TThe industry built on Britney Spears is a broad and adaptable beast. Since the singer first came onto the scene in 1998, at the age of 16, she has been a lucrative asset. She has sold several million records and concert tickets and has given her name to countless products, from soft drinks to cameras to perfume. Her personal life has also sold newspapers and magazines and still sells them. It has kept gossip websites and paparazzi operations in shambles for decades. Now, the world seems to be wondering, what is the cost?
An old episode of South Park asked this question as early as 2008. It was made around the time Spears was admitted to a psychiatric ward, and she and her drug were placed under the tutelage of her father, Jamie, a controversial arrangement that was only just beginning to shift. . The episode, Britney’s New Look, was a harrowing satire about the brutal treatment handed out to young women in the public eye; The caricature of Britney being ritually sacrificed ended up being by townspeople, with the blame shared between the press and the people.
The current stage of Britney’s industry, still rapidly developing, owes a lot to the tone of this 20-minute old cartoon. Fascinated by her own suffering and disgusted by this fascination with her, she is trapped in a conflicting state of anxiety and curiosity. For a while, the #FreeBritney movement, which began as a campaign by fans to free the singer from his 13-year tutelage, seemed like a well-intentioned conspiracy theory, to outsiders at least. Fans searched for signs that the singer might be asking for help with her Instagram posts. But with allegations of the dark nature of the tutelage emerging, the issue for fans became prevalent.
This year, a number of documentaries have attempted to reveal the truth about what has happened to Spears since 2008. These films – Framing Britney Spears, Controlling Britney Spears, The Battle for Britney and Britney vs Spears – have used the disintegration of tutelage to reassess Spears’ standing in Cultural law. They use a review tactic that takes media coverage out of time and condemns it from the perspective of 2021. However, they are also too dependent on the material they condemn, and can fall into a turbulent state of piety.
Now it’s Britney: Modern Icon pieces join the fray. The book does not seem to mention anything new; Instead, it collects bits of news stories, fan gossip, documentaries, chat forums, opinion pieces and more, to put together a biography of sorts. This shattered pattern fits well with the digital age we live in, and its tone is reminiscent of the rapid volatility of the Internet.
Otter Bickerdike is an academic and cultural historian who dedicates every chapter to a major talking point, scandal, or triumph in Spears’ career, from a video…Baby One More Time to the iconic double-denim look she wore to an event with Justin Timberlake in media speculation about whether she was made. Her boobs, her rivalry with Christina Aguilera, the horrors of the 2008 crisis and the ongoing fallout ever since.
She is interested in Spears as a “cultural bowl,” and the book positions the star as a blank canvas on which audiences can offer whatever they like. Spears can be a businesswoman, a wise genius, a victim, a survivor, and an icon, depending on how and when you look at her. But wide brush strokes can make reading unruly. There is a chapter on Spears’ escape from a supposedly haunted house, which she sold to actress Brittany Murphy and her husband Simon Monjack, who both died there. Perhaps the ‘troubled’ couple that Spears encountered were the future ghosts of Murphy and Monjack? Otter Bickerdike suggests. Maybe!
Crucially, Spears has been labeled relevant, with the author arguing that despite the star’s woes, she “shows us all how bloodied and bruised but seems unbreakable, no matter how horrific the circumstances”. But I’m not sure that Spears’ saga lends itself to universal lessons about triumph in the face of adversity. What this line of argument certainly misses is the uniqueness of Spears’ situation.
What happened to her is ugly and extreme. One of the world’s most famous women, she lives under unimaginable scrutiny, yet she has spent more than a decade allegedly under the control of her father – who, she told the court in June, had treated her, and threatened her. She is sent to a psychiatric unit if she disobeys his orders to work, and gives her the contraceptive implant to prevent her from having any more children. In response, Jamie Spears said he had had no control over his daughter’s personal affairs for nearly two years, and that when he was conservative about her personal decisions, he did everything he could to support her well-being, including agreeing to her marriage in 2012 and sharing guardianship duties with her fiance.
“I just want my life back, it’s been 13 years and that’s enough,” Spears said. But the pieces of her life continue to be rearranged and rearranged for our entertainment.
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