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Why Do We Care so Much About Britney Spears' Story?

From Audio: Britney Spears' Conservatorship: What We Know, And What's Next

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Pop Culture Happy Hour
Duration: 07:55
Pop Culture Happy Hour zooms out and asks a larger questions about Britney Spears’ conservatorship. That is, why do we care so much about her story? There’s a lot of reassessment in the culture occurring as we as consumers, writers, fans, etc. reflect on how we contributed to how Britney was treated
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Pop Culture Happy Hour zooms out and asks a larger questions about Britney Spears’ conservatorship. That is, why do we care so much about her story? There’s a lot of reassessment in the culture occurring as we as consumers, writers, fans, etc. reflect on how we contributed to how Britney was treated
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much about this story, Why is this such a big story, it's not just that Britney Spears is a big pop star that it kind of reaches beyond that. And I think for me, and, you know, one thing that I wanted to touch on here is I watched that framing Britney Spears documentary that came out earlier this year, that's on hulu Andrew alluded to it. And one of the big things that really jumped out of that film was watching the pop cultural discussions around Britney Spears at the time, watching talk show monologues about her watching the way she was talked about in the culture in some kind of truly horrifying ways. You know, I was writing about pop music, I can't pretend that I was innocent of it either. I think there seems to be a lot of reassessment as a culture of how she was treated and how we as consumers, as writers, as fans, as commentators, was I complicit in the way that Britney Spears was treated, and I think that kind of soul searching is really interesting right now totally. I mean I can't help but think about how her struggles became fodder for the machine, right? There was a lot of either kind of voyeuristic, oh look at her, shaving her head or look at her bashing a paparazzi's car with an umbrella. But there was always, to me an element of it was just fodder for how a lot of women in the entertainment industry who have been treated for a long time and I really think there's a discussion here to be had about agency and gender. I mean a lot of the social media comments I've seen after her testimony were okay, there are many male stars who have had very public mental health problems, public substance abuse struggles, you know, people said how is this different from Kanye, how is this different from robert Downey Jr how is this different from charlie Sheen? They were never placed in conservatorships, You know, this is a woman who, as you said at the very top. She's released four albums, I think two of them went platinum, She was a judge on the X Factor. She did a four year Las Vegas residency that generated something like $138 million. Generally conservative ships are reserved for people who cannot look after their own best interest day to day. And she frankly just does not fit that profile at all. And there's also this whole ecosystem of people who seem to have been profiting from this arrangement and I'm not just talking even her immediate circle, they're sort of like Galaxies of people at the law firms and security companies and things like that, who seem to have profited very well for a very long time now. And I think that's part of people's fascination to. I was just curious like as somebody who wasn't in the game right? In the media game during this all came out and who I guess is just absolutely in the media game now. I feel like we treat the like pop stars as consumption items a little bit differently now. Right? And, and like maybe that comes in key with like the pop tim is um swing right? That like people like the Beyonce and taylor swift and Olivia Rodriguez of the world deserve to be taken seriously and critically as artists, which I don't think was a shake given to the Christina Aguilera's and brady speeches of the world at least back in my day. You know what I mean? And I wonder if you guys Think it's, that's changed. Like if 18 pop star today had let's say, like, had an issue, had a mental issue. Like, would we treat them the same way? Like, the cynical part of me still says like, yeah, we probably would still eat them up. I think there has been a massive shift. You mentioned the pop dimmest revolution and kind of the way that pop stars began to be viewed differently, probably starting about 20 years ago where I think a lot of writers, I can only speak from my own experience as a writer. Like I remember, I used to think of Britney Spears as the machine, not as the product of the machine, not as somebody who was exploited by the machine, but as the machine herself, which is an incredibly un empathetic way to view what her life must have been like. But I think there was a process that took place somewhat with the rise of social media somewhat with there were a few pop songs that really kind of seemed to trigger a difference in the way a lot of critics thought about pop music, interestingly one of those pop songs was toxic by Britney speakers, where all of a sudden people talked about pop music in a little bit different way. And I think that signal a little bit of a shift in the way we think about pop stars and where people started to think of pop stars more as people and people who are going through things instead of thinking of them as machines. And I think in a weird way she kind of helped usher in a more empathetic and human view of what pop stars are going through that has made it a little bit more possible for pop stars to become hugely famous and be treated fairly and live Happy lives Well, it's totally unclear right whether or not we see unvarnished truths on like star social media, right? Because that's all mediated to write. Like as much as it's the veneer of immediacy, I mean maybe I'm cynic, but that's kind of how I think about it because these things are all managed to and planned and lots of there's a machine there too, but she really is kind of in this interesting cuss place, right? Because as you said, like around the time of toxic it felt like there was a shift and there are also stars who were her very near peers like Beyonce, who have a totally different relationship to the public. I mean they were born the same year and I can't help but think of them as almost belonging to two different eras in terms of how they relate to their public, and I think there are also unique circumstances around every rise to pop stardom, right? Every person's ecosystem is different and every person's family is different. I interviewed Billy Eilish at ACL in 2019 and talked to her parents backstage and it was just very clear that she had a very different kind of team around her than we're talking about when we talk about Britney Spears and Britney Spears got dealt a really rough hand in so many ways, including the era in which she came up. I mean, I'm dating myself here, but I've written about this that I worked for her record label group around the same time she was coming up and there was a super paternalistic culture there, and I don't mean just because she was a glittering young woman. I mean, like even the boy bands who she was labelled mites with, you know, in a lot of cases, had very unscrupulous management or who turned out to be afterwards and kind of being taken advantage of was part of the game, and that was terrible. But there was sort of, in the industry, I think there was kind of a winking or not, that that was just the way things were. And, you know, obviously Britney Spears seems to have had very particular family challenges too. But like, I think she was very much a product of that culture and that time of place that you couldn't necessarily rely on management to be looking after your best interests and, you know, who's to say whether or not the label was looking after those people's best interests. But yeah, to your point, like, it feels like a very un perfect storm of circumstances around Britney in particular, and it seems like she's almost trapped in Amber, that those circumstances have held sway for a lot, lot of her lifetime. Well, thanks so much to both of you guys for being here. Obviously there's a hearing today that's going to reveal more. I appreciate all the hard work you guys have done reporting this story as it unfolded. So, Anastasia and Andrew thanks to.
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