by MrBobaFett at 1:05 PM on June 13 [32 favorites]


When a bunch of enthusiastic beautiful 21-year old women hit the town (from L.A., natch), they get in all the clubs free. The men pay to get in. Yeah, Vegas is getting younger, as the too-long article mentioned, and they pay DJ's 500K a night to pump out EDM, or so I've read.

This is not specific to LV. This is how the club scene works.

Also, as much as 500k per night sounds totally ludicrous, the really popluar DJ's actually get more. I'm going to try to find the article, but I recently read about Paris Hilton (!) talking about how she gets paid 300k-500k PER HOUR to DJ.

PER HOUR.
posted by hal_c_on at 1:14 PM on June 13 [2 favorites]


Here it is. I was wrong on the numbers. Its 100k-350k per hour rather than 300k-500k.
posted by hal_c_on at 1:16 PM on June 13


I stopped reading at "No, really."

How britneyscending.
posted by chavenet at 1:21 PM on June 13


Condescendney.
posted by hippybear at 1:23 PM on June 13 [6 favorites]


I don't really buy that Cher stopped doing her shows because there were old people in her concert.

I hadn't heard that before. I had just assumed that her voice was going out on her when she started using that autotune effect so prominently.
posted by Hoopo at 1:26 PM on June 13


I hadn't heard that before. I had just assumed that her voice was going out on her when she started using that autotune effect so prominently.

Excuse you, but thats called "the Cher Effect", and it happened in 1998 with her song "Believe". Her stint in Vegas was in 2008-2011

Actually, looking this shit up, I see that she had a 200-show engagement with Caesar's Palace over an almost 3 year period.

She did 192 out of 200 shows.
I hate how the author of the article refers to Cher running back to Malibu when he should have just said "Cher completed 96% of her show before finishing up at the age of 65. You know...retirement age".

Incidentally, shes back on the grind.
posted by hal_c_on at 1:53 PM on June 13 [2 favorites]


From the first link: women who were anywhere between their late 20s and early 40s and who had the aggressively stripey blonde highlights and severe, long-in-front, shorter-in-back haircut of so many female visitors to the Strip

This is stated like its so familiar to everyone. Granted, I've only been to Vegas once but what would this hair look like?
posted by sfkiddo at 1:58 PM on June 13


highlighted angled bob
posted by Bentobox Humperdinck at 2:09 PM on June 13 [3 favorites]


Something about this thread really, really makes me want to watch Moonstruck again. Which I do about every six months.
posted by valkane at 2:34 PM on June 13 [3 favorites]


If we're at the point where we're calling reported longform pieces "clickbait" we might as well just shut journalism down, because the term is now meaningless.
posted by dekathelon at 2:38 PM on June 13 [11 favorites]


I suppose you're right, in a way, but when an article purports to explain how Britney is a feminist and then drones on for 20,000 words about everything but feminism, it is a little clickbaitey.
posted by kozad at 2:46 PM on June 13 [5 favorites]


This is not specific to LV. This is how the club scene works.

And it's not really LV, either. The LA club kids all fly/drive in on Friday night and are packed out and on flights home on Sunday afternoon a few short steps behind the strippers and hookers. The Monday-Thursday crowd is still what it always was. Old people.
posted by JoeZydeco at 2:47 PM on June 13


The article did not purport any such thing. I think the quote pulled was a little on the ironic side, fwiw.

And that angled strypy bob? How can y'all NOT be familiar with it???? Trust me, it's on a million unfortunate heads.
posted by St. Alia of the Bunnies at 2:48 PM on June 13


(oh, and apropos of nothing....I remember when I was in junior high back when dinosaurs roamed the earth, and I almost started crying when I read that Elton John planned on retiring in a couple of years because he did not want to wind up as an old Vegas performer.


I guess he changed his mind somewhere during the ensuing forty-odd years since.)
posted by St. Alia of the Bunnies at 2:51 PM on June 13


There might be a case for Britney Spears being a feminist role model, but this article does not make it. While the article makes a case for Britney's admirable qualities, having admirable qualities does not automatically confer feminist role model status.
posted by EvaDestruction at 2:55 PM on June 13 [1 favorite]


When Britney was working after she had her kids there were a lot of people giving her shit for it, because OMG sexy!!! But that's her job. She had kids to feed and that's what she's good at. Good for her. In that sense I do admire her.

Interesting article, thanks for posting.
posted by the young rope-rider at 2:55 PM on June 13 [1 favorite]


Vegas is getting younger, as the too-long article mentioned, and they pay DJ's 500K a night to pump out EDM, or so I've read.

Anthony Bourdain's CNN episode on Vegas touched on this. EDM shows are the big money draw nowadays.
posted by Renoroc at 3:31 PM on June 13


Where is that angled, stripey bob FROM, though? I know I've seen it in Vegas and also at Disneyland. I live in LA and I don't see it on young women here, at least not on the westside. Is it a midwest thing? Texas?
posted by town of cats at 4:19 PM on June 13


town of cats, the hairstyle was first popularized by Victoria "Posh" Beckham about 7 years ago. So, it's an English thing.
posted by Iris Gambol at 4:33 PM on June 13


> Proposed: All women are feminist role models. We don't have to judge which women are good feminists and which are not.

The Onion is way ahead of you.
posted by officer_fred at 4:45 PM on June 13 [5 favorites]


And here I was thinking it was a toned-down Aeon Flux haircut.
posted by mittens at 6:04 PM on June 13


Where is that angled, stripey bob FROM, though?

2003.
posted by Sara C. at 6:48 PM on June 13 [9 favorites]


2003

so cold
posted by sandettie light vessel automatic at 7:53 PM on June 13


2003.

That explains it. I got a shock of recognition from the linked pics but don't know the last time I've actually seen one.
posted by sfkiddo at 9:59 PM on June 13


What if Britney has somehow become a feminist role model for single working mothers here and everywhere?

How many single working mothers have a warehouse full of cash and a nice, tidy flow of income from record sales? As the passage of time has shown, Britney has been able to weather all manner of downturns and bad moves, which would have disastrously sunk any normal single mom, thanks largely to her wealth.
posted by Thorzdad at 5:47 AM on June 14


It's a hairstyle I like but it is definitely a Look; I see groups of four or five women together, all with that haircut.
posted by Dip Flash at 6:44 AM on June 14


How many single working mothers have a warehouse full of cash and a nice, tidy flow of income from record sales?

It should be noted that -- though this may have changed, I'm not always up on my Britney gossip -- a few years ago her father went through legal channels to put a conservatorship in place on her earnings due to supposed "mental instability". I mean, maybe it's true, and she's really not fit to manage her own life. On the other hand, it points to something being rotten in the state of "Britney's just a spoiled rich girl with no problems that can't be solved by throwing money at them."

I mean, don't get me wrong, Spears is lucky in that she happens to have talent and the right connections in an area where work days are flexible, and money comes in huge lump sums rather than at the rate of $8 an hour times however many part time jobs gets you to a living wage. But I don't think you can really compare her to other single mothers who are also famous entertainers, like for example Madonna.
posted by Sara C. at 7:44 AM on June 14


I'll also note that, in light of that continued conservatorship, Britney's situation seems more like that of a slave than that of a "feminist icon". If she's fit to do a two year engagement in Vegas, she ought to be fit to handle her own money.
posted by Sara C. at 8:03 AM on June 14 [2 favorites]


The article goes into the conservatorship a little, and it does sound like rather than "feminist role model," the term should be more like "feminist object lesson." The madwoman in the attic, monetized.
posted by mittens at 9:05 AM on June 14 [2 favorites]


It's Not Britney, Bitch at Autostraddle is three years old, but well worth a read for anybody interested in Britney's continued conservatorship and just how unorthodox it is.
posted by Georgina at 9:43 AM on June 14 [3 favorites]


I'll also note that, in light of that continued conservatorship, Britney's situation seems more like that of a slave than that of a "feminist icon". If she's fit to do a two year engagement in Vegas, she ought to be fit to handle her own money.

Agreed 100%. How can she be well enough to work as much as she does in the public eye (shows in Vegas, all the press that goes with that, TV including that show she was on for a whole season, albums, tours) and yet not be "well" enough to sign her own contracts and control her own money? Something is very fishy. I feel very bad for her.
posted by ThePinkSuperhero at 7:20 PM on June 14 [2 favorites]


Britney has well documented drug problems. See here and here, for example.

She has been accused of child abuse. See here and here.

Her behavior was so erratic that a judge placed her in conservatorship, meaning she was no longer capable of making informed decision about her own life. This is generally used for people with mental illness. See here.

The erratic behavior was due in part to her relationship with former manager, Sam Lufti, who managed to put Britney under a spell, "who drugged the pop star and drove her further from reality." See here.

Should I go on. I easily could. It does not take a lot of research to find articles about how out of control, detached from reality, and selfish Britney Spears really is.

But, oh - she has a good job again now, and she is working hard - so, now she is a feminist icon.

Please.
posted by Flood at 5:57 AM on June 15


Accusations of not being a good mother being made by a man who also accused her of not being chaste, against a background of unspecified insanity.... We don't even need Judith Butler-level analysis here, we are firmly back in room of one's own territory here.

I may change my mind about that 'icon' thing: When it is impossible to, say, talk about her career in aesthetic terms the way we would another artist (possibly because there is so little to it, other than the world's must humorless burlesque show?), because all the criticisms keep coalescing around the ways she is a Failed Woman and a Victim, I begin to think 'icon' may be the right word--or, no, not icon exactly, more like one of those stained glass windows that shows the martyrdom of a saint in compressed and gory detail. Why do we need her to hurt so badly? Why do we demand both suffering and redemption, and judge each so harshly? What narrative arc could she follow that would satisfy us, other than disappearing from the stage (and soon thereafter, from memory) forever?
posted by mittens at 8:11 AM on June 15 [2 favorites]


Martyr ?

She was picked out of an audition, and molded into every kids dream by Disney Executives. She is worth millions of dollars, has international fame, and can do anything she wants.

It has her choice to live a vacuous life.
I think we need to re-visit the concept of martyrdom?
posted by Flood at 9:45 AM on June 15


It does not take a lot of research to find articles about how out of control, detached from reality, and selfish Britney Spears really is.

It's worth noting that was five years ago. And that, at this point, Britney has been deemed capable of doing two years of shows in Vegas, which requires at least some consistency and responsibility.

Look, I don't like Britney Spears at all. I'm almost certain that we would not be friends if I knew her personally. She seems like a terrible parent and not particularly bright or capable.

But here's the thing. A financial conservatorship is not for child abuse. A financial conservatorship is not for garden variety mental health issues that leave a person otherwise functional to hold a job, parent their children, etc. A financial conservatorship is not for being an irresponsible dickhead who makes choices I don't agree with. A financial conservatorship is not for being "vacuous" or anti-feminist or politically inconvenient.

It seems pretty obvious to me that Britney is an adult, is fully capable of running her own life, and has probably done less badly with it than certain other celebrities I can mention.

Britney is OK by me.
posted by Sara C. at 9:59 AM on June 15 [1 favorite]


Finally getting around to reading the Autostraddle piece linked above, and it makes me so, so sad. Britney is a year younger than I am, and she's from a small town not unlike the one I grew up in, about 100 miles away. My aunt taught her in elementary school, and our parents have mutual friends. Like Britney, I too was bit by the music/dance/entertaining bug at a very young age, but thankfully* my parents never indulged it.

I remember when Britney was at the height of her fame, and I was a senior in high school. My friends and I were all in the throes of the college decision, and the subject came up: where is Britney going next year? I thought she'd defer for a year or two and pull a Jodie Foster and choose a prestigious school outside Louisiana. Others guessed Tulane, or maybe LSU. And then of course Britney didn't go to college at all. Because she was the hottest thing in pop music, and you don't quit that to go be 18 and go to school and maybe get qualified to do something other than be a pop star.

And now, we're here. It's pretty clear that, if she could go back and do it again, she probably wouldn't choose to devote her entire life to this. I can do all the amateur theatricals I want, karaoke, make little movies, play the ukulele, whatever seems fun. And Britney is hitched to a punishing performance schedule in Vegas, because there is literally nothing else she can do for a living, period, end of story, forever. And her financial conservatorship prevents her from retiring and moving home to Kentwood to live on whatever's left of her take from the whole thing.

At this point I just hope maybe Dolly Parton can take her under her wing and explain the finer points of opening your own theme park.

*At the time I thought this was totally unfair, but now that Britney and I are in our 30s, I'm actually a little bit glad my parents wouldn't even go so far as to allow me to audition for community theater.
posted by Sara C. at 6:21 PM on June 15


And Britney is hitched to a punishing performance schedule in Vegas, because there is literally nothing else she can do for a living, period, end of story, forever.

What?!?!

She does one show per week, in the same venue. This is literally being in the lap of luxury and making money hand over fist for a minimal amount of work. Especially considering how most musicians have to do 5 times as many shows as her over the same period of time just to make a name for themself.

Also, she's a 30 year old, good-looking, white woman with $$ in the bank, and a high school diploma. This doesn't really limit her options. Shit, I'm pretty sure she has more options in her life than your most favorite brilliant college professor.

So yeah, you can paint her in whatever light you want, but to say that Britney is a pop star because she doesn't have any other options is ludicrous.
posted by hal_c_on at 10:16 PM on June 15


Also, she's a 30 year old, good-looking, white woman with $$ in the bank, and a high school diploma. This doesn't really limit her options.

She's Britney Spears. Her training is to be a young performer and her reality is to be recognized and mobbed wherever she goes. Even if you ignore the fact that "literally nothing else" means "literally nothing else, legally and financially speaking" - what, do you think she can just go get a job at the local Mickey D's? Who would hire her? If Britney Spears applied to your company, would you hire her?
posted by dekathelon at 12:18 PM on June 16 [1 favorite]


Also, the baseline reality is that she's not really qualified to do anything else. She doesn't have a college degree. Most of the no-degree-required jobs out there (bartender, stylist) will look askance at you if you're 32 and want to start out entry level, because most people get started in that stuff in their teens.

There's also the fact that, let's face it, something servile that requires a lot of grubby side work is probably not really for Britney at this point, after the full arc of her life experience. Is Britney Spears going to bar-back, do dishes, or touch people's dirty feet?

Her only real option if she wants to stop being an active pop star is to go into business, most likely in a way that leverages her personal brand. Which is why I made the somewhat flip reference to Dollywood.

Mostly I just get the sense that she needs some kind of sane human being who knows about stuff in her life. And it seems like her father is actively working to prevent that from happening.
posted by Sara C. at 12:41 PM on June 16


the baseline reality is that she's not really qualified to do anything else

Um, no.
The baseline reality is that she will earn more this year than 99% of the people on the planet will earn in their lifetime. At one, her net worth was over $200million dollars.

She is stuck working in Vegas because she is incapable of living her life with only $20million dollars. Her level of spoiled entitlement requires millions more than that. Poor Brittany, working so hard to have $50million dollars.
posted by Flood at 6:22 PM on June 16


I don't know, I feel like you want to whine about entitled people, it might be more productive to start with the men making $35,500 per month and asking for more.
posted by dekathelon at 8:05 PM on June 16


She is stuck working in Vegas because she is incapable of living her life with only $20million dollars. Her level of spoiled entitlement requires millions more than that. Poor Brittany, working so hard to have $50million dollars.

Well, no. She's in a financial conservatorship which gives her father full financial control over her life. From what I've gathered reading a few articles, it's pretty clear that she doesn't want to do this anymore and would be happy to retire and live off her earnings. It's just that there's this whole Britney machine surrounding her (including her father), and they don't want to lose their jobs.

I also don't see how the sheer amount of money someone has made in their lifetime has anything to do with whether they are fulfilled, or whether they would have had a more satisfying life pursuing a different career.
posted by Sara C. at 12:25 AM on June 17


Yeah, my impression based on some random things I've read about Brittany lead me to believe that what she most wants to do right now is just raise her kids and not be in the spotlight. Fade out, or do a minimal amount to keep her name recognition until her kids are grown and she is ready to make some real artistic comeback again.

But that conservatorship is something oddly akin to slavery. She has no say in what she gets to do. She's been basically declared legally incapable of living her own life. For most, this would involve institutionalization, but for her, it means she is put on display and made to perform like a puppet.

Agnetha Fältskog, the blonde woman from ABBA, was starting to fall apart from the pressures of stardom at the height of ABBA's success. This led to the creation of the "mini-musical" The Girl With The Golden Hair which was performed on tour. The experiences of the main character are widely believed to have been inspired by conversations she was having with her husband at the time, Bjorn Ulvaeus, the non-bearded man from ABBA.

I think the song "I'm A Marionette" is a pretty good illustration of exactly how Brittany is existing right now.
posted by hippybear at 12:48 AM on June 17


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