In the past 24 hours, I have experienced something I never thought I would: A range of emotions concerning Britney Spears.
I passed the bathroom mirror on my way to the shower this morning and noticed that my body shape was waaaaaaaay closer to Spears’ 2007 MTV Video Music Awards Edition than it was the 2003 Edition. I placed a smug hand over my non-obese-but-non-washboard abs, my…paunch, as some critics would have it. I mentally rolled credits on my own candid reality show and set of paparazzi to track me to the craft store. Go, hot, average me!
Then, as Jay Leno heaped fat-joke scorn upon her head on “The Tonight Show,” I felt sad, and paunch-conscious. If Jay thought Britney was fat, then … then … Jay thought I was fat! Shut up, Jay! Besides — the woman’s had two children! Children she chauffeurs around in her lap, but still! Things … stretch out after you’ve introduced an embryo to the former bricks of the abdominal wall!
And then my sense of women’s college indignation kicked in after I heard Sarah Silverman’s “two children = mistakes” comment. Dude, Sarah. Support a sister when she’s being shined down by her pleather-sporting backup dancers.
And then I drank, and I cried, because I had been … defending Britney Spears.
I have settled, at last, like the rest of America, on a sense of grim acceptance: She brought this on herself.
She brought it on herself when she didn’t even bother to develop what, so I’ve been told, is an actual ability to sing. Instead Spears invested in a midriff-bearing top and a red Kabbalah bracelet and not much else, clothing-wise. Or music-wise. Live by the Spandex, die by the Spandex.
Therefore, it should come as no surprise when one major newspaper’s site, next to an article trashing the performance, invited readers to “Click Here for Photos of the Disaster,” as though the 3-minute show were instead some sort of massive, California-snapping-off earthquake. For Britney Spears had died, right there in front of Paris Hilton and everybody, after a long illness of divorce, rehab, and Kevin Federline. The Spandex is dead, long live the Spandex … on the next 14-year-old down the pop-tart pike.
But listen to us whipping ourselves in the aftermath of the aftermath. Hear the backlash to the “fat Brit” criticism: What, oh what, kind of messages are we sending to young girls? Why is the media so nasty to poor Britney and her size-6 self? Aren’t we now criticizing clavicle-obsessed women, and isn’t that great?
Oh, darlings. Guess why Britney crammed herself into that spangled bikini to begin with. We’ve thrown movie deals and endorsements and limos at her this past decade for doing so. She parades before us as a pile of flesh, and thusly shall we judge her. She hadn’t yet learned that she was no longer holding up her end of the deal.
I wrote about four years ago that Spears doesn't sing onstage because Spears doesn't have to. She is a graduate of the Madonna School of Two-Note Vocal Range Music: thrust, synthesized stomp, and in the morning call the Toys R Us people marketing your 12-inch doll self to second graders. Who needs talent when you have a padded bra? With sequins?
It was never the music. It was the strip show Spears delivered against well-arranged thumping bass, and — bearing in mind that I type this as a person who, during a recent move, unearthed not one, but three New Kids on the Block VHS video collections — we must come to terms with the fact that we never paid Britney Spears to sing. We paid her to dance, and be nubile, and hit the AbMaster. Oh, and move her lips in the general direction of the faux microphone every so often. Keeping up appearances, you know.
This isn’t about weight, either. It’s about Spears symbolizing a disturbing trend of equating inappropriately young sexiness with success, with some twisted form of feminism. She certainly didn’t have a problem riding (and I do not use that verb lightly) a highly sexualized image to a massive, massive amount of money and fame. And now that childbearing and simple metabolism has made that no longer possible? Well. Then Dr Phil, of all people, will call your halfhearted grinds a “train wreck,” and commenters on YouTube will bewail your thighs, thighs that leave the dent of finger marks when the male backup dancers try to grope you through your fishnet stockings.
And so then we had what we had on Sunday night, which was a woman completely OK with beginning her number after having introduced herself thusly: “It’s Britney, bitch!”
As the self she created and we perpetuated collapsed before our very eyes under the simple weight of too many calendar pages, one couldn’t help but notice Britney Spears’ hair as she halfheartedly spun and dipped. She constantly pushed over-proccessed, fake-blonde strands out of her eyes as a sixth-grader in a spelling bee might, mascara-rimmed eyes peering uncertainly and beseechingly out at a crowd that stared back, bewildered and largely silent. She was, 10 years after launching her career as a sexually precocious Catholic schoolgirl, a child again.
But the hair that she kept grabbing at, security blanket-like, wasn’t even hers. It was fake, a poorly attached weave.
She shaved her real hair off seven months ago.
Mary Beth Ellis runs BlondeChampagne.com from the Washington, D.C., area and is still attempting to come to terms with the concept that Donnie Wahlberg won’t totally fall in love with her someday.