Monday, March 10, 2008

Saving the World with Britney Spears

Britney Spears can teach us all a little something about ourselves. I am sure there are people that will deny this, but please, there's no denying it. Britney is you and you are Britney.

Until a few weeks ago, I considered myself a Britney casualist - I only casually cared about her. I held no animosity towards her, but passively ignored her. However, I'll admit I was bothered when Britney was all over the news on Jan. 4 when I was looking for television coverage on the Iowa caucuses and kept running into her. At the time, Britney was being rushed to a hospital. It bothered me that this was on CNN and MSNBC when I believed there was more important news developing inside and outside the United States. But maybe I was wrong; maybe Britney is important news. Bear with me for un minuto:

Perhaps American societies' fascination with the destruction of celebrities reflects something larger about our culture. We adore self-destructive men and women so much that tabloid and gossip magazines, which specialize in celebrity catastrophes, can be easily found in any supermarket, snuggled next to packs of gum, Readers Digests and TV Guides.

Looking beyond the silly headlines these 'zines' produce, I wonder what lies behind our fascination with stories of self-destruction. Why do people want to read about OJ Simpson's latest escapades, or Britney Spears' custody battle, or Keifer Sutherland's latest trouble with Johnny Law?

Perhaps it is because people enjoy watching other people suffer. Or perhaps it is that these stories externalize the reader's suffering.

No matter what the reason, one thing can be determined: we are all obsessed with destruction. The news is full of such stories. Global warming is destroying our planet; NAFTA (according to Democrats) is destroying parts of our American economy; immigrants (according to Republicans) are destroying America; gay marriage (according to many in both parties) is destroying the sanctity of heterosexual marriage. The list could go on and on.

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