Britney Spears' latest performance/farce at the VMAs in Las Vegas warrants some serious scrutiny: and not about how bad the lip-syncing was. There's something profoundly tragic going on here that we've all become too glib and apathetic about.
Spears is an easy mark. Her talent level is hardly the stuff of which immortality is made: She does (or used to do) some things "well" by today's mass-consumption standards, but that just makes her the brightest star in the "pop tarts" genre. None of us owe a debt to the music (or movie) industry for foisting this conveyor belt of crap on us: and I'm including young music fans here too. The lowest-common-denominator law of entertainment economics has gotten so low that Chris Rock's bit about "get lower" could add another chapter and verse dedicated to it. But, as much as stars like Spears and her ilk are completely dismissible as cultural contributors, they are clearly victims of an industry that has gone totally batshit since the 1970s.
Britney's performance at the VMAs was so lackluster, and so close on the heels of much erratic behavior on her part, that there was just something very wrong about it in a moral sense. If she were an NBA star, she wouldn't have been put on the court. But the "suits" who profit from everything she does obviously find it fit and proper to roll her out and burn her down. They figure, I would assume, that her expiration date is coming up anyway and any crossover to, say, the Celine Dion market, is, well, not likely.
One can only imagine the things that are whispered in her ear by the yes-sayers inside the Britney bubble. Or guess at what kinds of artificial fuels are possibly used to wind her up for one more gig. But at the VMAs it was all there for us to see: Britney Spears is a flame-out and if anyone with any say gave two squirts of cat's piss about her, she'd be on R&R in New Hampshire with no return date set.
But the best we could do as a society was let a comedic cripple like Sarah Silverman crack a few piss-poor, cruel and irresponsible jokes about Spears. (Which we may not have all have laughed at, but collectively, kinda let slide.) Or, at best, focus critically on her performance rather than look at the human perspective (and social perspective) in any meaningful way.
The media has to take a torpedo hit for this. There's no secret or science about the agglomeration of the Fourth Estate or the fact that it's become a thinly veiled tentacle of the entertainment industry. (Disney -- the former Mouseketeer's first boss -- owns major newspapers and ABC TV, after all.) In fact, the news media ARE entertainment now. Good luck getting solid information out of a TV network. But that's another essay for another time and place.
There's nothing new about star exploitation, of course. It goes way back. But we've entered a new age of avarice, and the question that does need addressing is this: When do we get to the point where we acknowledge that this parasitic phenom has come to a head? When do we turn a 20-20 eye and demand that something be done about it?
Vegas may prove to be one of the final nails in the coffin of Britney Spears' career. One only hopes that it doesn't also lead to something far more final for her.