01/15/2005: Thought for the Day:
From the start, ["singer" Britney] Spears' career was built on her ability to be authentically inauthentic. When the 17-year-old Spears first showed up on MTV in 1999--a pig-tailed, kilt-wearing kitten who purred, "Hit me, baby, one more time"--it seemed unlikely she'd wind up as the most scrutinized pop star of her era. Critics never regarded her as much more than a singer of middling talent. And she's hardly a beauty for the ages—she's pretty in the way the best-looking girl at your high school was (ask her first husband, Jason Alexander).
But, unlike, say, Ashlee Simpson, whose Saturday Night Live meltdown was a mere gaffe, Spears has elevated inauthenticity to a Warholian level. She's never had to take responsibility for her sexy persona because she refuses to acknowledge she has a persona, sexy or otherwise. Consider the evidence: "[T]he record label wanted me to do certain kinds of songs, and I was like, 'Look, if you want me to be some kind of sex thing, that's not me.' " This is Spears, quoted in Esquire, alongside photos of her naked, save for white panties and strings of pearls that magically conceal (with the apparent aid of an airbrush) her nipples and little else. "I'm not gonna come out on this record and show my crotch or anything. That's not me. I would never do anything like that." This from an issue of Rolling Stone, in which Spears appeared topless on the cover, humping a wall. "I don't want to be part of someone's Lolita thing. It kind of freaks me out." This in response to questions about her first Rolling Stone photo shoot, in 1999, in which the 17-year-old Britney stood in a bedroom in short-shorts and a push-up bra, surrounded by baby dolls.
--Adam Sternbergh [slate.msn.com]
Len on 01.15.05 @ 12:07 PM CST