Anatomy of a Breakdown: We, the Voyeurs

Curator's Note

As a celebrity pop icon spirals downward, how are we the viewers implicated in the inevitable crash? Brittney Spears, unlike her predecessor and self-proclaimed icon Madonna, has become a stage for contemporary societal projections about femininity, morality and motherhood. Whereas Madonna deliberately controlled her public image, Brittney seems molded by the media, forced to carry the judgments and perceptions of an increasingly neo-conservative media landscape. While Brittney might have once straddled the virgin-whore dichotomy, she now consistently falls victim to our desires to punish and condemn the slut, the bad mother and the reckless female. In fact, the judicial system seems to be caught up in these public persecutions of the bad-girl. As seen in her much ridiculed MTV Video Music Awards performance, Brittany has become the screen upon which we can attach our own fantasies of destroying the misbehaving woman. How might her narrative of failure enact our own social perceptions about the possibilities of independent womanhood?


While I'm sure the elements you're discussing here are present in the anti-Britney-ism, at the same time, I find her a slippery example of these processes in the abstract, since surely a source of the anti-Britney-ism also lies in some people's sickness of having such an artificial, corporate-constructed being shoved down their throat in so many media venues. Hence, now that she's spiralling out of control, I think a significant pleasure for many is the pleasure of seeing the hype garbled into feedback, and perhaps of the Hype Empress with no clothes. Or, rather than setting these two interpretations of the Britney anti-fandom up in contrast with each other, perhaps the latter allows some to cut loose with the misogynistic pleasures you note ... just as Martha Stewart got way more grief than Ken Lay?

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