Opinion: Britney is the latest victim of the industry machine
In a hearing in Los Angeles Superior Court on Wednesday, Britney Spears asked the judge to be released from literal control of her father, through a guardianship that has dictated his life for 13 years.
Within her anguished remarks about her personal situation, there were many larger questions – about the intersection of gender and empowerment, the lingering stigma around mental health issues, how to tackle family dynamics. toxic, possible drug addiction and pressures from the entertainment industry. and the media often feature young artists, especially women.
For a whole host of reasons, Spears appears to have been caught in the middle of a very imperfect storm.
A long history of dominated women
She is far from the first female star to have seen her career and her life take its toll – in situations that have often taken place in the shadow of toxic parents and managers. You can draw a line, for example, between Judy Garland and Britney Spears. Garland was pushed through life as a child star by her mother and bulldozed by movie studio executives, whom Garland herself accused of squeezing drugs like amphetamines on her as she was just a child. She died of a barbiturate overdose at age 47 after struggling with alcoholism, drug addiction and mental health issues.
Or think of Amy Winehouse – who was born two years after Spears in 1983. Winehouse struggled very publicly with drug addiction before she died of alcohol poisoning at the age of 27 in 2011. Winehouse’s father, Mitch, was been described in a documentary about her as one of them. of the main catalysts of her daughter’s addictions, with her ex-husband, Blake Fielder-Civil. As Winehouse’s life imploded, paparazzi and the entertainment press surrounded the singer, eager to pounce on the darkest revelations and document the lowest points in her life – just as they did to Britney Spears in the midst of her own very public sanity. crisis. For Winehouse, just like for Spears, there was a voracious audience eager to inhale all the gory details 24/7.
A generational divide?
In her remarks in court on Wednesday, Spears herself appeared to blame a generational divide, saying she just couldn’t rebel like she thinks young artists can. Spears verified the name of Miley Cyrus, now 28, (someone who has audibly supported the #FreeBritney movement), claiming that no punishment ever pleased Cyrus even though “she smoke on stage seals at VMAs – nothing is ever done to this generation for doing bad things, ”Spears said.
Spears, 39, is right in some ways. She has pop peers her age and younger who, especially since the 2010s, have worked hard to find their way, especially female artists who have been successful in claiming or reclaiming their independence. Beyoncé (who is barely three months older than Britney) has stepped out of her father’s shadow and taken the reins of her own career and brand. Taylor Swift, 31, who shared a successful songwriter and producer with Spears in Max Martin, fought to regain financial and artistic control of her catalog.
Maybe it’s not so much of a generational divide, though, and something more about when and where they became stars. When she was about 10 years old, in 1992, Spears began her professional career by appearing on The Mickey Mouse Club, alongside her future boyfriend Justin Timberlake and her star colleague Christina Aguilera.
TRL, teenage celebrity and the 1990s
Spears, Aguilera and Timberlake – the latter part of mega-star group ‘N Sync – were all soon signed with labels that were part of then major label group BMG, which was eventually swallowed up by Sony Music Entertainment.
At the time, barely out of college, I was working at BMG myself. Every now and then my co-workers and I would see Spears, ‘N Sync and other brilliant pop groups like’ N Sync’s big rivals, Backstreet Boys, at BMG’s offices on Broadway and West 45th Street, in the middle of middle of Times Square in New York.
There was a pretty worn out path: these scintillating performers would walk into record label offices for a quick tour, then appear a bit later on MTV’s afternoon live show, TRL, in a studio was directly across from BMG’s Times Square canyon. (Every day of the week our work was interrupted by hordes of teenagers standing in the street outside the TRL window – you could hear their screams of excitement erupting about every 30 seconds or so, even up to 20 or 30 floors.) In today’s fractured landscape, it’s hard to imagine the hegemony of music pop who TRL and the majors detained – but that was, as they say, another era.
Spears was at the epicenter of this pop culture monolith that dominated the 1990s, as were ‘N Sync and Backstreet Boys. The bands came from a very special industry located in Orlando, Florida, where ambitious and talented teens auditioned for boy and girl groups – a situation not unlike the K-pop machine of today. ‘hui.
Backstreet Boys and ‘N Sync were both founded by a manager named Lou Pearlman. (Eventually, almost every artist or band who ever worked with Pearlman won a lawsuit against him or settled out of court for cheating on them. Pearlman died in 2016 in prison, serving a 25-year sentence. for half – a billion dollar Ponzi scheme he had set up.) At least for a little while in the ’90s, and at least for some artists, being duped by managers and impresarios was the price of fame.
As a teenage Spears struggled to be in the limelight, Pearlman also tried to sign her. Though she eventually slipped out of reach, Spears now says she fell into the hands of another Svengali-like figure: her own father, Jamie Spears.
Britney Spears opens up
According to Britney Spears, the legal guardianship he heads not only denied him the compensation he was owed, but also took away some of his basic rights, including the right to his own bodily autonomy, the right to have more. children, the right to determine it. her own life choices (good or bad) and the ability to keep more of the money she earns, instead of paying large sums to her father, lawyers and other parts of the community. guardianship. (According to The New York Times, Jamie Spears earns a salary of approximately $ 192,000 per year to lead the Guardianship. On the other hand, the Time Said, Spears was given a weekly budget of $ 2,000 while doing a highly successful four-year residency in Las Vegas that reportedly grossed nearly $ 138 million.)
After years of publicly claiming that things were going well, Spears now categorically calls his situation “abusive.” She also said she had previously tried to make her voice heard in court, but her protests had fallen on deaf ears.
By Wednesday, however, Spears had gathered some strengths behind it: growing pressure from #FreeBritney, the spotlight of media attention that has grown more sympathetic in recent years, and an audience that these days seems less willing to shoot Spears. – and other women to music – in a punchline or just to stand up and consume tragedies as they unfold.
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