11/19/2003 Add a comment

Britney Spears has been everywhere in the last two months--the covers of Esquire and Rolling Stone (famously bottomless and topless, respectively), all over MTV (where she's in the zone and out all night, kissing Madonna, and making the video), launching the NFL season, hanging out for surreal photo opportunities with Jessica Lynch and Shoshanna Johnson, crying with Diane Sawyer, and, occasionally, singing. The album almost seems incidental to the juggernaut of press that Britney gets just for existing (press for which Hilary Duff would surely sell her soul.) Britney's often compared to Madonna. But where Madonna was famous for constantly reinventing herself, Britney doesn't seem to be able to invent herself at all. She constantly declares that she's not the Lolita, the sex princess, the Southern good girl, any of the labels people try to put on her--she's just doing her thing, dancing and performing and making people happy! And as a result, there's something alarming about the Britney phenomenon. Strawberry Saroyan tried to figure this out back in 2000, when Britney had--oops!--just done it again, and when we worried about her inflating breasts instead of her alleged coke habit. At the time, I thought she was insane. Now, I think she might be on to something. Britney's public persona allows us to project any of our own issues on to her--so the media can use her as a Lolita gone wrong, the sign of emerging female sexuality, a threat to American values, whatever. The article also reminds us that while the press has gone crazy with Britney's' newly sexual image, her new sexual assertiveness, the fact that she's almost-but-not-quite a woman, people have been saying the same things for at least the last three years. Gretchen