Analysis: Britney Spears’ battle is an enduring consequence of the cruelest celebrity gossip era
The cruel gossip blog era, for all intents and purposes, is over.
But not for Britney Spears.
Through the wringer
In truth, Britney Spears has always been talked about. The icon was only 16 when her school girl skirt and fluffy “…Baby, One More Time” pigtails changed pop culture back in 1998, branding the image as deeply and permanently as Michael Jackson’s white glove or a pair of blue suede shoes.
From that moment, she captured a global fascination that has never seemed to abate, even through her troubles.
What did these women have in common? They were all young, beautiful, rich, and successful. They had all navigated a lifetime of fame, many making the treacherous transition from child star to young, independent adult.
And in the newly established snark cathedrals of the internet gossip world, they deserved to be taken down a peg.
“We love to watch people rise and then fall, and come back, and then fall again,” says Erin Meyers, an associate professor at Oakland University’s Department of Communication and Journalism.
“Especially someone like Britney Spears, who had this squeaky-clean, Disney background and then became a teen star.”
Out of the woods
The advent of social media helped end the highly influential grip of tabloids and gossip blogs because it allowed celebrities to control their own narratives. With a well-placed tweet or Instagram post, a star could effectively defuse any incendiary blog rant or undercut the value of paparazzi photos, all while building a presence that feels more accessible to fans than even the snarkiest, most well-loved gossip rag.
“Before this time, the best way celebrities were able to speak back about their image was through their professional work,” Meyers says. “Spears did this as well. Songs like ‘Piece of Me,’ and ‘I’m Not a Girl, Not Yet a Woman,’ though they weren’t written by her, were clearly intended to hit back at criticism and own her narrative.”
“But with social media, all of a sudden, celebrities could say exactly what they wanted to people, when they wanted to say it.”
The question is, when will it be Spears’ turn?
Further to go
“I just want my life back,” she said.
Among the revelations about her life under the arrangement, she gave a succinct summation of what it is like to live life on two opposite sides of public opinion; to be envied, yet ridiculed. To be idolized, yet torn down.
“I thought people would make fun of me,” Spears said, explaining why she was hesitant to speak about the situation in past. “Or laugh at me and say, ‘She’s lying. She’s got everything. She’s Britney Spears.”
Many of Spears’ contemporaries have voiced their support, and it’s worth noting many of them have weathered their own traumatic seasons in the public eye.
After years of being haunted by cruel gossip headlines and inescapable images of her lowest moments, Britney Spears is finally making the most important voice in her story heard: Her own.
Jobber Wiki author Frank Long added to this report.