For the longest time I have avoided this topic mostly out of disinterest but also because I was not sure exactly how I felt. Well the tides have turned and I MUST say something.
A few days ago one of my very close feminist friends informed me that Britney Spears had lost custody of her children and what a good thing that is. It was more than a bit disconcerting to hear someone for whom I have a great deal of respect so openly revel in the pain and suffering of a woman who lost her children.
I'll be completely honest, I have not kept up with this story so feel free to inform me if I am misstating something. But I wonder why Americans are so delighted by Britney Spears' very public destruction.
Here's what I know about Britney:
-she became a star in her early teenage years but had been in the spotlight for some time prior to that
-she [her image, likeness, etc.] is owned by a music production company
-after she became famous, this production company turned her into a sex symbol and cashed in
-she got married had two children and was in the spotlight then for her changing (i.e. not teen-aged) body
-having been in the spotlight for the entirety of her adult life she had a bit of a breakdown (very likely postpartum depression) and chopped off her hair (symbol of her feminine beauty) and became a pariah for people who expect very different behavior from their pop stars
-this and other odd (i.e. non-feminine, non-maternal) behaviors cause her parenting skills to be called into question
-her most recent stage performance was a bit of a disaster and questions about her weight began to circulate [i.e. people calling her "fat" (seriously?? her?)]
-her now ex-husband gains full custody of her two children
This is what I know.
The first thing that pops into my mind is: why do we delight so much in witnessing this young woman's destruction?
The same country that made her a star, the same people who turned her into a sex object and loved watching the sweet, blonde virgin take it all off, the same people who keep buying the magazines, watching the gossip shows and utterly invading her privacy are now stunned and simultaneously pleasured by her destruction.
Now I have never been a fan of Spears' music and I think that her body politic is extraordinarily problematic especially since she is simultaneously marketed to young girls as an idol and to men as a masturbatory fantasy. But note how I write that "she is marketed" as if she is no longer an independent entity but a piece of public property. Not long ago one of my friends and I got into a debate about whether Spears' chose this life path. My friend argued that she deserves what is happening to her because she chose to become a part of the public domain. But remember, she was but a child when she made that choice and she hardly could have anticipated the hyper-sexualization and invasion that would come along with that "choice." Further, does anyone really deserve that kind of dehumanization?
Spears most certainly is owned by a production company who is making a nice tidy profit off of all of this "self-" destruction. One has to wonder if the motives behind her sexy rise to fame and her shocking downfall are not just another part of the scheme to make spectacle-driven Hollywood producers filthy rich at her expense. I for one am skeptical as to whether or not Spears even exists. She would not need to for all of this hubbub to be going on. Just the idea of her is enough.
So I ask that you all challenge the pleasure you receive from watching Spears' destruction and ask why seeing a woman publicly lose her marriage and her children and quite likely suffer from a mental illness is so delightful? It is sickening and, frankly, quite telling.