I'm increasingly disturbed by the awful spectacle that is Britney Spears' life, and the effects of this type of 'role model' on the girls who admire her. I just now caught a newsflash about Brits on a kids' programme, which mocked her junk food diet, her habit of throwing up after meals, and her frequent visits to the wharepaku caused by her laxative habit. I'm sorry - is this funny? I'm missing the joke.
My partner and I had a conversation about this very thing a couple of days ago. He feels disinclined to be sympathetic towards Britney, or indeed anyone other multi-millionaire who courts the paparazzi for a living then complains about lack of privacy. Fair enough, I said. Then I tritely pointed out that money doesn't buy happiness (although the lack of finances will buy you a great deal of unhappiness).
I mused, 'Britney reminds me of Marilyn'.
'Marilyn Monroe?', my partner asked.
'No, Marilyn Waring, you dick', I responded.
The basis of the Marilyn Monroe comparison was that both she and Britney are passive spectacles, always on display in a way that is ultimately dehumanising and damaging to themselves, and living lives that they don't control. It's a kind of violation, or even violence, of an insidious sort.
Britney spent her childhood as a children's entertainer. As a teenager (and still a minor, depending on the jurisdiction) she danced about wearing a schoolgirl's uniform in a video clip that males young and older masturbated over. As an adult, she veers between being a sex symbol and 'too fat', a bad mother, an exploited and duped wife, a lunatic in a psychiatric bed, a joke. Every undignified moment of it appears on TV and in women's magazines for our voyeuristic pleasure. Her degradation is seemingly more entertaining than her musical efforts.
While she continues to sell magazines, there's not much hope that the media will leave Britney alone. And it's not just her welfare that's affected. Young girls look at her and see ideas of attractiveness - what it is to be a successful woman - tied up with self-abuse and unhappiness. The more out of control Britney Spears' life gets, the more the public feels compelled to watch, like we're egging her on to damage herself further for our amusement. It's a bit like taunting an animal in a cage.