Sunday, 7 December 2008

Pitiful Britney

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.


muerk said...

Britney Spears is living a modern version of life comparable to how circus show freaks did a hundred years ago.

She and her amoral management display her for our titillation. And I suspect young girls now see her as old and washed up rather than a role model. I think she plays a part in some strange morality tale of success and failure.

Marilyn got to where she is today (so to speak) by dying young and flawed, her beauty was never ravaged by age.

Julie said...

My partner and I have the same division - not sure if it's a gender divide or not, but possibly some women are more sensitive to the exploitative nature of these situations than some men?

Hugh said...

Yes, my sympathy for Britney is limited. Yes, I'm a man. Make of it what you will.

I do agree that she's not really seen as a role model anymore. Unless you feel everybody on television is a role model by default.

Make Tea Not War said...

Marilyn was actually brainier and quite a lot more complex than she was ever given credit for. Someone told me she paid a subscription to Socialist Weekly for every member of Congress one time.

The treatment of poor tragic Britney Spears reminds me of how people used to go and laugh at lunatics in Bedlam. (She has literally been sectioned twice this.) It's sick and it's sad. I haven't asked him but I think my partner would probably pretend not to know who Britney Spears is. (He can be a bit annoyingly superior like that sometimes!)

Brett Dale said...

Britney is all that is wrong with music, the most studio created, manufactured, ear candy, pop trash to come out of the industry, she is everything that young artists shouldnt be.