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The Tragedy of Britney Spears
February 26, 2008 12:50 AM   Subscribe

She is intelligent enough to understand what the world wanted of her: that she was created as a virgin to be deflowered before us, for our amusement and titillation. She is not ashamed of her new persona — she wants us to know what we did to her.
posted by dhammond (147 comments total) 9 users marked this as a favorite

 
I would be incredibly happy to never hear another thing about Britney Spears. Seriously - why is she interesting to so many people?
posted by Lucie at 1:15 AM on February 26, 2008 [6 favorites]


America, the blood is on your hands. Only God can forgive you now.
posted by incomple at 1:15 AM on February 26, 2008 [3 favorites]


To alter a well-worn proverb, "you can take the trash out of the trailer park, but you can't take the trailer park out of the trash". A subliterate nation thrills to exclusive pictures of a pill-popping gussied up Louisiana shitkicker exiting Rite-Aid, and Jesus weeps. Was there a parallel in the fall of Rome? Did the decadent, debased citizens of the crumbling Empire follow the every move of some opium-eating hick actress from the provinces as the Barbarians stormed the gates and their civilization crumbled around them?
posted by DecemberBoy at 1:16 AM on February 26, 2008 [11 favorites]


What we did to her? She aspired to show biz success from childhood; she has no education; seems to have no values other than doing whatever was necessary to "succeed." Her public isn't responsible for her mental illness. And nothing is stopping her from just staying home.

Some "journalists" want to stop the gruesome exploitation. But then this one thinks that every humiliating thing she does in public is "news." It might have been "news" that's she's ill. It's not news to document every falling down drunk manifestation of that illness.

Pop culture is pretty disgusting.
posted by cogneuro at 1:17 AM on February 26, 2008


Leave Britney alone, she's a human.
posted by ALongDecember at 1:23 AM on February 26, 2008 [3 favorites]


I would be incredibly happy to never hear another thing about Britney Spears.

If that's really the case, don't you think that not bothering to click on the thread would probably be the most obvious way to proceed?

Whatever. Let the snarkfest continue...
posted by PeterMcDermott at 1:30 AM on February 26, 2008 [10 favorites]


Thanks for the post, dhammond. I'm usually the first to voice out against Britney news- it's all such depressing, pointless drivel, as we all know. What I liked about the rolling stone article is the perspective: let's take the 'tragedy of Britney Spears' for what it was, try to understand why it happened, and maybe, hopefully, it can bring closure to the whole thing. Whether we like it or not, this was a major event in recent cultural history, not because it really mattered that much to every day people, and not because it will have that large an effect on the future (I don't think), but because it typified, distilled, and made public some important dimensions of contemporary culture. Perhaps a 'genealogy' of the Britney tragedy is in order to reveal the 'micro-physics' of cultural forces that created the whole thing. or not...sorry...
posted by farishta at 1:31 AM on February 26, 2008 [2 favorites]


I didn't do anything to her. Her fans didn't do anything to her. It was mostly her own doing. Whatever her hardships, they were surmountable with her money, (a kind of) talent and (to many if not all) good looks. She had a better chance than most ever get. There is no tragedy of Britney Spears.

"Tragedy" originally referred to story about a noble person undone by a character defect or outside forces that could not be overcome. While I have no reason to think she's a terrible person, she's certainly not noble. Her "skills" did not make her great, just temporarily popular. Her story is not a fall from grace, but one of being mired in her own irresponsibility and ridiculousness. Despite having the examples of every other silly starlet who self-destructed before her, she became a parody of it anyway.

Unlike the Greek tragic hero, who was great and was destroyed by a single of a few larger-than-life weaknesses, she is being destroyed by many, many common vices and weaknesses. It's not the price of greatness, it's mediocrity compounded.

She's not a tragic figure, she's a pathetic one. If only to spare her children and remove her from the public consciousness, I hope she gets her life on track.
posted by spaltavian at 1:41 AM on February 26, 2008 [39 favorites]


America, the blood is on your hands. Only God can forgive you now.

That sounds like the kind of thing you might say about the Iraq war, where this (amoung other things) actual, literal blood involved. But Britney? You can blame her parents, sure, but I don't think you can blame the country.
posted by delmoi at 1:53 AM on February 26, 2008


I do what I can to in no way support Britney Spears, or the grotesque, vulture-like culture of cashing in on her spiral into drug abuse and mental illness. I do not but magazines that feature her, I do not subscribe or visit Web pages that discuss her, and I should not have clicked through to that Rolling Stone article, because it was crass and horrifying and useless, serving only to give me the chance to leer in on a miserable life as it implodes, and I presume they got some ad revenue for that. With the OJ trial, I thought we had reached the absolute nadir of celebrity culture, where we pick at their tragedies as though they were something meaningful. In the meanwhile, newsroom shutter their International Affairs reporting, don't bother to pay much attention to whatever high crimes and misdemeanors our jackal government is engaged in, and reaps millions for showing us a mentally ill girl being dragged out of her house.

I know this stuff has always been around. But it was the seamy, shameful side of the media once upon a time. Now it's the banner headline and the lead story.
posted by Astro Zombie at 2:03 AM on February 26, 2008 [7 favorites]


"you can take the trash out of the trailer park, but you can't take the trailer park out of the trash"


You also can't seem to take the asshole out anonymity.
posted by srboisvert at 2:34 AM on February 26, 2008 [24 favorites]


You can blame her parents, sure, but I don't think you can blame the country.

Um, delmoi, I'm pretty sure incomple's comment was offered in the spirit of humor. It's a joke, I say, a joke son!
posted by flapjax at midnite at 2:42 AM on February 26, 2008


You also can't seem to take the asshole out anonymity.

Well hurf-de-durf! Arguing on the Internet is like winning the special olypmics! Work is for people who don't know how to fish! My kid beat up your honor student!
posted by DecemberBoy at 2:54 AM on February 26, 2008 [5 favorites]


It was mostly her own doing. Whatever her hardships, they were surmountable with her money, (a kind of) talent and (to many if not all) good looks. She had a better chance than most ever get. There is no tragedy of Britney Spears.

idunno, her tragedy is that she failed to quit when she was ahead.

later, she failed to quit before she got behind, then further behind.

followed by failing to quit, altogether.
posted by UbuRoivas at 3:13 AM on February 26, 2008


I feel sorry for her, because it's clear that she's suffering.

Besides that, I don't know a god damn thing about her, as I suspect is the same for many who've commented so far. Prudence would thus recommend against calling her pathetic trailer trash.

As is the case with all of us, few have any idea what we really go through.
posted by Alex404 at 3:25 AM on February 26, 2008 [7 favorites]


According to the Rolling Stone article, Spears has been very insecure about her performances, about her abilities as a performer, for quite some time now. It would appear to be an issue that she struggles with a lot, something that really bothers her. And in fact, her enormous fame so outweighs her relatively meager talents, that she's probably right to be insecure about it. She's just a whole hell of a lot more famous than she really should be, and perhaps that is part of her overall mental/spiritual problem.
posted by flapjax at midnite at 3:30 AM on February 26, 2008 [6 favorites]


I feel sorry for her.

I really do.
posted by Wolof at 3:31 AM on February 26, 2008 [2 favorites]


Wolof: you know Americans don't get sarcasm or irony.

Quit teasing them.
posted by UbuRoivas at 3:37 AM on February 26, 2008


It's impossible to imagine how she could be anything but nuts, after what she's gone through.

Well, at least she's wealthy. Micheal Jackson can't say the same thing.
posted by Dave Faris at 3:40 AM on February 26, 2008


Also, re: Dr Flappers supra,

It's very difficult to say why somebody who has a certain talent should succeed rather than ten or a hundred others of (roughly) equal talent who are, well, shall we say not picking up the wave for whatever reason?

How shall we ensure our notoriety? Try harder using the same methods that have bought us to this point?

I imagine everyone can see where this is going.

Popularity is hard to sustain.
posted by Wolof at 3:42 AM on February 26, 2008


you know Americans don't get sarcasm or irony.

Hmm, many of the ones I know absolutely thrive on sarcasm and irony. I always thought it was the Aussies that didn't quite get it!
posted by flapjax at midnite at 3:43 AM on February 26, 2008



Wolof: you know Americans don't get sarcasm or irony.

Quit teasing them.


No, really!
posted by Wolof at 3:45 AM on February 26, 2008 [1 favorite]


Britney has fame and notoriety. She's a master at maintaining a presence in the public consciousness, even though her singing career and youthful good looks seem to be fading fast.
posted by Dave Faris at 3:46 AM on February 26, 2008


I will admit to being fascinated at the totally public transformation of a virtual pop goddess to a mentally ill mother with much of her freedoms stripped from her. I do find it sad. I do feel sorry for her, as I do most mentally ill people (the exception being those who pull out guns and start killing people). I could not endure her life now, but then again I could not have endured her life when she was 'on top' either. I value my privacy far too much to put my life on public display to such a degree.

For the sake of her children, I hope she gets the help she needs, and that a functional adult eventually emerges from the mess that is currently Britney. My own mother was mentally ill, an alcoholic, a pill-addict, and eventually a traffic fatality. On the plus side, at least Britney's kids *have* a dad. However lame a *performer* he may be, at least he is there for his children. I had nobody but my mother, and before she died when I was 12, I was more the parent to her than she was to me. Kids suffer terribly and in all different kinds of ways when they have a mentally ill parent.

I think it'd be a lot better for Britney *and* her kids if the paparazzi would leave them alone, let them have some stress-free healing time. It's gotta be hard to get better when everywhere you go, a fleet of cars is chasing you like dogs after a hare.
posted by jamstigator at 3:46 AM on February 26, 2008 [3 favorites]


I always thought it was the Aussies that didn't quite get it!

Nope, too tricky for me. I will need a tag for this.
posted by Wolof at 3:49 AM on February 26, 2008 [1 favorite]


Why wouldn't you feel sorry for mentally ill people who kill other people? Why aren't they desrving of your sympathy? Don't you think the mental illness bit might have some impact on their behaviour?
posted by biffa at 3:51 AM on February 26, 2008 [3 favorites]


Whether we like it or not, this was a major event in recent cultural history, not because it really mattered that much to every day people, and not because it will have that large an effect on the future (I don't think), but because it typified, distilled, and made public some important dimensions of contemporary culture.

If you accept that popular culture is what the media say it is, then you're right. What AstroZombie said is more to the point, though.
posted by Kirth Gerson at 4:00 AM on February 26, 2008


I live about 15 minutes away from her old town, and frankly, I'm just glad she moved out of state... if only because there used to be Pepsi billboards all over the place with covered with her, captioned with "The Pride of Louisiana!"

The real pride of Louisiana is John Larroquette.
posted by grimcity at 4:22 AM on February 26, 2008 [3 favorites]


she was created as a virgin to be deflowered before us, for our amusement and titillation...

what we did to her


How true, and how sad.....
posted by caddis at 4:31 AM on February 26, 2008


People so mentally ill that they take a couple of guns and kill 30 people may deserve some sympathy, but I only have so much sympathy in me and in such cases I reserve every bit of it for the families of the dead victims. I didn't, and don't, have a lot of sympathy in me for Cho, or the guys who did the Columbine shootings. I'd be surprised if many people felt sympathy for such folks. Maybe I'm just a cruel bastard.
posted by jamstigator at 4:34 AM on February 26, 2008


The excessive coverage of BS' breakdown is the reason why I now avoid television and keep my eyes low when I pass the rack of tabloids at the supermarket check-out. It's why I've learned to roll over the links in this post and look for tell-tale keywords rather than click on the links and waste my time and energy on bullshit. I'm tired of having to go out of my way to avoid the constant barrage of idiot screaming about celebrities going crazy and doing drugs and falling apart in general. There was no worldly reason that Anna Nicole Smith's death should have gotten a month's worth of news coverage. Even unremarkable deaths like that of Heath Ledger get daily reports when once upon a time a single newspaper obituary would have sufficed. Meanwhile thousands die in Iraq and hundreds die in Afghanistan, the world economy is going down the shitter and climate change is slowly rotting the ecosystem we clever monkeys depend on for survival.

Fuck the commercial media, the CNNs and Entertainment Tonights. They do nothing but keep people fat and stupid and giggling like retards in kiddie pools. If we need real news we can still rely on non-commercial outlets like BBC and CBC and NPR. The big boys, on the other hand, are happy to "give the people what they want". Yeah, whatever. If your child wants to eat nothing but chocolate bars and jujubes, you sure as hell don't let him gorge himself to death. The things that people think they "want" are usually the things that destroy them in the end -- like what happened to Britney Spears.

Fuck it, fuck it, fuck it. At this point, I just don't want to know anything more about the girl. I'm all out of schadenfreude.
posted by spoobnooble at 5:19 AM on February 26, 2008 [5 favorites]


Here: Seriously - why is she interesting to so many people?

She is interesting because she is interesting to so many people. Like a big old snowball of a trainwreck. If you were walking down a sidewalk and came upon a big crowd staring at a speck on the ground, you'd stop to see what the fuss was about, right? What if the speck looked like a Catholic schoolgirl - come - crazy-eyed Sigourney Weaver wannabe? You'd probably stare for a good long while.

The funniest thing about the Britney conversation to me is that it continues to revolve largely around Britney herself. We really should've looked up from the sidewalk and at each other by now. It is, after all, just a speck.

Then again, I guess that's why a lot of us are here.
posted by nosila at 5:20 AM on February 26, 2008 [1 favorite]


If Willy Loman can be a tragic figure, I think Britney can be, too. If you assert that she was, is and always will be a trailer park girl than you're saying that's she's salt of the earth. And I think that story, an earth salt girl improbably propelled into fame that sends her into madness, certainly has a Greek element to it that I think is the engine behind the rabid interest in her.

Really, though, I think her story highlights the excrutiating pain that a mother suffers upon losing her children as a result of her own behavior. I don't care if you live in public housing or Beverly Hills, if you drink and drug your way into family court and have a judge take your children and bar you from visitation you are going to feel that. That shit unravels moms like nothing else. My personal take on it is that Britney was already starting to experience the onset of a psychotic disorder that she was exacerbating with alcohol and crystal meth. When the judge took her kids the trauma induced a psychotic break, which she may not recover from.

If you've ever worked with severely mentally ill people you know that they generally had periods of fantastically high levels of functioning and accomplishment before they had the psychotic break that they never came back from. I worked with one woman who went to Penn back in the day when not a lot of black women were going to Penn. She went on to Yale Medical School and worked on very early genomics studies, but had her psychotic break before graduating. By the time I met her thirty years later she was living in an abandoned house with no heat in West Philly, with piles of hoarded junk that reached the ceiling in every room. She died recently during a psychotic episode, it wasn't clear whether she committed suicide.

This shit really isn't funny and I do feel for Britney and her family. I hope that she eventually can talk about what happened to her after she pulls out of crisis mode, maybe someday she'll be a great advocate on mental health issues, you never know.
posted by The Straightener at 5:26 AM on February 26, 2008 [35 favorites]


If there was EVER a post that qualified as...

Shit Sandwich


... well, this is it.
posted by dbiedny at 5:27 AM on February 26, 2008


.
posted by [son] QUAALUDE at 5:36 AM on February 26, 2008


Bah. Straightener beat me to the Willy Loman reference — but here, check out Miller's Tragedy and the Common Man: The flaw, or crack in the character, is really nothing — and need be nothing — but his inherent unwillingness to remain passive in the face of what he conceives to be a challenge to his dignity, his image of his rightful status. Only the passive, only those who accept their lot without active retaliation, are "flawless." Most of us are in that category.

But there are among us today, as there always have been, those who act against the scheme of things that degrades them...


In other words, lashing out like a crazy bitch because the world cares about your makeup more than it cares about you, that's a kind of tragedy too. It doesn't mean you need to feel sorry for Brittney, I guess. But it might explain why this kind of story (Manufactured Celebrity Just Can't Take It Anymore) is so popular — there really is something cathartic about the whole thing.
posted by nebulawindphone at 5:43 AM on February 26, 2008 [1 favorite]


She's a Linkhorn, no?

Great artcle.
posted by fixedgear at 5:48 AM on February 26, 2008


Britney Spears problems are her own doing; but I have no doubt that the actions of the celebrity media certainly made it worse; and those celebrity media outlets are funded by people reading, buying, and advertising celebrity media.

That she needs help is not our fault, that her search for help is made more difficult by the culture of celebrity is.

Who would have thought that Chris Crocker would be the voice of reason?
posted by BrianBoyko at 5:56 AM on February 26, 2008


I know many people who grew up in manufactured homes ("trailers"), and/or who live in them now, who are just as good as any of y'all. What, it's OK to smear poor whites on Metafilter? If she were Beyonce, and someone said "you can take the N--- out of the hood, but. . . ." it would be outrageous, DecemberBoy,

That aside, I see Britney's troubles as a theater of projection for an addicted nation that cannot take care of itself or its young people.

She was a pretty girl who could sing. America lapped it up and spit it out when her degradation became the more compelling spectacle.

I'm on the leave her alone bus.
posted by fourcheesemac at 5:58 AM on February 26, 2008 [14 favorites]


an earth salt girl improbably propelled into fame that sends her into madness

All the more reason to stick with the Cornflake Girls.
posted by ao4047 at 5:59 AM on February 26, 2008


I think it'd be a lot better for Britney *and* her kids if the paparazzi would leave them alone, let them have some stress-free healing time. It's gotta be hard to get better when everywhere you go, a fleet of cars is chasing you like dogs after a hare.

RTFA. She enjoys it. It's the highlight of her day to have paparazzi following her everywhere. She would lose meaning and context in her life without the constant "attention." She could choose to remove herself from the situation, but she chooses to encourage it.
posted by mattbucher at 6:01 AM on February 26, 2008


Arguing on the Internet is like winning the special olypmics!

Bet you wish you could edit that.
posted by bwg at 6:05 AM on February 26, 2008 [4 favorites]


I feel sorry for her and do think her story qualifies as a tragedy. Saying things like
you can take the trash out of the trailer park, but you can't take the trailer park out of the trash". is just elitism.
posted by nola at 6:07 AM on February 26, 2008


Spears' problems are partly her own doing, and partly her family's. Parents who push their young children into showbiz are usually pretty fucked in the head themselves, and kids don't know what they want. She can't be held responsible for stuff she thought as a 6 year old. as an adult, not so much.

Most 'child stars' end up with severe psychological problems, addictions or disorders. There are a few who don't, but the majority don't fare well.

Spears' mother is a classic showbiz mom, and there are millions like her, living vicariously thru their kids, and they all seem to be poisonous, conditionally-loving vipers.
posted by Henry C. Mabuse at 6:09 AM on February 26, 2008 [1 favorite]


Not to put too fine a point on it, there’s something wrong with her face. In closeup, her eyes appear too widely spaced, her upper lip too soft, and her flesh seems coated with a lab-developed polymer that gives it the hue of a Peking duck.
posted by KokuRyu at 6:10 AM on February 26, 2008


She was a pretty girl who could sing.

Actually, she was a pretty girl who could dance; she never could sing worth a damn. She does a good phone-sexy whisper thing, though.
posted by kittens for breakfast at 6:10 AM on February 26, 2008 [2 favorites]


Bread+CircusFilter
posted by psmealey at 6:20 AM on February 26, 2008 [3 favorites]


I don't accept the 'facts' of her tragedy, I am so jaded from the mainstream media, I have NO idea about whats REALLY happened with her. I expect the loss of custody and certain other salient facts are public record. I have no more sympathy for her, and place no more pathos on her situation that any other young woman who struggles in their twenties. Happens all the time. They mostly recover from it, at least the ones I've known personally. I'll be surprised if we are not watching Brit sing her ditties as a matron on what has replaced Letterman in 30 years.

Oh, and what KokoRyu said.
posted by sfts2 at 6:23 AM on February 26, 2008


A subliterate nation thrills to exclusive pictures of a pill-popping gussied up Louisiana shitkicker exiting Rite-Aid, and Jesus weeps. Was there a parallel in the fall of Rome? Did the decadent, debased citizens of the crumbling Empire follow the every move of some opium-eating hick actress from the provinces as the Barbarians stormed the gates and their civilization crumbled around them?

Hey! DecemberBoy is really Lewis Lapham!
posted by newmoistness at 6:25 AM on February 26, 2008 [7 favorites]


I know many people who grew up in manufactured homes ("trailers"), and/or who live in them now, who are just as good as any of y'all. What, it's OK to smear poor whites on Metafilter?

Because we have no 'class' flag. Probably because there isn't enough metafilter members living in trailers or that know someone living in a trailer to create a metatalk thread and get r dun.
posted by justgary at 6:31 AM on February 26, 2008 [1 favorite]


Tangentially, I think Amy Winehouse's whole shtick is pretty much a put-on.
posted by delmoi at 6:35 AM on February 26, 2008


I grew up in a trailer.
posted by konolia at 6:38 AM on February 26, 2008 [1 favorite]


. . . she is not ashamed of her new persona — she wants us to know what we did to her.

Oh we're not through with her yet.
posted by washburn at 6:42 AM on February 26, 2008 [1 favorite]


Does she send out a press release every time she makes a Frappacino run? Seriously, there are plenty of other famous people out there, most much more talented, who seem able to avoid constant bombardment by the photographers and whatnot. In some way she is aiding that constant attention, maybe she wants it. I can't think of a less interesting celebrity than her with the exception of Paris Hilton.
posted by 45moore45 at 6:44 AM on February 26, 2008


I am so jaded from the mainstream media, I have NO idea about whats REALLY happened with her.

Wow. I'll bet you don't even own a TV.
posted by Armitage Shanks at 6:45 AM on February 26, 2008 [2 favorites]


Personally, I think Chuck Klosterman has the best take on Britney Spears:

Think of the dumbest, goofiest, richest 25-year-old woman you've ever known: Did her day-to-day decision-making process reflect anything about her ambition, her self-awareness, or her ability to deal with reality? I am guessing the answer to that question is, "Nay." I'm guessing that person's day-to-day decisions were illogical extensions of her own boredom. And it's hard to imagine a life that would be duller than that of Britney Spears. What, exactly, is the "interesting" part of her existence? Recording records that nobody over the age of 15 respects? Earning money she can't possibly appreciate? Re-buying all the crap she never needed in the first place? Partying with bimbos who snort the same drugs she was offered seven years ago? Being simultaneously despised and envied by idiots who have nothing better to do than worry about her haircut?

Maybe next Friday she'll burn down her own house. That would kill a weekend.

And you know what? It wouldn't symbolize anything.

Just because Britney Spears is famous doesn't mean she isn't a completely conventional weirdo.

posted by jonp72 at 6:51 AM on February 26, 2008 [1 favorite]


THE ROSARY OF OUR LADY OF LOUISIANA

Hail Britney, full of grace, the LORD is with thee. Blessed art thou amongst women,
and blessed are the fruits of thy womb, Sean Preston and Jayden James. Holy Britney, mother of dogs (Bit Bit and Lacy), pray for us sinners now and at the hour of our death.

(Hit it baby 10 more times)

Britney's father, who art in temporary conservatorship, James Spears be thy name. Thy temporary conservatorship come, thy will be done on Britney as it is in UCLA Medical Center. Give her this day her daily visitation rights and forgive her her misdemeanors, as we forgive those who miss her previous demeanor. And lead her not into temptation but deliver Sean Preston and Jayden James from Kevin Federline. Amen.
posted by the quidnunc kid at 6:59 AM on February 26, 2008 [6 favorites]


I think Britney's trying to ascend, but she keeps switching her role.
posted by waraw at 6:59 AM on February 26, 2008 [3 favorites]


I'm not trying to start a class war. I know the phrase "trailer trash" is used ironically and thoughtlessly, just like a lot of slurs. I just dispute that Britney Spears somehow represents any particular social identity other than "celebrity." Plenty of wealthy celebrities are pretty much in the same boat - Paris Hilton, anyone? What, you can take the heiress out of the mansion, but you can't take the . . . . never mind.

Britney Spears apears to be mentally ill. The treatment she is receiving is disgusting. The real stigmatization here is plain to anyone who has dealt with it in their real lives.
posted by fourcheesemac at 7:15 AM on February 26, 2008


Britney Spears is living the same life that many young women from rural communities are living, full of poor decisions, misplaced loyalties, and rotten spouses. The rest of them just don't have a camera crew following them around 24/7.

It is always entertaining when people goggle at things like this and pretend they're looking at the "media spectacle" and the shame that's on "all our hands" instead of the sad creature at the center of it. Just because you claim to be getting your kicks at a level above it (and now I, I suppose, at a level above that) doesn't make you any better.
posted by Legomancer at 7:15 AM on February 26, 2008 [1 favorite]


[er, his or her real life . .]
posted by fourcheesemac at 7:15 AM on February 26, 2008


Did the decadent, debased citizens of the crumbling Empire follow the every move of some opium-eating hick actress from the provinces as the Barbarians stormed the gates and their civilization crumbled around them?

how would we know? rome's over in europe, we ARE the barbarians
posted by pyramid termite at 7:19 AM on February 26, 2008


So, surround yourself as a teenager with people telling you that you are great that you are beautiful, give yourself millions of fans and people who buy anything that has your name on it. Combine this with enough lack of control through career management, told how to look and what to do. Combine all of this with (I am guessing here) a lack of critical thinking skills that someone with a better education might have had. Combine it with the fucking Horatio Alger mindset that seems so prevalent, combine this with the already insane stream of bullshit that is directed towards women of this age and the question is not why is Britney so screwed up?" but "Why isn't this even more common?".
Christ, being a teenager is virtually being in a state of madness as it is. The human brain does not stop developing until around the age of 25.

I think I have listened to a total of one song by her, professionally I think she is crap, but at least I have the honesty to separate that out from the person. And, for the person I have sympathy. I don't ascribe to the notion that she was in control of her life enough for all of this to be her "fault", I don't think someone in her position would be allowed to have that much autonomy. (what a fucked up concept that is.. "It's your fault you are insane, so shut up."). I certainly understand the need and desire to ascribe personal responsibility to everything we do and become, but I think, especially for situations like these, the curse of personal responsibility rings just a bit hollow. Especially when we can sit at our computers miles away without having a clear understanding of what went on day to day.
posted by edgeways at 7:21 AM on February 26, 2008 [8 favorites]


Having know more than a few people to flame out like this behind booze, dope and mental illness without the constant attention of the whole tabloid reading world, I'm more in the "it's a tragedy camp". A pretty commonplace one at that. I was pretty disinterested in the whole thing for the most part, but I have to admit a perverse pleasure in how she can turn a mundane outing into a circus. I mean if I started doing 300 pushups a day and taking hip-hop dance lessons could I have 30 people chasing me down the road every time I stepped out to Rite-Aid for a tube of Lamasil and some Cool Ranch Doritos? It makes me feel like LA must be the fucking strangest place in the world.

Toxic is superb pop song, by the way, a magnificent earworm. Not that she had much to do with making it that way, but I'll tip my greasy pink wig to anyone involved in the process.
posted by Divine_Wino at 7:32 AM on February 26, 2008


I wish I had the power to yell out WHO CARES and have her, her family, and her waist line disappear. She and the rest of her white trash celebrities can just go away. I mean seriously when did this become interesting news? Also just think if all of the money and energy were taken away from following Britney and applied to lets say education how much better the world would be! I feel that if two or three people read this and change their lives accordingly I will have somehow made the world a better place. Read a book not this crap people!
posted by Mastercheddaar at 7:33 AM on February 26, 2008 [1 favorite]


What, it's OK to smear poor whites on Metafilter? If she were Beyonce, and someone said "you can take the N--- out of the hood, but. . . ."

Totally agree with you about it being in poor taste to hurl trailer trash"around as an epithet. (But didn't Beyoncé come from a solidly middle-class background?)
posted by desuetude at 7:33 AM on February 26, 2008


What? Did she think she was gonna be on top of the celebrity world forever? Everyone from Alfalfa to Michael Jackson has had to face the inevitability of being mentioned in one of those "Whatever Happened To" tv show faux documentary things. Her time's a comin'. That was inevitable from the first time she pranced about on a stage.

The world public of mankind is hungry for The Next Big Thing. It's cyclical, but not recyclical... except for the occasional come-back attempt.
posted by ZachsMind at 7:35 AM on February 26, 2008


I wish I had the power to yell out WHO CARES and have her, her family, and her waist line disappear. She and the rest of her white trash celebrities can just go away. I mean seriously when did this become interesting news? Also just think if all of the money and energy were taken away from following Britney and applied to lets say education how much better the world would be! I feel that if two or three people read this and change their lives accordingly I will have somehow made the world a better place. Read a book not this crap people!

Is that you, Brit? Get well, honey.
posted by Divine_Wino at 7:37 AM on February 26, 2008 [2 favorites]


What I liked about the rolling stone article is the perspective: let's take the 'tragedy of Britney Spears' for what it was, try to understand why it happened, and maybe, hopefully, it can bring closure to the whole thing

The Rolling Stone article is awful and full of mindless navel gazing. Rather than actually saying anything interesting, new or intelligent about the Britney Saga, it rather devolves itself into speculation and shows itself to be more of an expose on the author and Rolling Stone (and Metafilter I think) rather than of Britney and her pop culture presence. People, of all places, wrote a much better article about her and the snarky one liners that fill the internet are a million times more revelant and intelligent than the R.S. piece.

And they couldn't even get a photoshoot with Britney for the piece. At least they could have had a US Weekly-ish story but they didn't even try. What a waste of printed space.
posted by Stynxno at 7:38 AM on February 26, 2008


I am with the leave her alone camp BUT! she did steal her greatest hit from Louis Armstrong, infusing it with the genuine pathos of the closed mall.
posted by Rumple at 7:43 AM on February 26, 2008


the Associated Press, which plans to add twenty-two entertainment reporters to its staff

Jesus wept.

Also, fuck Jann Wenner and his shitty magazine right in their collective sanctimonious ear.
posted by Alvy Ampersand at 7:46 AM on February 26, 2008


Arm,

I do own a TV, and I also own a remote. However, I do generally prefer the company of women with low self-esteem and chemical stimulation to staring at it. Unless of course, Crosswits is on, can't miss my Crosswits.

Do you think you're getting the unvarnished truth from ET? Seriously, do you actually think that they don't engage in hyperbole? DO you actually think all of this stuff actually happens?
posted by sfts2 at 7:54 AM on February 26, 2008


It's not like that. You're not seeing the whole picture. There are things going on here that you just can't understand. Yet.
posted by MrVisible at 7:57 AM on February 26, 2008 [3 favorites]


the Associated Press, which plans to add twenty-two entertainment reporters to its staff

Well, you need to do something with those out-of-work book reviewers.
posted by QuietDesperation at 8:23 AM on February 26, 2008 [3 favorites]


Do you think you're getting the unvarnished truth from ET?

No way, dude. That Spielberg is a goddamned liar. The CIA took Elliot away and gave him ECT until he'd forgotten all about his visit from an alien. And his father is *still* in prison because of Elliot's CIA-inspired allegations about the source of those anal probes.

And the jewish stuff? Can you say Protocols of the Elders of Zion? Can you see any references to it in Schindler's List?

QED.
posted by PeterMcDermott at 8:32 AM on February 26, 2008 [1 favorite]


What, you can take the heiress out of the mansion, but you can't take the

pubic heir out of her underwear?
posted by PeterMcDermott at 8:35 AM on February 26, 2008


PeterMcDermott

Please see a psychiatrist...now, son.
posted by sfts2 at 8:43 AM on February 26, 2008


Or have another drink.
posted by sfts2 at 8:44 AM on February 26, 2008


Amazing how quick and far she has fallen. One hopes it's not any further (well except for the entertainment value)
posted by jeblis at 8:44 AM on February 26, 2008


You're Toxic I'm Slipping Under.
posted by chunking express at 8:49 AM on February 26, 2008


the Associated Press, which plans to add twenty-two entertainment reporters to its staff

And Reuters has cut its health reporters in DC, and other news orgs are eliminating their health beats altogether. News about changes in SCHIP? Medicare? Actual, decent news about the FDA or CDC, changes in Medicaid or rules about what insurance companies can or can't do to you, or any other health policy thing that has an effect on your life? Fuck it.

disclaimer: I work for a health policy organization.
posted by rtha at 9:04 AM on February 26, 2008 [1 favorite]


From the article:

. . . a recent memo leaked from the Associated Press, which plans to add twenty-two entertainment reporters to its staff, announces that everything that happens to Britney is news (they have already begun preparing her obit).

They are literally writing her obituary.
posted by peep at 9:05 AM on February 26, 2008


Is a woman not entitled to her privacy? No, says the man from Sony BMG, she belongs to us! No, says the man from E!, she belongs to everyone! I reject these answers. Instead, I choose something different. I choose the impossible. I choose - Rapture! A city where the artist would not fear the public! Where the dancing would not be bound by petty morality! Where the GREAT would not be constrained by the SMALL!
posted by nicolas léonard sadi carnot at 9:20 AM on February 26, 2008 [4 favorites]


I think I have listened to a total of one song by her, professionally I think she is crap...

I too aspire to a job where I don't leave my house for ten years. Can you tell me where to apply?
posted by hermitosis at 9:22 AM on February 26, 2008 [1 favorite]


As Stynxno said, this is a really poorly written article, full of rumors and hearsay- and what wasn't rumor was probably fed to the reporter by one of the sleezes who was in her life at the time. Thankfully, though, by the time the article was out on newstands, Poppa Spears had taken control, and things seem to be improving.
posted by ThePinkSuperhero at 9:24 AM on February 26, 2008 [1 favorite]


They are literally writing her obituary.

That's not shocking. The New York Times keeps scores of obits on file for older notables and younger, high risk celebs and updates them on a continuous basis.
posted by psmealey at 9:24 AM on February 26, 2008



From: Baker, Frank S.
Sent: Tue 1/8/2008 11:58 AM
To: News - Southern California Editorial Staff
Subject: Britney

All:

Now and for the foreseeable future, virtually everything involving Britney is a big deal. That doesn't mean every rumor makes it on the wire. But it does mean that we want to pay attention to what others are reporting and seek to confirm those stories that WE feel warrant the wire. And when we determine that we'll write something, we must expedite it.

Thanks.

Frank
posted by hortense at 9:24 AM on February 26, 2008


That Rolling Stone article was beyond awful trainwreck. Astonishingly so. It was freakier than reading about Doherty and Winehouse.
posted by jenfullmoon at 9:34 AM on February 26, 2008


RTFA. She enjoys it. It's the highlight of her day to have paparazzi following her everywhere. She would lose meaning and context in her life without the constant "attention." She could choose to remove herself from the situation, but she chooses to encourage it.

You know her personally that you can say this?

Like edgeways, I'm amazed this doesn't happen more often. Poor girl. I'm sure anyone over the age of 30 has known personally enough non-public meltdowns that hers doesn't seem extreme- just public, and poorly treated.

I don't know what her music sounds like and I do, in fact, leave the house daily. I'm sure it's as competent as any other corporate produced music.

And "trailer trash" comments, like racist epithets, tell more about the speaker than the target.
posted by small_ruminant at 9:53 AM on February 26, 2008


I feel somewhat sad for her.

She is like Mike Tyson, the product of fame and adulation and the American psyche. But the moment she disappointed us, we turned on her with our razor sharp teeth. We love to build someone up but more than that, we love to tear them down and see them bleed.

America more than anything hates its poor people. In the end, Britney will always be "white trash" and we are revolted by that and have always held contempt for her. Just like Mike Tyson was a product of the ghetto, class in this country will follow you to your grave. There was no way those two would get away unscathed in America.
posted by cazoo at 9:53 AM on February 26, 2008 [2 favorites]


ET is clearly at work here, once again. Lest we forget the fall-out of one brief encounter for young Drew Barrymore!

QET

Also, perhaps the diminutive alien was also found at the mansion of Michael Barrymore on that fateful night? We have already seen how he likes to show of his distended finger whenever possible.

It all starts to make sense!
posted by asok at 9:55 AM on February 26, 2008


Yeah. the article was a smug, horrendously written piece of crap (what's up with the semi-omniscient pov, anyway?). But it was a Rolling Stone article about Britney Spears. You were expecting a Harper's article written by Norman Mailer?
posted by psmealey at 9:55 AM on February 26, 2008


As Stynxno said, this is a really poorly written article, full of rumors and hearsay...

I disagree. There are a lot of facts in the article I've never seen spelled out so specifically before, especially about her childhood. And the backstage vignettes are presented as fact, too, which means they had a couple of good sources. (One assumes they have fact-checkers, and a robust legal department, at RS.) The Princess Di foreshadowing with the paparazzi is creepy, whether intentional or not.
posted by turducken at 9:57 AM on February 26, 2008 [1 favorite]


You were expecting a Harper's article written by Norman Mailer?

Given the insular, ouroboros-like nature of pop culture, call it the law of diminishing returns.
posted by Blazecock Pileon at 10:00 AM on February 26, 2008


RTFA. She enjoys it. It's the highlight of her day to have paparazzi following her everywhere. She would lose meaning and context in her life without the constant "attention." She could choose to remove herself from the situation, but she chooses to encourage it.

You know her personally that you can say this?

she could keep a lot lower profile than she does - she could just move out of l a to some unlikely place like little rock, omaha, saginaw, whatever, dress and act anonymously, chill out and get her head straight for a few months

but she doesn't - so, yeah, i think she does enjoy it on some level, even if it's screwing her up
posted by pyramid termite at 10:14 AM on February 26, 2008


I loved the Rolling Stone article. I know almost nothing about Britney Spears, it's just not my usual thing. But I find her kind of celebrity fascinating and uncomfortable. Thanks to Vanessa Grigoriadis' article I feel like I understand a bit more about her circumstances.

Other good reading is Leave Britney Alone, a Feb 12. LA Times editorial about the morality of the media's role in her publicity.
By exploiting Spears' moment of vulnerability, media companies have crossed the line of basic moral decency. To me, this includes Wenner Media, owner of US Weekly and Rolling Stone, which just published an expose of Spears' mental illness, and even Barbara Walters, who recently reported on Spears' mental health issues on "The View."
posted by Nelson at 10:17 AM on February 26, 2008 [1 favorite]


To the writer's credit, I thought she did a good job of evoking the sleazoid hangers on that cling to celebrities like schools of aquatic parasites, and also the manic insanity that explodes every time Britney pulls out of her driveway. It left me feeling simultaneously disturbed and fascinated. It seems like LA has become even more vacuous and meth fueled since the days of Less Than Zero, though I'm aware that this is maybe an image the writer is intentionally overcultivating.
posted by The Straightener at 10:17 AM on February 26, 2008


Whether we like it or not, this was a major event in recent cultural history

It really wasn't. The growing obsession with celebrities' lives in a 24-hour news cycle is a cultural development. One pop star's misfortune is just that, no matter how loudly it is blasted in headlines and video reports.
posted by Tehanu at 10:18 AM on February 26, 2008


I can't believe no one's said "I'd hit it" yet.
posted by JanetLand at 10:21 AM on February 26, 2008


Please see a psychiatrist...now, son.

Just because you've discerned the lies told by ET about the number of alien invaders on the planet and their plot to control Earth, you think you're smart. But you're clearly ignoring a much wider web of conspiracy between these aliens, the entertainment industry and the zionists who control it all.

Those who have eyes to see can't fail to miss the obvious connections between Britney Spears, Entertainment Tonight, Stephen Spielberg, the Protocols of the Elders of Zion, Tom Cruise, the Scientologists, Oprah, the Dark Crusaders and mathowie.

People like you want Britney and and I locked up and subjected to mind control experiments because we know too much.

Do your research, man. Google Ron Paul.
posted by PeterMcDermott at 10:28 AM on February 26, 2008


America more than anything hates its poor people. In the end, Britney will always be "white trash" and we are revolted by that and have always held contempt for her. Just like Mike Tyson was a product of the ghetto, class in this country will follow you to your grave. There was no way those two would get away unscathed in America.

I agree with the first point. A lot of celebrities have successfully escaped the label, though. Oprah and Dolly Parton come to mind as examples. The problem is that when people who come from a poor background have problems in the public eye, that's the first insult people reach for. When really her behavior is more typical of what she is now-- a young, high-profile celebrity.
posted by Tehanu at 10:33 AM on February 26, 2008


I can't believe no one's said "I'd hit it" yet.

Thankfully, this isn't FARK. Granted, we have our share of folks without compassion or empathy, but it's a far smaller slice.

For her sake, I hope she finds a bartending gig in Canada. Something simple, quiet, in a small town where they haven't heard of her (or they have and just don't care as long as she can pull a beer.)
posted by FormlessOne at 10:48 AM on February 26, 2008


"They are literally writing her obituary."

Yeah, but, see, almost everyone noteworthy has an obit already filed, just waiting to be spruced up upon actual death. Every now and then a newspaper (usually their website) will run one accidentally.

As for the article, I liked it. I liked the narrative arc, and I do think she's an interesting Michael Jackson-esque figure.

But hey, I liked that movie about Howard Hughes too.
posted by klangklangston at 10:49 AM on February 26, 2008


America more than anything hates its poor people. In the end, Britney will always be "white trash" and we are revolted by that and have always held contempt for her. Just like Mike Tyson was a product of the ghetto, class in this country will follow you to your grave. There was no way those two would get away unscathed in America.

I favorite this 100 times! We hate our poor - more importantly, we fear them. It fits that U.S. inferiority complex that we are always overcompensating for - that we are somehow all untutored, uncivilized hicks compared to much of the world. We hate Britney because she is us.
posted by The Light Fantastic at 11:09 AM on February 26, 2008 [1 favorite]


Nobody's yet hit on what I feel is the crux of the appeal of the Passion of Britney: nothing is more compelling than being proven right. For years nobody really quite bought into her squeaky-clean persona and its now that she's on knob-to-11 overload we can all throw our hands up and say: "see, we knew it was bullshit all along."
posted by Ogre Lawless at 11:19 AM on February 26, 2008


I can't believe no one's said "I'd hit it" yet.

That would be you. Alert the jessamyn!
posted by kittens for breakfast at 11:24 AM on February 26, 2008


You can't claim to be above it all, yet still post in this thread.
posted by ninjew at 11:31 AM on February 26, 2008


There are a lot of facts in the article I've never seen spelled out so specifically before, especially about her childhood.

How do we know they're facts, and not just pulled out of someone's ass? Who did they talk to? We have no idea, and therefore no way of confirming if this story is any better than stuff I could make up on a gossip blog.
posted by ThePinkSuperhero at 11:43 AM on February 26, 2008 [1 favorite]


We hate our poor

I read this a lot of MeFi, but I wonder how deeply rooted it is in our social pathos. My own inclination is that we hate reserve greater spite for people that have achieved more than we have and we celebrate their downfall when that occurs. Other than the top 2% and the bottom 15-20%, Americans are lumpen bourgeoisie aspiring to be landed aristrocracy (or at least dressing and driving like them). This is the fantasy that Architectural Digest, Mercedes-Benz, Ralph Lauren, Burberry, and until recently, Countrywide Financial try to sell. When we are outpaced in this miserable race by someone we think has not worked as hard as we have, we get angry and bitter about it. I don't necessarily think it's because we hate the poor necessarily... though that may factor into whom we think deserves success or not.
posted by psmealey at 12:01 PM on February 26, 2008 [3 favorites]


I agree with TPS. The new "facts" I read about in the article were attributed to one source whether it be a quote from an anonymous close friend (who, ironically, comments on how Spears at some point, pushes everyone around her away because she no longer trusts them) or her former choreographer. There is no second or third source. Investigative journalism, this is not. The article reads like the author mostly got phone interviews and had one half assed go to negotiate an interview and cobbled together an article from that.
posted by spec80 at 12:09 PM on February 26, 2008


half assed go to negotiate an interview with Spears
posted by spec80 at 12:10 PM on February 26, 2008


Somewhat related:

How is it that we the people of the U.S. haven't mandated money management as part of public education? It wouldn't have helped completely in Britney's case, but it probably wouldn't have hurt. I mean, just basic education in money from elementary school on seems like a win-win situation for everyone except for predatory lenders. Is there a reason to not have this that I'm not seeing?

Also, though my experience in L.A. is limited, my experience in NY has shown me that celebrities are left more or less alone. Not entirely, of course, but I've never seen the kinds of paparazzi swarms described in these articles. Maybe a change of coast would be healthy for her?
posted by Navelgazer at 12:19 PM on February 26, 2008


For the great unwashed and for the furiners...ET = Entertainment Tonight - a Entertainment News television show.
posted by sfts2 at 12:30 PM on February 26, 2008


How is it that we the people of the U.S. haven't mandated money management as part of public education?

Because then fewer people would give all their money and more to scumbags in return for plastic crap and McMansions, and the scumbags are in charge?

It's funny that you think the overall well-being of the populace is anything close the utility function the complex system called "America" aims to maximize.
posted by TheOnlyCoolTim at 12:34 PM on February 26, 2008 [2 favorites]


How is it that we the people of the U.S. haven't mandated money management as part of public education?

Sorta related -- I believe the NBA now asssigns mentors to its newest members to help prepare them for going from being poor to constant adulation and riches. Too bad someone couldn't have done the same for Ms. Spears. Maybe Paula Abdul .. no, wait ... Diana Ross? ... eh, maybe Whitney Houston ... oh, right, well ...
posted by Bookhouse at 12:35 PM on February 26, 2008


How do we know they're facts, and not just pulled out of someone's ass? Who did they talk to? We have no idea, and therefore no way of confirming if this story is any better than stuff I could make up on a gossip blog.

Because (I would hope) a national magazine like RS wouldn't run an article that was "pulled out of someone's ass." And if they had 2nd or 3rd sources, they aren't required to list them in the article -- this isn't a courtroom, nor is it a story about crime or government malfeasance, where that kind of corroboration would be important to readers.

More important, though, is that most of the major facts in the article have been published or reported on elsewhere (her parents, her boyfriends, etc.). So if you refuse to believe the story about BS's backstage breakdown over hair extensions without 2 or 3 named sources, you are a more demanding consumer of pop culture fluff than I.
posted by turducken at 12:40 PM on February 26, 2008


For influx:

They'll take you out - you know where - and lay you in the shade
Then proceed to pat your ugly features with a spade
Oh there'll be lots of flowers there, but
You think you'll be in shape to smell?
Well allow me to remind you

They'll be walking slow behind you
They'll know just where to find you
Friends will gather 'round to weep and moan
If you don't leave my baby alone

"Walking Slow Behind You" written by Heath/Lange
Performed by Judy Roderick on the album Woman Blue
Here's a Sound clip

posted by Kirth Gerson at 12:42 PM on February 26, 2008


Because (I would hope) a national magazine like RS wouldn't run an article that was "pulled out of someone's ass."

Ha ha ha ho ho ho he he he. The naivety of the American consumer never fails to amaze me.
posted by ThePinkSuperhero at 12:49 PM on February 26, 2008 [1 favorite]


Major facts like her losing her virginity at 14? Timberlake coming to Darren Henson and asking him to "smell [his] fingers"? Jason Alexander, her first husband from a quickie marriage in Vegas, saying that she took one drug to wake up, one drug to party and another drug to go to sleep?

Yes, these are facts I would prefer to be double or multiple sourced. And yes, with Rolling Stone having a history of excellent writing from Hunter S. Thompson and whoever that kid played in Almost Famous, I would like to hold them to a higher standard. Not The Economist standard, but a little something better than US Weekly.
posted by spec80 at 1:12 PM on February 26, 2008


The article reads like the author mostly got phone interviews and had one half assed go to negotiate an interview and cobbled together an article from that.

According to Jimmy Wales, [Grigoriadis] "won the National Magazine Award for Profile Writing in 2007, the magazine industry's highest award." And this is from a friend of hers (so of course he's probably lying about it), but it seems like this sort of article requires a great deal of research:
...she had a giant crate filled with every trashy Britney-related magazine from the past year - hundreds and hundreds of them. It was sitting in a corner, taped up, forever expunged from her life as she moves on to her next story.
Not to impugn your comment, though. I'm sure you spent a whole lot of time putting that together, spec80.
posted by dhammond at 1:15 PM on February 26, 2008


Timberlake coming to Darren Henson and asking him to "smell [his] fingers"?

Alright, that's quite funny - suddenly it all seems worthwhile.
posted by influx at 1:18 PM on February 26, 2008


If only we knew as much about what our President was up to as we know about Britney.

Journalists? In the back? Over there? No, they're in the other room? Where are they?

Oh yeah, they're trying to make some money by reporting on things that sell newspapers. Too bad foreign policy isn't sexy.
posted by whimsicalnymph at 1:26 PM on February 26, 2008


dhammond, not at all. Those were points in the article where I paused in a kind of car accident horror and still kept reading. It stuck in my head. Hopefully, it'll unstick when I go through a few REM cycles tonight. Cheers.
posted by spec80 at 1:32 PM on February 26, 2008


A subliterate nation thrills to exclusive pictures of a pill-popping gussied up Louisiana shitkicker exiting Rite-Aid, and Jesus weeps. Was there a parallel in the fall of Rome? Did the decadent, debased citizens of the crumbling Empire follow the every move of some opium-eating hick actress from the provinces as the Barbarians stormed the gates and their civilization crumbled around them?

Hey! DecemberBoy is really Lewis Lapham!

Nah, if he was really Lapham, he'd have actually found the decline-of-Rome parallel in one of the lesser works of an obscure historian (Titus Livius, say) and then wheezed on about it for six paragraphs. Definitely captures Lapham's unique mix of moral outrage and self-important detachment, though. (I used to love Lapham, but man it's been the same damn America's-dying-but-it-ain't-my-fault schtick since Reagan's first term . . .)

In any case, Nelson's link is pretty much the only post pointing anywhere near the crux of the tragedy:

By exploiting Spears' moment of vulnerability, media companies have crossed the line of basic moral decency. To me, this includes Wenner Media, owner of US Weekly and Rolling Stone, which just published an expose of Spears' mental illness, and even Barbara Walters, who recently reported on Spears' mental health issues on "The View."

Only problem is the LA Times casts too small a net. By exploiting Spears' moment of vulnerability, Western society has crossed a line of basic moral decency. Whether you watch or not, whether you avert your eyes from the supermarket checkout racks, you are nonetheless witness to a new chapter in the annals of decadent spectacle and social decay. You're seeing a vulnerable, possibly insane young woman slowly eating herself alive for the pleasure of an audience of millions. Never mind the lions, just give the girl a pair of scissors and a foil packet of meth and she'll do it herself. That her notoreity might be the only thing in her life she still finds value in does not absolve the witnesses from their complicity. It is criminal negligence on a scale sufficiently diffuse that no one will ever be made to take responsibility for the corpse.

Never mind the motivations of her handlers or the photographers or her parents or the record execs - just marvel at the sheer fact of it. A generation ago, Elvis' excesses had to be carefully hidden from his fans; now it is the very fact of the pop star's teetering pose on the brink of self-immolation that is the engine of her most monumental celebrity. (Pete Doherty, to mention a parallel example, is far more famous as a junkie than he ever would've been as an indie-rocker.)

There's an obvious correlation here to the deadly excesses of a government that no longer feels (felt?) the need to hide its war crimes, and I'm not sure how significant it is, but I'd argue there's something to it. There's some essential element of our society's health whose absence is maybe most visible in our willingness to remain spectators in the face all of this destruction. It is of a piece - is indeed, often as not, on the same program, the same channel, presented in the roughly the same tone of detached breathless wonder, a tone whose feigned urgency lulls us, ironically, into thinking we aren't obliged to participate. If everything's that faux-important, nothing actually matters. And I'd argue that there's tragedy in that whether you add a few bucks to Us Weekly's coffers every week or not.

And crikey, now that I'm apparently Lapham, I'll give it a rest . . .
posted by gompa at 1:51 PM on February 26, 2008 [4 favorites]


The naivety of the American consumer never fails to amaze me.

Nor does the pants-filling fear of litigation in the corporate world fail to amaze me. RS hasn't been a terribly well-respected publication for probably at least twenty years, but libel concerns alone would be a very good deterrent against just making up hateful shit about her past and putting it in print.
posted by middleclasstool at 2:06 PM on February 26, 2008


Only problem is the LA Times casts too small a net. By exploiting Spears' moment of vulnerability, Western society has crossed a line of basic moral decency. Whether you watch or not, whether you avert your eyes from the supermarket checkout racks, you are nonetheless witness to a new chapter in the annals of decadent spectacle and social decay. You're seeing a vulnerable, possibly insane young woman slowly eating herself alive for the pleasure of an audience of millions.

This may be new to the U.S. in recent time, but it isn't new to Western culture, which is not a singular monolith limited to the modern United States. This may mark a cultural threshold for the United States, but Western culture's moral decency has sprawled across all kinds of moral lines before. Especially for women who are perceived to have fallen from a state of moral grace into decadence. The real difference here is that people are eagerly watching her harm herself rather than crowding around to do it themselves. From a safe distance, away, there's a passive kind of audience participation in her self-destruction. I don't think the audience participation part's all that new for Western culture, either. It's the self-destruction so prominently displayed in public that's new, I think. I kind of feel like I'm stalking her myself just by reading tabloid deadlines when I'm standing in line at the grocery. I make a point of not following her story, but the following of the story has become a story now.
posted by Tehanu at 2:51 PM on February 26, 2008 [1 favorite]


Where would be without the ThePinkSuperhero telling us we're idiots.
posted by cillit bang at 3:19 PM on February 26, 2008


Sad. Very, very sad.
posted by ThePinkSuperhero at 3:29 PM on February 26, 2008 [1 favorite]


She was a pretty girl who could sing. America lapped it up and spit it out when her degradation became the more compelling spectacle.

For reference, see Before the Music Dies. In it, the filmakers demonstrate how a pretty girl who doesn't sing can be made to look like one who does. I am not so sure that isn't what was done with Britney. After all, you never saw her do the kind of work that, say, Christina Aguilera does. I'd say a small segment of the population ate it up, but it was a big enough segment to make millions of dollars a year from.
posted by Mental Wimp at 4:10 PM on February 26, 2008


"It's in your nature to destroy yourselves."

~The Terminator
posted by bwg at 4:10 PM on February 26, 2008


So, uh, why do people want to be rockstars again? This isn't exactly uncommon behaviour for celebrities ...
posted by ysabet at 4:25 PM on February 26, 2008


This isn't exactly uncommon behaviour for celebrities ...

The degree of her mental unravelling is actually uncommon among celebrities, I'd say. It's pretty extreme.
posted by flapjax at midnite at 5:15 PM on February 26, 2008


America more than anything hates its poor people. In the end, Britney will always be "white trash" and we are revolted by that and have always held contempt for her. Just like Mike Tyson was a product of the ghetto, class in this country will follow you to your grave. There was no way those two would get away unscathed in America.

This is such a piece of self-righteous crap. Tell that to Jimmy Carter, whose family was so poor they didn't have indoor plumbing. He wanted to better himself, so he made it his responsibility to read, to work hard, to educate himself, and he became President of the United States at a time when the world actually had some respect for the title (not that I blame them for changing their opinion on this, considering who is in office today).

Living in a trailer doesn't make you trash. Being poor doesn't make you trash. But YES, there is a certain subset of people who revel in their own ignorance, try to stuff their prejudices down everyone else's throats, and live their lives as if their actions never impacted the lives of others. And they deserve to be criticized for it. I'd say Britney's parents certainly fit the bill, and if you don't like the terms "white trash" or "trailer trash", feel free to substitute your own derogative.

Is the fact that Britney seems mentally ill and needs help she isn't getting tragic? Yes. But is she a victim? No. She has all the resources available to her: wealth and celebrity grant her privileges others simply don't have, and she chooses not to take advantage of the help that is out there. All those parties she attends, she gets paid for. She's not homeless, or disabled. She's a mother, with two kids waiting for her to grow up, for god's sake. Stop feeling sorry for her and get disgusted. If we can replace titillation with total ambivalence, maybe she'll actually go in for some real help instead of reaching for the phone to call the paparazzi next time she goes out.
posted by misha at 5:19 PM on February 26, 2008


flapjax at midnite:

The degree may be unusual, but the progression from starlet to object of pity is not. It is, as far as I can tell, quite normal for that industry.

Of course, I don't keep track of who has gone crazy, killed themselves, done drugs, been arrested, or whatnot - but from what i see in passing of headlines, it happens fairly frequently.
posted by ysabet at 5:51 PM on February 26, 2008


I think Britney just needs to disable her account, pay another $5, and have a brand new day.
posted by Dave Faris at 6:00 PM on February 26, 2008


Mental Wimp writes "a pretty girl who doesn't sing can be made to look like one who does. I am not so sure that isn't what was done with Britney."

I recently saw the SNL with her performing "Oops," the same one the RS article mentions, near the height of her career. Believe me, I'm no fan, although she's definitely more interesting now that she's an adult. What surprised me about her SNL performance was the fact that she didn't lip synch. She was overdoing it a bit with the little sexual grunts and so forth, but she was really singing and dancing. You could tell she had worked out her breathing so that she could manage to do athletic moves and still get the lines to the song out. Granted, she's not a great singer, but she's passable. At her height she was definitely something of a spectacle onstage. Not my cup of tea, and not really art but manufactured pop performance, but it wasn't hard to see why she was such a phenomenon for a while.

Believe it or not, I can relate to what she's going through ... well, without the money and fame, but I can relate to the trainwreck part, and I can't help but have compassion for her or anyone who goes through something like that, regardless of her personal circumstances and wealth, or lack of it. The constant drone of the gossipy press about her gets pretty old, though.
posted by krinklyfig at 6:14 PM on February 26, 2008


I don't keep track of who has gone crazy, killed themselves, done drugs, been arrested, or whatnot - but from what i see in passing of headlines, it happens fairly frequently.

That's not too far from being an example of confirmation bias. You notice the ones that are reported, because they are splashed across the covers of glossy magazines. Simultaneously, you completely fail to notice the ones who have a couple of hits, then settle down to lead totally unremarkable lives.

I bet that if you did a systematic survey of every popstar who's had a top ten hit in the past twenty years, the vast majority just fade away quietly & are living normal lives in the suburbs. I've actually met a few, like a barmaid at a place I used to visit from time to time, who was once the main singer in a relatively successful manufactured girl band.

It just seemed to make total sense that a performer so banal would have a few minutes of fame, and then settle right back into the type of job that she would otherwise have had, had the adventure of becoming a minor celebrity not interrupted her life for a year or two.
posted by UbuRoivas at 6:32 PM on February 26, 2008


I would just like to comment that I went to college with the woman who wrote that Rolling Stone article.
She was stuck-up and annoying.

That is all.
posted by Dr. Wu at 6:45 PM on February 26, 2008


gompa writes "A generation ago, Elvis' excesses had to be carefully hidden from his fans; now it is the very fact of the pop star's teetering pose on the brink of self-immolation that is the engine of her most monumental celebrity."

Charlie Parker imploded pretty spectacularly, and before he did he embarrassed himself quite a few times and got fired over and over. So did a lot of the old delta blues guys. Billie Holiday. This stuff isn't new, really, although you can't compare Britney to any of the previously mentioned people in terms of art. But none of them could hold it together. And by the time Elvis died, Jim Morrison, Janis Joplin, Mama Cass, Pigpen, Jimi Hendrix, already dead, and Keith Moon, Bon Scott, John Bonham soon to follow. None of them hid it very well, but it did sometimes become a badge of honor.
posted by krinklyfig at 6:59 PM on February 26, 2008


more confirmation bias.
posted by UbuRoivas at 7:06 PM on February 26, 2008


UbuRoivas writes "more confirmation bias."

I was specifically answering gompa's comment about the difference between Elvis' generation and this one, in terms of what gets put out in public. I don't think that "confirmation bias" has anything to do with what I said.
posted by krinklyfig at 7:23 PM on February 26, 2008


uh, ok. i thought it was more on the topic of how it's normal for stars to burn out spectacularly. ignore what i wrote.
posted by UbuRoivas at 8:19 PM on February 26, 2008


Tell that to Jimmy Carter, whose family was so poor they didn't have indoor plumbing.

jimmy carter's family was not poor - they just didn't have indoor plumbing

"Carter's father was a prominent business owner in the community and his mother was a registered nurse."

they lived out in the middle of nowhere in the '20s - hardly anyone out in farm country had indoor plumbing then - nothing to do with poverty, that's just how things were

my mother grew up like that in the 30s - she wasn't exactly poor, they just didn't have a lot - there's a difference
posted by pyramid termite at 8:48 PM on February 26, 2008


I kind of feel like I'm stalking her myself just by reading tabloid deadlines

Freudian typo, Tehanu?
posted by infinitywaltz at 10:54 PM on February 26, 2008


Incidentally, a small correction, or perhaps just an aside from misha's comment. Mental illness can qualify you as being disabled.
posted by edgeways at 7:54 AM on February 27, 2008


I just hope it's not accidental prophecy, infinitywaltz.
posted by Tehanu at 11:31 AM on February 27, 2008


This post might not get read. But either way - has any one watched the March 18th episode of South Park? A tvsquad recap does it justice here. I've always found Parker and Stone to be funny, and funny in a sort of way that speaks to higher levels of intelligence and cynicism. This episode wasn't funny. It was brilliant.
posted by phyrewerx at 10:34 PM on March 19, 2008


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