Britney#8217;s failure tells us about our culture

Published 12:00 am Thursday, September 13, 2007

It was bound to happen

with Britney Spears.

First came the fame, then the money, then the marriage, then the children, then the fall from grace and then … the collapse.

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But it’s not the collapse, which was clearly coming, that was the only thing bound to happen.

No, it’s the pity.

Despite her feeble effort to address her addiction problem, her parenting “skills,”

her embarrassing wardrobe choices, her seemingly insatiable appetite for self-destruction, people were perhaps rooting for her a little bit when she performed during this week’s MTV Music Awards.

And then, well, you know.

Despite the fact Americans love the comeback story, love the underdog, love to see determination in people who won’t lay down no matter how many times they’ve faltered … it just didn’t come together for her.

In fact, it was awful.

That part is not open for debate. The lip-syncing catastrophe could only bring up images of Ashley Simpson and her choice of wardrobe again brought Spears unchecked criticism.

But before anyone comes down too hard on Britney Spears for wearing her scantily-clad attire, perhaps we should ask ourselves a couple of questions?

Isn’t that what we expected? And isn’t that what she expected from us?

Let’s keep in mind that Britney Spears’ fame came right in the middle of a media and music transformation that made sexy, well, sexy.

What used to be risque or out of bounds 10 years earlier, was all of a sudden acceptable when Spears took America by storm with her debut single “Baby One More Time” in 1998.

That video, you may remember, showed Spears in a Catholic schoolgirl outfit in what can generously be called “provocative.”

And so it went for Spears, her clear niche in the industry. She was a bona fide sex symbol.

And so now, nine years later, with her girlish figure not quite as girlish, she’s referred to as “fat.”

Fat? Britney Spears?

That assessment in itself tells us a lot about American culture and the warped expectations we have for celebrities, and — perhaps more disturbing — women in general.

With the understanding Spears has to meet those kind of expectations, can it really be a surprise the sex symbol tried to be exactly what she’s always been?

Of course not.

And the sad tale of Britney Spears is not just hers, it is our own.

Rick Greene is the managing editor of The Ironton Tribune. He can be reached at (740) 532-1441, ext. 12 or by e-mail at