Contemplating Britney

Britney Spears is a genius pop culture provocateur and a gateway drug to every out of control impulse ever created. – Sue Sylvester

Great satire touches on contentious issues. And as much as one would like to magic-wand Britney Spears out of earshot and brain space it’s just not possible – a fact aptly brought to our attention in the second episode of Glee, season 2, entitled Britney/Brittany. Poor Mr Schu uses Michael Bolton and Christopher Cross to fight a losing battle against the Glee Club, which wields the mighty sword of Britney in retaliation. It is easy to mock the Glee Club’s choice of a-moral weapon but Kurt makes an excellent point: he and his sacrilegious consorts grew up with Britney. A plausible, albeit scary, argument.

There is no such thing as a simple ‘do you like Britney Spears?’ question and answer. The Britney question is loaded. First, one needs to consider whether Britney is pop culture provocateur or simple minded sex siren? Perhaps a bit of both? Anyway, the point is; where does the answer to the aforementioned fit on your ethics-o-metre? And the ensuing thought is; can there be such a thing as pop appreciation for a critically minded individual? I would hazard a tentative “Yes”. Pop has its place. Britney also has hers.

Supporting the pop music industry bears the connotations of supporting a mechanistic beast that controls the masses by pumping ideas of materialism, sex and lots of other bullshit into amoeba-esque listeners who seems to be under the impression that mouthing the words of a song written by someone else, and played by (drum roll please…) someone else (or a synth desk), requires talent. Sell a little sex, make a little money… who wouldn’t?

Sue Sylvester’s It’s a Britney Spears sex riot! rant, although funny within the show’s context is not really that funny in real life. And that’s satire as its best! Using humour to mask a serious point or observation. So Kurt grew up with Britney… imagine a five year old kid reciting:

I’m a sla-aaaa-ve for you. I cannot hold it; I cannot control it.
I’m a sla-aaaa-ve for you. I won’t deny it; I’m not trying to hide it.

It’s a hysteria-invoking imagining but also morally skew, so in actual fact not that funny – unless it’s someone else’s child of course. Perhaps ‘sex slave’ is not what Britney had in mind when someone else wrote the song for her. What does a five year old know anyway? Right?

So Britney runs around singing karaoke, popping out children and kissing weirdos, and critical observers wonder whether princess pop provocateur provokes intentionally? Speculation is wonderful. If Britney has stirred up the masses and forced her name into the mind of the world, then… more power to her. I can appreciate a strategist. Her status in the annals of pop culturedom is inked. I mean, even metal bands are covering Britney songs. On the other hand, maybe Britney just became famous too early, made some mistakes and happened to be caught on the proverbial camera whilst making them. I kind of feel sorry for the girl but at the same time I can’t help but point a finger. Intentionally or not, Brit incites agitation and dissention.

What Glee‘s Britney episode did make clear is that anyone can be Britney. In her dentist-chair fantasy, Glee’s Brittnay lives her dream to be Britney Spears; and she proves herself a worthy impersonator – her vocal skills are on par, her dancing as vivaciously erotic and she is H.O.T. Undoubtedly, the jiz was a-spraying.

Sorry Brit, you are not irreplaceable. Memorable, yes. But not irreplaceable.