‘Hit her Baby One More Time’…just not with a camera flash

[WARNING: Not for the haters]

So before I get into this article there is something I would like to clear up. Yes,  I am a Britney Spears fan. I know what you’re thinking, “wait a Muslim woman who is a Britney fan…HA?” Odd right? Well I have grown up with Britney music like any 90s kid and no I don’t look up to her as a role model nor do I have any desire or aspiration to break into the entertainment industry, however (and this is the part where you will probably shake your head), I believe Britney Spears is one of the most influential pop artists of all time. I have been captivated by Britney not simply because of her music, dance abilities and her ability to pull off flawless hair flips, but it’s because of her ‘breakdown’,  ‘comeback’, Britney Inc and of course the media’s obsession with her. Her legacy is unprecedented and yea she has done some pretty stupid things but there is no denying that she has left her mark on the industry, not to mention has made the biggest musical comeback. She has paved the way for many teen stars in today’s industry and as a lover of popular culture I must give credit where credit is due. So this piece is not about praising her (as some of my friends would like to believe) but an attempt at giving you an insight into the frenzy that plagued Britney’s life and had the world watching in horror. As a fan I am interested in Britney Spears, the superstar but as a journalist it is Britney the person whose story is one of media scrutiny, insanity, heart-break and humility that has captured me.

This article is dedicated to all the Britney stans (stalkers/fans) on breatheheavy.com


When Britney Spears was beamed onto our television screens, at the age of 17 with her Catholic school girl outfit, strawberry blond hair tightly gathered in pigtails and her smouldering eyes, seductively pleading, ‘Hit Me Baby One More Time’, the pop and Britney’s world was forever changed. Britney re-created the ‘tween’ industry and it didn’t take too long before she shot to stardom. By 2002 Britney Spears was declared by Forbes Magazine as the number one most powerful celebrity. Spears became the American dream. The combination of Britney’s teenage innocence and her bubbly yet alluring personality made her the quintessential pop phenomena. But, despite her musical and personal acclaim, Britney the American dream turned into Britney the American tragedy.

When Spears famously declared in 2000 that she was a virgin and wished to remain one until marriage, she became a role model for millions of young girls around the world. But, in 2003 a non-married Britney exclusively revealed that she is no longer a girl, but a woman (referencing her single ‘Not a girl not yet a woman’). Her revelation changed her innocent representation and the media’s attention shifted to Britney’s sexuality. While Spears’ innocent image began to shed, so did too her clothes, beginning her personal decline and the media frenzy that was soon to follow.

The teen dream wasted no time in infiltrating her new found sexuality into her profession. Audiences began to see a new provocative Britney. Her self-titled album ‘Britney’ featured sexually titillating lyrics and seductive vocals. Britney morphed from innocent school girl to sex icon. But, it didn’t stop there. It was in 2006, the year of her divorce, when the world and the media watched in horror as Britney Spears tragically spiralled out of control. Spears’ private life became the focal point of the entertainment media industry. From being photographed with no underwear, drug and alcohol abuse, losing custody of her children, being held in psychiatric care to even the head shaving incident, Britney Spears’ life became a live broadcast of fame and fortune gone wrong. The general public became hooked on the latest Britney mishap and society’s craving for exclusive paparazzi shots grew.

The paparazzi became enthralled by Britney’s personal life and entertainment reporters and the world were captivated by the ‘Britney breakdown’. In 2007 Britney Spears made the paparazzi industry $60 million dollars in images and was unfailingly on the cover of every single gossip magazine from January, 2007- March 2008. Headlines which read, ‘Oops she did it Again!’ were used and severely re-used, paparazzi stalked Spears and followed her every move in hope of exclusively capturing the next Britney calamity. The media turned Britney into a prisoner of her own fame and fortune, losing her children, fans, privacy and sanity.

At the outset of her career, Spears was worshipped by the media placing her on a pedestal as the Queen of Pop. But, as soon as she began to reveal her imperfections, the entertainment media, particularly the paparazzi and celebrity journalists saw the perfect opportunity to treat what would later become a mental illness, as a ‘Fall from Grace’ story. This fall produced reports and images which positioned Spears as a drug and alcohol addict, who was now more famous for her forgetfulness to wear underwear than her musical talents. But, more importantly Britney was labelled as a bad mother and to the media’s delight the Queen of Pop soon became the joker of the entertainment industry.

However, in 2008 under the control and conservatorship of her father, Britney the phenomena, awakened from her deep slumber and was about to make the biggest musical comeback in pop’s history. Spears released her sixth critically acclaimed album, ‘Circus’. This ‘era’ as fans like to call it, saw Britney sell over 500,000 albums in the first week, making it her fifth album to debut at number one. The album was followed by a sold-out world-wide tour, re-crowning Britney as the Queen of Pop. In 2011 Britney’s ‘comeback’ continued when she released her seventh studio album ‘Femme Fatale’, yet again debuting at number one on the Billboard charts in its first week. Following the release of ‘Femme Fatale’ she announced another world-tour.

But two successful albums and world tours since her ‘breakdown’ isn’t enough for Britney. Continuing her reign, Spears has recently signed on to become a judge on the U.S ‘Xfactor’. So far her judging, self-confidence and physical appearance seems to be everything a star of her calibre should be. But it seems the tabloid media is not yet ready to give Britney a break. Stories continue to flood gossip magazines and celebrity websites claiming that Spears’ shiny, new and improved life is cracking. Rumours are surfacing that Britney is unable to handle the pressure of a live show and is walking off set. In response Britney tweeted, “.#Britneywalksoff??? LOL was just taking a little break people. I am having the BEST time!!!” But what cost has the old Britney had to pay for the new one?

Britney’s life is back on track regardless of tabloid magazines attempting to suggest otherwise, but the young, confidant Louisiana girl is no longer the same. With the paparazzi and media frenzy that had surrounded her, Britney no longer lives her life in freedom. In her documentary, ‘For the Record’ aired on MTV December 2008, Britney revealed that,

“I’m under a lot of constraints and if I wasn’t I would feel so liberated…even when you go to jail, y’know, there’s the time when you’re gonna get out. But in this situation, it’s never ending. It’s just like Groundhog Day.”

Entertainers-in-the-know and fans are observant of Britney’s lifestyle change as a result of her psychotic breakdown and the paparazzi obsession. To ensure Spears never spirals out of control again, her management team will go to any lengths to continue to preserve her squeaky clean ‘comeback’ image and protect Britney from the outside world. Whether it may be pre-recording and editing interviews or suing paparazzi for invasions of privacy.

The paparazzi over time have only grown in numbers and their photography methods are becoming increasingly extreme. However, regardless of the distaste towards the paparazzi, it is undeniable that they are responsible for many celebrities’ success and popularity. With that being said, they are also equally responsible for the destruction of numerous celebrities’ personal and professional life and a fitting paradigm of this is the life of Britney Spears.

It is therefore, pivotal to ask how celebrities like Britney Spears end up the way they do. She is a by-product of the industry where the toxic cycle begins with a wild dream and ends as a nightmare. But society will not learn from its past mistakes. Entertainment reporters will maintain their sensationalised and exaggerated stories and consequently the lifestyle of celebrities like Britney Spears will continue to be drastically altered. Making it a challenge to avoid the prying lenses of the paparazzi and to their delight, opening a window of opportunity to capture many more ‘Oops she did it again’ moments.

Published in Anoujoum magazine

Widyan Al Ubudy.

~ by widyanalubudy on July 10, 2012.

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