Much like her music, Britney Spears’ life seems to be going from bad to worse. Just about every day, the media breathlessly reports yet another step towards rock bottom. Her career’s in enormous trouble, her laughing-stock marriage is in tatters, she’s lost custody of her children, and now she’s incarcerated in a mental institution. Every day, it seems she climbs further down that ladder, and at this point, there are precious few rungs left.
And I really don’t know about this idea of appointing her father to temporarily manage her finances. Having her parents run her life wasn’t exactly a humdinger of an idea when Brit was younger.
Today, we have a wacky story about Britney’s manager controlling her life, drugging her and running the paparazzi like a general. I don’t know whether Sam Lufti is guilty of these terrible allegations, or the strain is making Lynne Spears bizarrely paranoid (and really, who could blame her?) but it’s just another in a long, long series of faintly amusing, but mainly depressing Britney stories. We’re now at a point where the period when she was only getting wasted with Paris Hilton and being photographed without underwear counts as “the good old days”.
Then there’s Jamie Lynn. I know it’s common for younger sisters to want to emulate their famous siblings – Dannii Minogue, anyone? – but surely anyone observing the Britney train wreck up close would have realised the folly of falling pregnant too early, and to the wrong man. But at the age of 16, to either an irresponsible boyfriend or a rapacious older television executive, depending on which gossip mag you read. It makes the Britney-K.Fed union look downright successful. It’s no wonder her mother was forced to pulp her parenting book.
But we are all complicit in Britney’s downfall, because we have all contributed to the unrelenting pressure that’s driven her over the edge. And it’s time we took collective responsibility for her plight. Like every single squad car in LA, apparently, which tagged along as she was taken to hospital in a positively Coreyesque instance of overpolicing, we need to get involved. Not like Dr Phil, who smelled a primetime television special, mounted an intervention and appalled his fans – whose standards, let’s face it, were never that high. If something doesn’t give, she may end up irreparably harmed.
What we need to do is leave her in peace, before we leave her in pieces. Fortunately, it’s not that hard, because when it comes down to it, when we’re really honest with ourselves, she just isn’t that interesting. So it should be easy to ignore her, really. There are other starlets whose shenanigans can amuse – Lindsay Lohan’s been delivering lately – but for the time being, we need to impose a total Britney blackout.
Because, we’re the ones who built her up higher than her talent deserved and her personality could deal with. It’s to feed our endless appetite for another humiliating image that she’s constantly stalked by paparazzi. We should have known something was wrong when she shaved her head that time, but instead we just bayed for more. And now enough is enough.
Don’t get me wrong – it’s been a hilarious ride, and I for one particularly enjoyed Kevin Federline’s 15 minutes of fame. Thinking back on his ridiculous rap career reminds me of a more innocent time, when laughing at Britney was almost as entertaining as laughing at her gal pal Paris. But, like a World Cup qualifier against American Samoa, the game of Britney v The Rest just isn’t fun anymore. Now we’re just kicking her when she’s down. It’s not funny anymore. It’s just ugly and sad.
So today, just like she’s doing in the hospital, I’m going cold turkey. And we all need to. I vow that I will avoid reading every new “Britney hits rock bottom” story that comes down the line. I will deny myself the perverse satisfaction we all get from seeing someone rich and famous behaving like she’s at a Year 10 formal. Until she’s genuinely better, and successful enough that her mishaps are embarrassing rather than the source of real pathos and genuine concern, I’ll be limiting my attention to the exploits of considerably less unbalanced celebrities. Oh, and also Tom Cruise.
The rate at which media attention is genuinely destroying celebrities is starting to become a real concern. Nutty conspiracy theories aside, Princess Diana’s death probably wouldn’t have happened if the paparazzi had given her a break. And there is a sense in which we all made Heath Ledger’s life harder than it should have been, for example. He didn’t ask for the celebrity, just for the acting gigs. And though the two go irrevocably together, they shouldn’t have to.
It used to be a fair deal. Our stars get to be fabulously rich and famous, and when they used to complain, I felt they were just being spoilt. But now I’m beginning to think I wouldn’t wish the sort of life-in-a-bubble we force onto sports stars, actors and musicians on anyone – even someone I genuinely dislike, like Celine Dion.
In the age of 24-hour news channels, in a world where anyone can shoot mobile phone video and upload it to YouTube in moments, our interest has magnified to become completely unrelenting. Paranoia because everyone is watching you all the time is a common symptom of mental illness. But for many celebrities, it’s just true. Britney is surely near breaking point, and if she doesn’t make it to a tacky comeback tour, we’ll all be to blame.