Have we really learned from Britney?

Singer continues to be the poster child for toxic celebrity surveillance culture

Let’s leave Britney Spears alone. 

Britney Spears was the centre of yet another media circus in mid-January.

After being surrounded TMZ reporters, paparazzi, and fellow restaurant-goers, she reacted with understandable frustration, prompting another barrage of media attention. This continued attention proves we must reckon with our treatment of celebrities.

Spears has dealt with a lot of unwanted attention over the years. Growing up a child star, she faced the difficulties of the misogynistic media scrutinizing her every move. She remains the poster child for the pitfalls of celebrity culture.

After the event in January, headlines continued to call Spears “manic” and “incoherent,” when at the end of the day, she was justifiably angry, and the recording could have simply not picked up what she was saying.

This situation demonstrates how far we have to go when it comes to the treatment of celebrities. Even now, if you Google Spears’ name, there are headlines overanalyzing every single post she makes, still trying to paint her as “crazy.”

One piece of the puzzle that’s been missing from a lot of conversations about Spears has been whether her mental health is our business at all—whether her behaviour or posts should even be scrutinized in the first place.

Every day she—and others in similar positions—are harassed because they appear to be mentally ill. Our media culture pokes and prods at them until they act out, which only furthers the negative conceptions and stigmas society still has surrounding mental health.

This is another symptom of ableism on the internet and in the media, and misogyny amplifies it.

Mental illness is not a spectacle, nor is it something to gossip and speculate about. The way Spears might have ‘acted out’ in the past doesn’t justify her forced conservatorship or the judgement of the public.

Misogyny contributes to this issue, as it dubs women overly emotional and disrespects their opinions and feelings; so, Britney’s justifiable anger is dismissed.

On top of that, we live in a surveillance-heavy culture, where anyone can take a picture or video of you and post it without your consent.

Celebrities like Spears are more public victims of this culture because they’re well known. They sell their image or their voice, and we take that as permission to remove their ability to decide when they will be seen and what for.

With the advent of social media, this culture has expanded to all of us. Anyone can record you crying after a bad breakup or dancing idly in the grocery store and put it up on the internet for them and their friends to laugh at you.

What happened—and continues to happen—to Spears is one example of many issues intersecting with each other: ableism, because of the mental health issues the media assumes she has; misogyny, because the media has always been harsher to female celebrities; and overall, the grand lack of consent in our surveillance culture.

To truly learn from Spears, we must peel back the layers of our celebrity and social media culture and re-emphasize the importance of consent when recording and posting people.

Then, finally, we can leave Britney alone.


Britney Spears, Media

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