UNTIL around two weeks ago myself and Britney Spears were blissfully unaware of each other. But now, she is blissfully unaware of me.
Because, since then, I have read two very long feature articles on the subject of Britney Spears written by (it seems to me) middle-aged male feature writers, one in the Guardian and one in Time magazine.
Not a man to keep up with the popular impulse, it appears that Britney Spears has departed the orbit of this week’s blonde pop phenomenon and entered the orbit of Britney Spears – Cultural Phenomenon. This gives approaching-middle-age feature writers and columnists a licence to become involved.
I don’t know why I started reading the piece in the Guardian as it was obviously aimed at those with a working knowledge of the subject. I could have, I suppose, been attracted by those photos of a rather stunning looking young woman wearing very few clothes. Not to mention the one with her stuck into that other legend from the fusion pop music and sex – Madonna.
As it turns out it is those photos that seem to mark Britney’s current notoriety, not because she’s a brazen hussy but because she maintains that pictures of her feeling herself up have nothing to do with sex.
She’s had a few other claims to notoriety. She apparently claimed she was a virgin. This won some brownie points in white born-again middle-America even if it lacked credibility amongst the worldly-wise music journos.
Then the “she’s keeping it” story gave way to a “she’s lost it” story. To a chap by the name of Justin Timberlake, it seems. This is retold like I’m supposed to know who this Justin Timberlake is. I don’t. Much. (I seem to have a vague recollection that he’s the guy who sings like his willy is permanently caught in his zip.)
Anyway, Britney’s selling herself using sex and furiously denying it. The tone of the two articles were both mocking and intrigued. There were the usual issues raised – the effect of Britney’s sexualisation on her young female fan base…the commoditisation of sex…basic good taste…blah di blah di blah.
But I got a different impression and it’s a bit on the cynical side. It seemed to me that Britney was being set up as an object of amusement for the consumers of two publications not known for their teeny-bop readership.
It couldn’t be that approaching-middle-age readers and approaching-middle-age writers are getting their kicks at the same time as slyly enjoying what Britney is selling?
And the five page feature piece has only one page of writing with, only naturally, four pages of pictures illustrating the ‘Britney and sex’ theme?
And if it wasn’t for the fact that these august publications are meant to be intellectually stimulating, you could nearly dispense with the page of text? (Less of the intellect and more of the stimulation).
Approaching-middle-age writing about young women and sex?
Isn’t that disgusting?