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power and britney spears

October 31st, 2007     by Thea Lim     Comments

In my life as a pop culture deconstructor, one of the sacrifices I make involves getting up twenty minutes early every morning, just so that I can watch MTV’s entertainment news.

If you think that’s bad, one thing that makes this painful sacrifice particularly difficult is today’s ultimate in prefab bands, the Canadian band Hedley, who appear on MTV at least once every 3 minutes. From my expert viewpoint, Hedley’s punk/rebel/emo schtick is so fake - they just seem to be purveying the same old tired sexist, homophobic, classist, racist, ableist…values as their grandpas. But that critique really falls under “Thea’s Personal Rants” and I won’t subject you to it.

This morning while Hedley was being interviewed about their new album which drops today, they were asked if they were concerned about the fact that Britney Spears’ new album comes out today as well. Were they worried about the competition?

“Nah! She’s just trying to get her kids back!”, guitarist Dave Rosin said, “Give her some change or something, man,” And then drummer Chris Crippin proceeded to stick his belly out and do a “sexy” dance, in a clever impersonation of a so-called tubby Spears at the VMAs.

When Stacey May asked us last week if as feminists, we should be defending Spears, it occured to me that, while the way Spears has been treated is undoubtedly a prime example of verbal gendered violence - perpetrated by the media - at the same time she’s an incredibly powerful woman.

So why is Spears being labelled at all ends of the pop culture spectrum as utterly powerless? Hedley speaks of her as if she has the same amount of power and privelege as an underhoused or homeless single mother facing serious addiction issues. But they’re talking about a woman who is estimated to be worth $150 million. Hello?

Okay so clearly Hedley are not the be-all and end-all in hot or not, but even reputable sources (okay, “reputable” and “pop culture” are kinda an oxy-morons, but nevermind) are painting Spears as helpless and in need of hand-outs. goes so far as to say that Spears herself doesn’t even exist, and is entirely irrelevant to the musical career which has generated so much money for so many. The Rolling Stone review states that Spears is “…gonna crank the best pop booty jams until a social worker cuts off her supply of hits.”

Haha, jokes about women facing addictions, and economic and social barriers are so funny. These jokes make a mockery of the day-to-day experiences of some of the most powerless and systemically oppressed groups in our countries. That’s distressing enough in and of itself, but what’s really crazy-making is that we perceive a woman who has more power, influence and historical importance (to pop culture) than almost anyone making records today, to have about the same amount of power as a woman teetering on the edge of the poverty line.

Look, I’m not sayin’ that Spears hasn’t seriously damaged her credibility by wearing her mental anguish on the outside, and letting it be filmed and broadcast on every media outlet in town. I’m also not saying that Spears is some sort of musical genius - I know that she’s never written her own music. I’m just disturbed by the fact that a woman with as much as Spears is presented to have nothing, to be, as so eloquently puts it, our collective b**ch.

And I’m not disturbed about that on account of Spears. I’m disturbed about that on account of me, because if Spears, who has 5 gazillion times the amount of economic and social privilege than I will ever have, is seen by our society as being absolutely powerless and corner-stricken, then what am I?

Tags: in my opinion..., media savvy

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