Sunday, January 07, 2007

Stronger than Yesterday?

Now that Britney's k-shed K-Fed and he's wrecked any chance of reconciliation with his quintessentially Kev-tastic behavior ("F*** a wife, give me my kids b****", he scrawled on his (surely last ever) dressing room mirror)), we - and she - have officially entered that murky corner of the twilight zone known as the post-Britney era.

Britney Spears has now cycled through every stage of fame that we scientists of celebrity know to exist. She's been an ingenue, a brat packer who ran with boy bands, a supergirlfriend, a lesbian, a Kabbalist, a torch-bearer, political shorthand for several sins, a faux hip-hop artist, a sower of wild oats, a slandered vixtem, an unearthly power-wielder, a sabbatical-taker, a working class heroine, a liberated tramp, and that's just UNTIL she met Kevin.

I'm not even counting "virgin" as one of these overlapping versions of Britney's fame - I'm just talking about phases we KNOW and can be sure we WITNESSED. As members of Britney's audience - willing or not - we actually invented, demanded, and retouched many of these incarnations from dentists' offices and airport lounges around the world. Britney in fact went through several of the above phases more than once, in case we missed her acting out a timeless Hollywood cliche - always with her own flair - the first time.

Now pinch yourself, cause Britney's star - and her legend in the making - are pretty much gone.

Her mythic legacy sputtered briefly after Kevin left the picture, and fate made him like that ex-boyfriend your cousin brought to two Thanksgivings in a row ten years ago, then disappeared from both of your lives forever. The Kevin era left two small boys behind, and two brief months in which Britney still had two familiar frameworks of fame to enact. First, she triumphed, striding through New York and cutting her hair. She freed herself of the dead weights of Kevin and what looked like fifteen pounds of heft and hair at once. The time was ripe for creativity of self and song, but instead Brit hit a wall and that wall was named Vegas.

Paris could fly out of Nevada reputation unchanged, but not the more impressionable and stress-addled Britney. We've all seen the pictures - both below and above the party dress - and have thrown up our hands in bafflement and a total lack of comparison. Indeed, Britney's unspectacular and utterly ordinary downturn is an historically unprecedented phase in the long pageant of fame. Oh sure, there have been public breakdowns before, but never quite like Britney's long road home from her star. With her panties off and her blinders on, Britney has exited the stratosphere of recognizable fame. She hasn't broken down, but she's become one of us, as unscandalous and unglamorous and middle-class and knowable, and we have absolutely no idea what to do with her anymore.

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