Dispatches from the Suburbs of Hell

Heaven is for the obedient. Hell is for the wrathful. What of the ones in between? We wind up in the Suburbs. Our sin is individuality. Our punishment is boredom. But at least we're in good company.

Location: New England, United States

Wednesday, September 12, 2007

Pop Goes the Pop Star

I never thought the day would come, when I would be even mentioning Britney Spears in my blog, let alone coming to her defense in a roundabout way. But all the fallout from the MTV Video Music Awards has somehow managed to slip under my radar, so I feel I must comment.

Understand first, I am not a fan of Britney Spears. I don't hate her, or consider her the antichrist of pop music as some do. I just don't think I'm the target audience for her brand of pop, being neither a teenybopper nor a creepy fortysomething manchild (I've got a few years to go yet). But pop culture being what it is, I have not been spared the trials and tribulations of her career, her rise and fall, and the disturbing trend of which she is perhaps the most stellar representative. Sexualization of young celebrities is nothing new, but of late it has gone down a creepy road indeed. Not just sexualization of young women, but FETISHIZATION of them. You only had to look at Britney in her prime to know what I'm talking about: the woman looked MANUFACTURED. Perfect blonde hair, perfect smile, abs you could bounce a quarter off of...like she just rolled off the Stepford assembly line. And the fact that this process started at such a young age makes me wonder if Miz Spears even has a personality of her own. Her life was designed for her, by an army of managers and handlers and record execs, carefully crafting an image that would appeal to young horny boys and old horny men. The sweet vixen. The good girl gone wild. The virgin-whore. Nothing hotter, they say, and popular culture buys into it. Hell, I buy into it, and I can't even explain WHY I buy into it. Perhaps something hard-wired into the male of the species. As an intellectual, I have a tendency to overthink things, to meditate upon the causes behind human behavior, to try and find rational explanations for the things we do to ourselves and each other. And every now and then I am forced to conclude that sometimes there is NO rational explanation. Sometimes we just do things. Just because. Maybe this is one of those things.

That being said, Britney's meltdown can be put into proper perspective. Her expiration date finally arrived. She wasn't the perfect fantasy object any longer. At the age of 26, she has two kids and three train-wreck marriages under her belt. And now she's mocked for no longer having the perfect body (if you ask me, she looks damn good for a mother of two, but that's neither here nor there). Having attained fame so young, she never acquired the proper coping skills to deal with a fall from grace, and thither to drinking, drugs, and head-shaving. Oldest story in showbiz, really. It's kind of sad, but telling, that pop culture turns on its own so viciously. Like, after your expiration date, you just cease to be valuable. They just move on to the new model pop star, and only pay attention to you when you do something crazy (which is pretty much a certainty). I have a feeling that the Powers That Be would bury Britney in a landfill if they could. Just replace her and never think about her again.

Of course, Britney is only the tip of the iceberg. The entertainment world is lousy with similar hot young things: carefully-constructed images of young innocent skeeviness, with little thought to actual personality. Your Olsens. Your Lohans. Your Simpsons. And of course, your Hiltons. The inevitable end product of this objectification process: no discernable talent, no personality to speak of, not even particularly good looking - but she's young and blonde and slutty, and somehow that's enough for most people. Pop culture sees these young women, redesigns them for mass consumption, then abandons them once their fifteen minutes are up. Often they simply can't cope when that happens, and go down a path of self-destruction.

It's not as if this is anything new; entertainment is largely about creating an attractive image and selling it. What's new is the age demographic, as these pop stars get younger and younger. I worry for that. Not just for the girls themselves - who are tossed into fame and fortune long before they know how to deal with it in a mature way - but for society in general. When society encourages us to drool over 16-year-olds, I squirm with discomfort. We're being turned into a nation of pedophiles. And that's never a good thing. Personally I'd get bored with a hot vacuous thing. I mean, ladies, if you WANT to dye your hair blonde and stuff yourself in a minidress, good luck to you. But learn how to play chess before you call me. I hope I'm not alone in that assertion.

(I'm also stunned that there actually still is a Video Music Awards show. MTV shows VIDEOS? Go on with you! Next thing you'll be telling me that the Sci-Fi Channel shows actual science fiction!)