Thursday, August 9, 2007

Has Britney Spears Lost It?

That's what MSN was asking me this morning as I signed out of my hotmail account.

I think I've already mentioned that it would give me great great joy to see Britney
Spears turn it around.

Not that I want to see Britney Spears buy a lovely Los Feliz estate and marry some non-trashy guy and put the excesses of her youth behind her while not eating white flour. Screw that.

Also, I'm not, like, in love with Britney, although "Toxic" is one of the all-time great pop songs.

I just happen to have gotten tired of this division of our celebrities (and by extension ourselves) into the saved and the damned. And, just like in Calvinism, the one sure way to distinguish the saved from the damned is to see how it ends. Angelina Jolie might have seemed like a troubled youth, but now she's got a family and a beautiful husband, and all that goddamn modern architecture, so we know she was always all right. She was fundamentally sound.

Not that I have anything against Angelina Jolie.

Look. Some of my favorite books fall into a category I think of as chick-lit-but-for-real. I am talking about Heartburn by Nora Ephron, who has made vast sums of money off of movies that invariably end happily. Or Fear of Flying by Erica Jong. Also, The Company She Keeps by Mary McCarthy.

Now, since Heartburn came out in 1983, and Fear of Flying in 1973, and The Company She Keeps in 1942 (this much I have garnered off the internet), and since I don't have any other examples ready to mind, I have just created a (historically speaking) pseudo-category of book. Also The Company She Keeps is much much better than the other two books, and would do just fine in a more heavyweight literary category. But I think about these books together because they manage to remain light, remain bearable, while depicting a world in which being adult means both betraying and being betrayed, behaving badly and behaving very well, and surviving it all.

A middle ground, you might say, between the Mill on the Floss (where every misdeed is paid for in blood and Pride and Prejudice (where all is forgiven, and wasn't that bad to begin with). Things happen, people behave badly, people behave well, people are funny and adult about it and people are heartbroken and childish about it, and then other things happen.

Other cultural artifacts that give me that feeling: the movie Manhattan, the books of Richard Russo, the essays of Gore Vidal. But I can't help feeling that there's not enough of it going around, not enough light-hearted realism, not enough grace seen in real behavior, to counteract the tidal wave of self-help telling us that perfection is obtainable, and that falling short of it can only mean disaster and the grave.

Britney Spears has obviously fallen short of perfection. I think we can agree on that. And her public behavior at the moment seems designed to give the impression that disaster and the grave await her. So, you know, I'd like to see her turn it around. Not apologize, not dress better. Just not give way to melodrama. Keep going, in whatever teetery fashion. Turn it down a notch. Raise her kids, eat her Cheetos, whatever.


chanchow said...

Brad and Angie are not married. That's important.

I too would like to see Britney clean it up, but mostly because I don't want to see her on TV and magazine covers. And also because I'm afraid she's going to hurt somebody with her car. She should just move to a farm, raise her kids and not put out any more albums.

Captain Colossal said...

Oh yeah -- I forgot! Is it still an important distinction?

I'm also concerned about Britney hurting somebody with her car.

chanchow said...

Nah. I guess it's not such an important distinction, although if they got married then that would be big news. Big enough to knock Britney and the other menaces to society off the cover of OK!.

Noko Marie said...

Angelina was a troubled youth?

Captain Colossal said...

Angelina was the troubled youth par excellence: lesbian affairs with heroin addicts, exchanging vials of blood, etc. (Not that I necessarily agree that these things constitute troubled youth, but the tabloids thought so.)

Noko Marie said...

When I read your post I went over to my bookshelf, and sure enough, not a lot of novels fit this profile. I'm a big fan, too, of Fear of Flying and The Company she Keeps. I haven't read Heartburn.

I've always been bothered also by the lack of morally ambivalent narrative. In addition to the saved vs. the damned is the good vs. the bad. I like Dickens as much as the next person, probably, but, man, there sure are a lot of moral giants and moral cretins in those books. It gets exhausting. Or boring. Or something.

Anyway with respect to poor Brit, yes, I hope it all works out. The reason I was so in the dark about Angelina is that I didn't really read any celebrity gossip until I started reading The Superficial. Which used to be funny, though it's fallen off a lot, I think. But when Britney came out with that umbrella, lunging at the photographer, Mr. Superficial's post said, in part, "Look at her go!" And I thought, "Yeah! OMG!" If she could harness that power to good ends, we'd all be in awe.