Saturday, April 7, 2007

The Popular Demonization of Britney Spears

Britney Spears had been the center of the popular culture world ever since she decided to thrust her every present sexuality upon us, with her undulating dance moves, and most shockingly, her risque maneuver at the MTV movie awards in which she French kissed Madonna in front of millions of viewers. Initially what rose her to fame was her catchy songs and her somewhat private personal life than what we have seen of late. Although you would think Britney being with Justin from N'Sync would be a more titillating relationship, this has proven to be false. The controversy was over Britney dating and marrying K-Fed, who decided he was leaving his “semi-famous” girlfriend/mother of 2 (Shar Jackson) to be with Brit. Right off the bat, she should have known that this guy was NOT good news, but she went with her heart and personally, I give her so much credit for that. Following your heart and going against the wishes of everyone around you proves that Britney has some control in her life, whether that proved to be a good choice or bad choice can only be decided by her.

Lately, Britney's public image has been in so much controversy that everyone thinks they should have something to say about her, whether it's good, bad, or just downright mean. Coping with the pressures of stardom on top of being a supportive mother and wife, as well as trying to be a positive role model for the young and not so young girls that have grown up loving Britney, has proven itself to be too much, as can be seen by her more recent alcohol and drug fueled gallivants around Las Vegas and New York after the split with her ex-hubby. Just like the comparisons made to Courtney Love in “Mom's Don't Rock,” Norma Coates perfectly describes the stigmatization that comes along when star status and motherhood come together. By integrating children into the Rock and Roll culture (bringing Frances on stage and including her in the “sex and drugs” lifestyle), in addition to her admitted drug use during pregnancy, and numerous choices that would be considered bad mothering by most maternal figures around her, Courtney Love opened herself up to ridicule. The difference between Courtney Love and Britney Spears is that Brit isn't doing anything a “normal mom from Kentwood, Louisiana wouldn't do.”

We can see by numerous examples that Brit may not have the best judgment when it comes to her mothering skills, but doesn't every new mother go through a few rough times and bouncing babies when they bring their baby home for the first time? According to Brit, everyone in Louisiana drives around with their kids on their lap, it's just what they do. And Sean Preston falling out of his high chair? I can recall my parents telling me about 10 times that i got dropped on my head, or rolled off the bed. Even random mothers around the country are coming to her defense saying things such as “all moms know, "baby bobbles" happen all the time. Luckily, news outlets weren't watching when she walked into a door years ago holding baby son Timmy, whose head hit the door jamb. Her other son, Alex, once fell off the bed as a baby. (Both are fine.)” says Lenna Janick. (

What most people don't think about when they instantaneously call Britney a bad mother is the situations and circumstances that have led her to the choices she has made recently. How is it possible for a mother walking with her son to peacefully and safely maneuver around 50 men with cameras and camera crews yelling and screaming obscenities at her, just so they can get a photo of mother and son together. Protecting her children from the media has been one of Britney's sole goals since she has become a mother, which is one reason why there have been no photos of nearly 1 year old Jayden James. Being in the spotlight with children adds a whole new dimension to a celebrities life, and saying that they “asked for it” is not an excuse to live vicariously through the lives of another. One cannot say that in the same circumstances, they would not be in exactly the same position she is in now.

As Britney begins to put the shambles of her life back into one piece, no one seems to be giving her any credit for that. Entering rehab cannot be easy for someone dealing with a divorce and facing the loss of her children (even if the allegations against her aren't completely true). The one thing Britney needs right now is the one thing she's not getting, privacy. The privacy to deal with her issues and her family in the way that every person should be allowed to deal with issues, behind closed doors, not in the limelight every second of every day, just because it's interesting, or it makes us feel better about ourselves.

Coates Norma “Mom's Don't Rock: The Deomization of Coutnry Love.” p319-331
“Britneys Bad Mother Backlash Begins”


New Fool said...

Yes. I think you are right.

Jessie said...

You raise a lot of issues here, which are very important. The ideas that you've expressed are getting more analytical and you're certainly making progress.
Be careful with the use of "others, some people, anyone, no one, etc" because these are just statements of opinion couched under the guise of an unclear source of information.
In terms of Britney and her mothering skills...why do you feel the need to defend her? Must she be a victim or a villain? I would argue that she is neither and that at the end of the day, contemporary US society has no way of viewing a "rock-star-mom" as anything other than incompatible with both rock and the Coates piece that you cited argues.
The ideas that she is not doing anything that a "typical Kentwood, LA mom wouldn't do" or that the private time is needed for her at this point in her life, are not relevant here.
As a criminal justice major, I'm guessing you know that the law frequently transgresses the (mental) boundary between the public domain and the private domain; therefore, the public status of her celebrity in conjunction with the legislation of laws to (purportedly) protect women from harm (such as violence) and children from adults who might harm them, has already put this issue into the "public domain." The type of public that I'm referring to is the type that is not behind closed doors...not the public that deals with issues surrounding fame. The laws actually illustrate that what most of U.S. society considers a social order whereby we have a separation of public and private, doesn't really exist. If the "public" can legislate the "private" then there really is no private or public.
Protectionist laws have historically been fairly well-meaning (to keep safe those who may be least able to defend themselves); however, these laws have also frequently treated women and children as categorically the same--making the women protected from (ex: spousal rape and abuse) but not giving women person-hood above that of a child--which is why the victim status (analytically, for this particular moment) would actually reinscribe women as lesser beings in society. The legal system is admittedly a catch 22--so I'm not trying to argue for or against such laws. Instead, I've just analyzed your analysis of Britney...
You are making good progress- It may help to pretend that she is someone you have zero feelings for (positive or negative) when you write your next post. Therefore, the positive/negative valuations and defending versus condemning issues won't be as problematic for your analysis (b/c I can see that this attachment is still holding you back).
-Jessie :o)

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