I was having dinner with my friends Mitch and Rosie last night, and in one of those freewheeling, Riesling-fueled conversations where we debated everything from the current crop of presidential candidates to our theories on child-rearing, we inevitably landed on the singer’s widely panned VMA performance from Sunday night. Now I’ll preface this by saying I’m not much of a Britney defender. To me, she’s a very lucky dim bulb who’s made oodles of money thanks mostly to some highly skilled producers (and that brilliant stylist who tied a knot at the waist of her Catholic schoolgirl uniform on the set of “…Baby One More Time“). And if she hates the media scrutiny she’s subjected to, Britney can certainly afford to retreat to a desolate cabin in Idaho where (eventually) the paparazzi will grow bored and leave her alone. Heck, she can probably even get Demi and Ashton to recommend a Realtor.
But on the flip side, what exactly has Britney done to deserve the thunderous, rancorous response to her badly lip-synched, lethargically choreographed rendition of “Gimme More”? She didn’t maim a newborn kitten. Nor did she dangle her baby off a hotel balcony. She didn’t utter a racist or homophobic slur. So how come on Monday morning, she made the front page of dozens of newspapers, got covered by cable news outlets as if she’d just delivered Gen. Petraeus’ Iraq report in an ill-fitting sequined bra?
In our current comment-board culture, it’s easy to tar-and-feather a fellow human being — especially if that human being is a vocalist/dancer who makes an exceedingly large amount of money but is apparently too lazy or too disinterested to enthusiastically shake her moneymaker and actually, um, sing live, during her big, televised comeback performance.
But I’ve also got to wonder: Are we enjoying Britney’s downfall? And if so, why? Has she somehow become our pop-cultural sacrificial lamb, meant to pay the price for the disposable music that clogs our airwaves, for the collective guilt we feel for the copies of Star and Us and In Touch that sit on our bathroom floors? And how much do we want Britney to pay? What if her story ends with a paparazzi chase that leads to a tragic car accident? Or a drug overdose? Or a suicide attempt?
As someone who blogs for a living — and spends plenty of time dishing the snark to America’s most annoying celebrities — I’m honestly not sure how I’d answer any of the above questions. But I think they’re worth discussing — particularly here on the PopWatch message boards, where the level of civility and discourse always seems several notches above the status quo. I look forward to reading what you guys have to say.