Like any reasonably sane individual, I have observed the nation’s strange obsession with Britney Spears with morbid fascination. We follow her every drunken drug-induced step – her trip to the barbershop to get the “skinhead special haircut” – driving to the store with her baby tied to the roof of the car – partying late at the Roosevelt Hotel with thuggish young men that can’t quite grow facial hair – as if she were some hick messiah about to impart an essential message that we dare not miss. When she teeters on the edge of “Anna Nicole Smith-Dom”, we attempt to rush in society’s main faux healer – another baffling celebrity curiosity named Dr. Phil – to save the day.
And one can’t help but wonder “why Britney”? It’s not like she’s Elvis – a guy that not only looked great for most of his career (OK – so he gained a little weight too) but was a legitimate musical genius for over thirty years. Nor even Marilyn – a tragic figure that still managed to make an indelible imprint on society. I seriously doubt that in forty years musical scholars will be analyzing “Oops, I Did It Again”, nor will there be Britney film retrospectives (though her Pepsi ad remains fun to watch). If society is so innately fascinated with pretty hick girls then why didn’t we obsess about Ellie May Clampet or Daisy Duke?
Ah, perhaps the key is not to wonder why, but to use Britney’s strange draw to society’s benefit. Wouldn’t the world be a better place if we spent as much time thinking about global warming, genocide, and settling religious conflict as we do about whether Britney and friends are wearing panties? What if we were to re-brand Britney to stand for something other than a blatant example of our celebrity obsession, and its negative and sometimes deadly impact on immature and impressionable young stars?
So, here’s the idea. Give Britney a real cause to promote. Teach her to smile and say “go green” every time a camera is stuck in front of her face. When she shows up at parties, instead of doing body shots out of each other’s belly buttons, have her rally people to replace all the light bulbs with compact fluorescents. Get her to wear hemp lingerie and hang with Ed Begley Jr. instead of Paris Hilton. Perhaps she could be the key to making a new generation aware and active.