I know your eyebrow is raised with doubt, but hear me out.
To be honest, like most true ‘pop’ singers her music and image ‘so of-it’s-time’ dated horribly and I think anyone would be pushed to give an example of her ‘creative genius’, but when I read the negative press surrounding her Pieces of Me Vegas show a year ago, and the fears of her being unable to handle it, it made me stop and think about this often under-estimated young woman.
January 3rd 2008, embroiled in a bitter custody battle, this young mother’s anguish overcame her resolution to follow the law and in a desperate attempt to retain custody of her children she resorted to holding them hostage. Rather than showing compassion for her plight, the circling vultures saw the long awaited fatal falter and swooped in for the spoils. This was not going to be a human-interest story; this was the closing chapter of a celebrity soap opera, bona fide entertainment. Spiteful speculation regarding the stability of her mental health emerged as she began to totter ever faster down the steps of despair. Probable causes of her unhappiness were casually bandied about while musings of a possible suicide attempt were offered up to the highest bidder. With glee, editorials arose noting the devastating impact this would have on her young children. Given that her demise was almost a foregone conclusion, comeback theories seemed like the delusions of sycophants, and yet despite this, she stood back up for another round. Dusting off the ashes, she rose in shimmering Versace; strong and determined.
Britney is not the idea of a perfect role model, but it is her ordinariness and faults which grant her a degree of distinction. Don’t get me wrong, she is no Madame Currie, Rosa Park or Mother Teresa, but neither is she a character in a Disney movie with a perfect princess life. Britney has to strive for the banal and the mundane, the perfection in the daily events which most people take for granted and which she lost at an early age. She is one of the few people who can honestly say that money, fame and talent alone could not make her happy, but rather the people in her life affect her. That is not to paint her blameless for her misery, but rather to point out her fallibility. She is not a self-sufficient rock, capable of creating and sustaining her own joy, she is deeply affected and disaffected by external influences. Despite this, she managed to withstand a tsunami of global condemnation, disapproval and voyeuristic disgust and came out the other side.
However what strikes me most is the nature of that disgust. Britney is not a murderer, a paedophile, or a thug. She did not steal, she did not harm and she did not encourage her fans to follow her actions. All she really did was turn her back on Hollywood and appear ungrateful for her success. Like a teenager of 16, she rebelled against what was expected of her, using the strongest tool in her arsenal to shatter her suffocating image; the world’s media. She parted company with every experienced and controlling elements in her life, ignored all responsibilities and leapt from the ship of moderation. She stayed out late, ate junk food, took drugs and stopped working. Unfortunately for Britney, at 26 she was too old to spin this rebellion as normal teenager angst. She called into question the worth of the Pop Princess lifestyle, the Hollywood Dream and began a search for some other meaning for her life. The backlash was inevitable.
Without the protection of her family, management team or agents, the smear campaign against her went unchallenged. What started as allegations were soon reported as fact, and when the facts were not shocking enough, whispers of a young life quenched prematurely began, a modern day James Dean. Her life became so insubstantial that her death became a source of gossip. What began as innocent rebellion spiraled into unstoppable destruction.
Did she find more? I’m not sure. Like most teenagers she probably spent a lot of time, tears and energy searching for what she already had. But unlike most teenagers, Britney did it while her public life was scrutinized in the world’s media and her private life was picked apart by a federal court. Since her initial breakdown she has slowly rebuilt the lifestyle she so glibly obliterated two years before. She stabilised her home life to create a positive environment for her sons and went back to work. In just 12 months she released a critically acclaimed album, regained her touring fitness and stepped back into a world which had savaged her so completely.
Could I do it? Could you do it? I’m not sure, but I do think that to a degree fight, determination and ambition eclipses her faults like a fabled hero’s bravery. She questioned the status quo and was met with furious wrath and condemnation; a lesser person would have buckled and slunk off to obscurity. A lesser person would not pick themselves up and climb back into the ring for another round. And there she stands, one year later, half way through the tour they said would break her – she is still looking fighting fit to me.