It started with a song, "...Baby One More Time." In the last ten years, Britney Spears has gone from a shooting star to a fallen one. And while her rise to fame made the pop singer lots of money, the cash right now is in covering the fast-moving trainwreck-esque soap opera her personal life as become. The facts and figures in a detailed AP story by Jeremy Herron may not surprise you, but it's interesting to see them tallied: Britney is the number one celebrity in a multibillion dollar celebrity news industry. Her picture has been on 54 out of 103 covers of OK! magazine. The magazine, in fact, has a 10-person team in Los Angeles devoted to Spears coverage. "We're on constant Britney alert," editor Sarah Ivens says. In addition, according to a piece in the new issue of Blender, 15 photographers are on constant Britney stakeout. "Spears is the only celebrity in the world under photographers' 24-hour watch, a surveillance mode usually reserved for prisoners and suicides," writes Michael Joseph Gross.
More facts: Britney's hospitalization on January 3 drove traffic to new heights on sites like PerezHilton.com and TMZ. "Britney is the most bankable celebrity out there right now, and she has been for the past year," says Francois Navarre, co-owner of photo agency x17 (the same agency that posted those photos of Britney menstruating through her underwear). Sometimes we get e-mails asking us to "Stop writing about Britney." And the truth is, we don't post about her as much as we could, were we so inclined. We include her in Dirt Bag and Midweek Madness, but she's rarely, if ever, the subject of a Snap Judgment (and it's not for a lack of photographs!). Honestly? It's tough to stay away from her: She's been a part of the American — nay, global — consciousness for a decade, and it would be disingenuous to pretend we're not interested in what she's doing, where she's going and what's happening to her, especially since her life is a whirlwind of monumental events: rehab, head-shaving, losing custody of her kids.
There are many revelations in the Blender story: Britney wanted to get implants at age 17 because, she told a publicist, "I work like a woman, everyone treats me like a woman, but I look like a girl." Additionally, her seemingly erratic behavior may just be born of never having been "normal" at all: Her record deal saved her parents from bankruptcy, but she never learned how to balance a checkbook or do things for herself. She's never kept regular hours, or had a nine-to-five job. She also has an impulsive personality. A former record label exec says of her 55-hour marriage to Jason Alexander: "She doesn't connect the dots sometimes. Everyone thinks you only do those things when you're drunk or you're high. Britney can do things like that stone-cold sober."
But is the attention she's getting from the media part of her demise, or the key to her salvation? When she's lost, gets a flat tire, or needs her gas pumped, it's often the paparazzi who step in — someone in one of the 15 cars that follow her at all times. She's not used to not having cameras around her. Even when she first got together with Kevin Federline, they taped each other constantly. In an interview that aired on their show Chaotic, she says: "I'm not really good with just really being intimate one-on-one, and I think it helped me to have a camera there, instead of it just being me and him." Watching her or not, she craves the attention, even if it's negative. Writes Gross in Blender:
Britney became the tabloids' wet dream by making herself the very image of a bad person. More than that: the worst person. There is, it seems, no limit to the number of things you can hate her for. She's irresponsible, lazy, selfish, arrogant, stupid, tacky, rich and so depraved as to look almost subhuman.
What's a celebrity-obsessed person (and this blog) to do? Do we make a pact to cover the most popular celebs — except for Britney? Doesn't some part of all of us want updates about Britney, if only to be sure she's still alive? Also, above and beyond the sadness, craziness and roller-coaster ride of who she is as a person, doesn't she also serve a purpose for each of us, allowing us to feel that no matter how bad things are, at least they're not that bad? For a woman who has been exploited as product almost all of her life, is there an easy way to say "I'm no longer for sale"?
The Britney Spears Economy Booms [AP, via Time]
Britney Spears: The Road to Ruin [Blender]