As much as I’m opposed to sensationalist media, I’ve found myself scanning the stories of Britney Spears’ apparently horrendous performance at the VMA’s a few days ago. Typically, I don’t even pause when I see this particular individual’s name in the headlines. But, she has grabbed my attention in the recent past, so…blame it on that, or on well-written headlines by CNN, but I can’t help but shake my head today.
Not, however, for the same reason that you might immediately think.
Yesterday’s somewhat more merciful attack to the criticism about Britney’s body was the one that really drew me into reading. Apparently, the entertainment industry seems to think she was too fat to wear the little black…thing…that she performed in at the VMA’s. Their comments about her physical condition strike me, as they struck this commentator, as unmerited. Honestly, I’ve never heard quality music associated with Spears, so the allegations that her performance sucked didn’t surprise me. But slamming someone’s weight?
I guess what struck me when I read this this morning was a feeling of pity. I already feel pity for Spears, because I can see past the goddess-of-entertainment status that she holds and see that she is a human being underneath all of that. If one of my friends had been through a divorce, was having a crisis with children that she suddenly realized she wasn’t ready to raise, and had to enter substance abuse treatment, I would be doing anything I could to help her. Instead of having pity on Spears, however, we enjoy watching her twitch under the microscope of popular entertainment culture, assuming that we, as spectators to her life, have the right to critique her as though she were a character from a novel.
When I looked at the photos from the VMA performance, I wasn’t drawn by the paunch that she was accused of displaying. Instead, I felt as though I was privy to her broken-ness. My heart breaks at the fact that she feels as though she must place her body, once promised to her husband, on display in order to gain affirmation and applause from those who worship her.
Artists were never meant to be placed on pedestals as though they are deities. Our entertainment culture is one of idolization that doesn’t reward the artistry: it rapes the life of the artist. Every singer, writer, or painter dreams of success in the sense that they want their work to be seen, read, or heard. Instead, we’ve turned it into something corporate. Instead, gifted artists must also place their bodies on display in racy photo shoots or risque performances in order to achieve blockbuster success.
Spears has made her choices, many of which were negative choices, and she must live with those. However, she is, in some sense, a victim as well, because she has been taken advantage of by the machine we put in place to idolize artists and athletes, all because we want to fill our need to have something to worship.
So, we worshipped Spears, and then cast her aside into entertainment hell, because that is the way “the industry” works. Then, her once loyal “fans” sit back in judgment because they feel justified, as though they are given that right by this despicable little culture that we’ve created.
I didn’t laugh at Britney Spears.
In fact, I almost cried, instead.