For some reason this article on Britney Spears has dragged me down into a peculiar mood. It’s an interesting, well written article that delves into the interlocking clockwork that was constructed in order to keep a massive, ailing public figure afloat. It also comes off with an inescapable “Fitter Happier” vibe that feels deeply disturbing. I never would’ve guessed that the ruling pop princess of my generation was a mere five years my senior. 34. 34 years old and she has the human equivalent of an operating room around her at all times. Her finances are tightly logged and controlled, even down to petty cash amounts. Her father and a quarrel of lawyers dictate the person she gets to be. The public persona she’s allowed to present is restricted to Instagram shots of her fitness progress, laugh, dream, believe tier platitudes and photos of her kids. Hell, this may be all she wants to do, but even I feel chafed under the control her assortment of advisors seem to have over her.
Reading the advice from her meet and greet co-ordinator is heartbreaking:
“Britney plays off energy,” Ms. Culotta added. “If you go in scared of her, she is going to be scared of you. So don’t be scared of her. She’s very normal.”
I once went on a Red Panda experience at the Wellington Zoo. I swear the above statement reads no differently from how we were told to interact with these enclosure animals. After reading this article, I’m not sure Britney’s life is particularly less cruel than that of a dancing bear. She’s poked and prodded, told what to do and say. The lack of autonomy really is frightening. Is this what happens when you fall through the cracks, but you’re too valuable an asset to relinquish?
I guess the question is why I care so much. Britney was never a huge part of my life. I wasn’t a fan, or interested in the details of her personal life. I couldn’t ignore her, she was a cultural bulldozer, of course. Still, her career wasn’t a formative aspect of my development. Furthermore, there are a myriad of people in exponentially worse situations. Why isn’t my heart bleeding for them half as much? Perhaps it’s a reflection on the things we’ve been taught to aspire to in our society. Britney was a pretty big fucking deal. She still is, in some ways. She ascended the pop landscape to a position of privilege. She was seen as a role model to generations of young people in a way that’s possible to deny. Girls loved her, wanted to be her.
Now that she’s stumbled from her pedestal, it reveals how shaky that dais really is. If Britney – someone who by all means should have the world at her fingertips – can’t hack it, is there hope for any of us? If fame is so aspirational, but it comes with such heavy shackles, what is it we really want? How can something so glamorous, that we’ve been told is the answer, come with such a short lead? Her life has been distilled into a few small elements – her performance and supposed healthy lifestyle – The rest is all hidden behind curtains. We’re taught the importance of being complete people, to expand ourselves beyond what we do and work on who we are. Yet if fame on a scale of Britney is seen as aspirational, where is the room for those supposed qualities and values? What do those elements matter if we’re to be told where to stand, what to do, who to be? Is that what we’re really striving towards? The freedom to lose our autonomy and ease into a life where we don’t have to think? The allure simply of having and being?
Isn’t she “Lucky”?