Monday, September 10, 2007

It's Britney, Bitches...



Well, I did post about Lauryn Hill...

Britney Spears. Sigh. Last night on the VMA's. Sigh.

I have a real soft spot for this young woman. Maybe it's because she's from Kentwood, LA-- a place that I will forever associate with goodness because of the natural springs there. Mostly though, it's because she seems so utterly lost, defeated and vulnerable and I can't help but feel sympathetic to her. Despite the fact that she is at least the figurehead of a multicorporate brand of music and merchandise...despite the fact that she has toured the world as a performer, Britney Spears is an obviously unsophisticated, untutored young woman who seemingly has never had the opportunity to find an identity outside the entertainment machine that she has been so lucrative to for the last ten years. She has spent what would have been any other young woman's formative years being packaged and distributed. While other young women her age were going to high school and college, Britney Spears was on the road making money, for herself and everybody around her with no vacations, no room for error, and no one who wasn't also on the payroll. In the same way that I see Lauryn Hill's so-called unravelling as a rebellion, so too do I see the undoing of Britney Spears.

Truth be told, she's been coming apart for awhile. Not that it was the cause, but from about the time her relationship with Justin Timberlake ended, she has been on an increasingly determined downward spiral. Not because of the loss of love, but I think because she suffered such a blow to her public image in the wake of the break-up.

Just before it happened, I remember seeing Britney and her mother on the Oprah Winfrey show. Almost exactly like what was engineered around Brandy's pregnancy...but that's another post. Anyhow, Britney and her mother were there promoting her upcoming film Crossroads and fielding questions about her relationship with Timberlake. The press wanted to know whether she was still a virgin--no one's business, in my opinion, and it was alleged that she and Timberlake were secretly living together. Eventually they broke up and her clean, albeit 'not so innocent' corporate image was irreparably shattered. His song "Cry Me A River" kind of solidified this recasting of her public image as false and made her into a villain. She became increasingly more provocative about exploiting her sexuality and misguidedly trying to embrace a bad-girl image.

Seemingly flung out of the protection of her parents, she began making the party circuit. At first her public drunkenness was dismissed as youthful exuberance. But then she 'got married' in Vegas to a childhood friend. She was obviously pressured to annul the marriage within hours which made the coverage even more vicious. From that point on, she seems to have completely turned against her 'handlers.' By the next year, she was married to the second, expectant father-dancer in her entourage (the first was that guy from Stomp the Yard) to even more ridicule and negativity. Predictably enough, the relationship ended in shambles. Now made to look like a laughingstock, Britney was the mother of two and had been off the music charts for quite some time. Hmm, sounds a lot like Lauryn Hill, doesn't it? Unfortunately, she seems to have made all the worse mistakes possible after her divorce-- a traumatic time for many much less a young woman under constant public scrutiny. She fell into the train-wreck of Paris Hilton-Nicole Ritchie-Lindsay Lohan. Nicole Ritchie never was, but Paris, Lindsay and Britney were all photographed panty-less. It seemed to me like some sort of dare between them. And instead of 'just' being drunk, it appeared that Lindsay and Britney were under more serious influences. Britney's divorce remained contentious as she and her former husband fought over money and their children...

And how do we know all this...because other than Princess Diana, I cannot think of anyone who is more viciously stalked by the paparazzi than Britney Spears. Maybe Anna Nicole Smith...but that was for a concentrated period of time. Britney has been stalked like game for the past ten years.

Not that she hasn't aggravated things...going barefoot into public restrooms, making a reality show out of her illicit relationship with a man whose girlfriend was pregnant...again and of course, flashing what should have been covered for all to see on more than one occasion. She shaved her head...I'm convinced to avoid the results of a drug test. She attacked a car with an umbrella. She's ruined dresses at magazine shoots, she's flubbed television appearances...She was even sent to rehab. She's apparently feuding with her mother. She almost dropped one of her babies, she took one out without a car seat. It just never stops. On top of all that, there doesn't seem to be a day of the week that she does not go out to a nightclub. It's wearing me out and I'm not even living her life. I can understand why she looks so worn down.

So last night. I had heard a snippet of the song online. And like that Betty Wright song when I found out she'd be performing it on MTV, my first reaction was "I know you're not going sing that song..." It opens with her whispering "...it's Britney, bitches"...which since Dave Chappelle's Rick James skits seems to be the thing to say. The song is not awful. She sounds bored, the lyrics are trashy.

I actually thought she'd back out...but by 9:45, no cancellation. She was going through with the performance. She came out in a rhinestone studded bra and panty set with fishnets. Her hair was in a more-presentable though still, not great weave. She looked terrified...and seemed high. Her lip-synching was clumsy. There were many wide shots as she half-walked through some sections of the dance. There were no illusions with magician Criss Angel as rumored. While not especially toned, she was not fat as some press coverage has been calling her. Were it not for the fact that she is a seasoned performer, it wasn't that bad. But for Britney Spears, it was not that good at all. The performers in the audience seemed at a loss for how to react. They sat frozen, 50 Cent looked completely perplexed, Chris Brown sweetly sympathetic. Then it was over. Comedian Sarah Silverman came out, and as she had done to Paris Hilton, came out and told a series of cruel, vulgar jokes about Britney. The audience seemed uncomfortable and uncertain how to react. Only when Silverman told a joke about confusing Cee-lo and Kanye West did the tension break. The press coverage has been harsh and heavy-handed. In my opinion, Rihanna can't sing a lick either. The difference? Rihanna came out to a supportive audience...she's the new It girl. Britney was competing against her old image, the disappointment of the public, the weight of all that schadenfreude...Sigh.

My conclusion? Britney Spears looked like she was going through the motions, doing the only thing she has ever known how to do...go out onstage and perform. But my message to her is that she doesn't have to do it if she doesn't want to anymore. And that's how she seemed...like she was miserably doing the only thing she knew how to do even though she no longer had a desire to do it. I hope she realizes that she is free to walk away from it all...forever or even for awhile. I hope she decides to find and take better care of herself. To discover her own mind away from the image and expectations of the entertainment industry. I hope she separates herself from the entourages and hangers-on. I hope she realizes that getting high really doesn't make it better. I hope she makes peace with her family. I hope she finds peace of mind. But it seems unlikely that will happen anytime soon...the album will be in stores November 13th...

4 comments:

Meikmeika said...

I keep hearing about her performance on MTV and I only feel sorry for her. I just hope she can get it together for her children.

I can't even think about Lauryn Hill, it just breaks my heart...

Carmen In NC said...

I wonder what my problem is then. HAHAHA.

David said...

Dear Renea,

I totally agree with everything you said. You wrote a beautiful article about Britney. She is a troubled young woman and she needs help. It is sad to see a life fall apart in public. And Sarah Silverman should bow her head in shame. Thank you for writing such a great comment.

Anonymous said...

Renea: You wrote beautifully about Brit. Thanks for showing love when most show judgment.