Last week, Carson Daly took to Twitter to express his rage (don’t they all?) at being unable to get an uncensored, unedited interview with Britney Spears. As someone who’s known Spears since she was just 15-years-old, Daly was incensed at the idea that he needed to pre-tape their interview and submit it to her team to edit and doctor.
Years ago, this would not have been necessary. For the Spears of today, this is standard operating procedure.
Love her, hate her, endeared to her or annoyed by her, it is impossible to argue that Spears is a star. A star who was once capable of speaking on her own, without the assistance of editing or coaching. But times have changed. To show her in her unedited form would be humiliating to the Britney that was, because that Britney is gone.
So why won’t people just let her go?
For years, the stock complaint of every magazine, blogger, critic and general Britney loather is that she lip syncs. She’s auto-tuned. She doesn’t write her own music. Now, she’s lost the ability to dance, to interview, and to perform to the extent she used to.
And people still love every hair extension on her head. Such is the star quality of Spears: people love her unconditionally, despite her inability to do much of anything at this point.
It is the nature of the pop culture public to kick stars when they’re down. We point and laugh when Charlie Sheen bombs in his Torpedo of Truth Tour, we roll our eyes as Lindsay Lohan falls down outside of a nightclub despite her proclaimed “sobriety”. But, with Spears, it’s different. Because maybe all of these individuals are unwell, but Britney seems the most vulnerable.
If I’m starting to sound like a broken record who’s written these words too many times, that’s because I am. She breaks my heart. She grabbed a pair of clippers and shaved her head in public because she, and I quote “didn’t want anyone touching her anymore” and people thought it was hilarious. She locked herself and her child in a bathroom and had to be hospitalized and people had the audacity to laugh about it. She, a grown woman, has been under the conservatorship of her father for three years now and people still refuse to recognize the gravity of her illness. By that same token, people refuse to recognize that she is no longer capable of being the performer she once was. Or the person.
To call Britney Spears an “artist” has never been accurate, but Christ could that girl put on a show. She was an entertainer, through and through. But now, through illness and medication, she is no longer that entertainer. And, yet, people still hold her to those same standards.
On one hand, perhaps this is fair. She still commands the same ticket prices. Her albums still sell millions of copies. She is still a commodity.
That said, by “she,” I mean Britney Spears, the corporation. Britney Spears, the woman, is another story.
Britney Spears, the woman, is someone who suffered a serious break not too long ago. Someone who, legally, is no longer capable of making decisions for herself. Someone who is now officially a puppet, a ragdoll thrown onstage, made to dance around as much as she is able while her mouth moves. And she’s not out there trying to score attention or interviews or further infamy. Britney is generally photographed at Starbucks or her kid’s baseball games. She’s not hurting anyone. She’s just existing. And she’s stalked at every turn, attacked at every action. To say she is not a tragic figure is not just insensitive, it is an act of ignorance about her status as a paparazzi target, mental illness, and her condition, whatever that condition may be.
Some say it’s bipolar disorder, some say it’s a personality disorder, some say it is a nervous breakdown following years of an unnatural fame lifestyle. Whatever it is, this is someone no longer there. Someone who is now a business, a show pony, responsible for the welfare of her family and management team who rely on her for money, while she is obviously incapable of doing her job, but also any other job. She lives a life that is no longer about her.
So what do you do?
With the Lohans and Charlie Sheens of the world, it’s easy to say ignore them, let them hit rock bottom and disappear. That’s not the case with Spears. She’s hit rock bottom. She’s still there. She exists presently only as vapors of disease. But she’s still loved, so so loved. And people will buy her albums no matter what, buy concert tickets no matter what. And I think that’s okay. It would seem, at this point, her fans are the only ones who really care about her, or at least whatever “her” there still exists to care about. It would also seem that, while she’s no longer truly able to perform, performing is the only thing she’s capable of doing. So, while it’s absolutely heartrending to see this person, this victim of fame and the machine, at least maybe it’s something that makes her happy. And, in a world where no one will help her, choosing instead to laugh and mock, honestly, I just want the best for her. Whatever the best might be. Maybe it’s a break, maybe it’s a tiny bit of freedom, maybe it’s long periods of hospitalization and treatment. Who knows? We may never, because she can’t seem to get it.
So, for the Carson Dalys of the world who cannot comprehend why they aren’t able to show the world what she’s become, for the tabloids who continue to photograph and exploit her, for the society who laughs at her current state, while still holding her to a standard which she is no longer capable of meeting, just leave her alone. Let her be, whatever it is she may be. Because right now, she’s no longer able to be anything else.