Would it shock you to know that I have mentioned Britney Spears by name eleven times in this blog over the years? It that doesn't surprise you, then it probably won't surprise you to hear that none of those mentions were particularly kind. Dating all the way back to 2006, Ms. Spears has been a stopping point on my pop culture snarkfest. Around here I suppose I don't really ascribe to the old adage about not saying anything at all when I don't have anything nice to say.
You see, Britney Spears and I are not friends. We have never been introduced. What I know of her is what "the media" chooses to shovel my way. And, in turn, my relationship turns directly on my reaction to what I am told. I have not been complimentary or sympathetic in my assessment of her experiences. The slack I have cut Britney is next to none. She has been the poster child for excess and poor choices in my vision, and that was all that mattered in the big book of blog fodder.
Until now. This recent reconsideration of how we have all treated Britney Spears has caused me to look back with more than a twinge of regret for the way I tossed her around as if she were a caricature and not a flesh and blood human being. I made the somewhat late-twentieth century American assumption that anyone who found themselves living their lives in public were asking for me to lob my opinion on top of those others that were also privy to her every move. Who is she dating and who is watching her money and who is saying what about the person or persons who are dating her and taking care of her money and what car was she driving when she did that thing that ended up in all those magazines and splashed across Al Gore's Internet?
Well, sorry to say that at least eleven times I felt it was my job to care, and in doing so I asked you all to do just that because that is what we do, after all. Isn't it? We shove folks into the limelight for one reason or another and then after a while we delight in watching them crumble. It makes us feel good about all that fame and fortune we never experienced ourselves.
Sadly, I confess that I might not have come to this point unless I had been beaten to the punch by one Justin Timberlake. This former Mousketeer/actor/pop star and now apologist for and to Britney Spears recently announced how sorry he was sorry: "I specifically want to apologize to Britney Spears and Janet Jackson both individually, because I care for and respect these women and I know I have failed." He failed to protect and defend both of them from a business and society that is inherently misogynistic and plays by different rules for boys and girls. Witness the slow and steady rise of Mister Timberlake and his brother in Mouse Ryan Gosling. Contrast their careers to the flash and dash of those endured by Ms. Spears and her Mouse-sister Christina Aguilera.
Of course it is quite possible that none of this regret would be expressed without the release of the documentary Framing Britney Spears, that asks the question, "Why are we treating this person this way?"
The only answer I can offer is the one I suggested earlier: We are hungry to watch those in the public eye disintegrate. It makes us feel better.
I don't anymore. I feel worse. Britney, if you're out there, I'm sorry.