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Britney Spears: Assessing the Fallout

This is the best responseI've read to the fiasco that was Britney Spear's performance on MTV's 2007 Video Music Awards. Though I watched her much heralded then quickly derided "comeback" performance, I refrained from writing anything about it because, a) there is enough opinion, disgust, ruefulness, and derisive glee being bandied about, I didn't want to add to the cauldron, and b) the VMA Awards only confirmed for me how undeniably irrelevant MTV is in quality cultural output.

But Salon's Rebecca Traister and her astute response provides the insight one needs to make sense of Spear's behavior and how we, as a nation, have responded. I had to refer you to it, and it's painful, in a way, to read her assessment. We are all culpable in the public flogging of a young woman who is clearly disturbed, lost, and without an anchor anywhere.

MTV's whole choreographed building up and then tearing down of Spears is such a pitiful, desperate attempt at relevance and ratings. Leading up to the performance, every celebrity interviewed on the red carpet by MTV "reporters" were either asked about or coached to mention Spear's performance. I'm imagining soulless MTV execs meeting in their Vegas hotel room that very night, popping champagne in celebration of their coup.

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The thing is, we all created Britney Spears, by supporting/acquiescing to every greased machination of our popular culture -- from the bells and whistles packaging of talentless pop stars to our appetite for celebrity destruction and tabloid gossip to our sexualization of young female celebrities who we admire only if they are rail thin or look like porn stars.

Britney is, of course, not blameless. But she is only carrying out her training: create only within the context of what people want, not within the context of one's own ideas and creative imagination. We need to expect more from our artists and cultural platforms.