What did they do to her face?
Hey, ever heard of a shopping and style periodical from New York called Lucky? Yeah, me neither, or at least I hadn't until the other day when the horrible image above popped up in my Twitter feed and seared itself onto my retinas forever. Prior to the hurricane coming along and distracting everybody, it looked like the staff at Lucky might end up engulfed by a shit-storm all of their own making, after they stole about three inches of Britney Spears' face and put a picture of it on the cover of their magazine.
Yes, that really is Britney Spears, rocking a brand new hairline down where her T-zone used to be. If I'm honest, I don’t know why Britney fans decided to get riled up over these specific pictures of Britney looking about as photoshopped as she has on the cover of any magazine in the last six years, but I like where they’re going with it. This is because, along with pretty much everyone born between 1985 and 1995, I am a complete Britney maniac.
I remember obsessing over the white polo neck T-shirt crop top she wore in the "Sometimes" video, watching "Oops, I Did It Again" bloopers on repeat and completely losing my shit when Sabrina popped up as a diner waitress in "(You Drive Me) Crazy". The first Britney song I ever heard was her cover of "The Beat Goes On", which I remember listening to, transfixed, on the lowest volume setting of a handheld radio after my parents had put me to bed. All this nostalgia is going somewhere I promise, but what I’m trying to get at before I snap back into bullshit-calling mode, is that my life is different because of Britney Spears.
Sure, that’s a total cliché, but it’s true. As far as I’m concerned, she’s still the only role model I’d give half a pedicure's worth of time to. Which is like, seven minutes when your toenails resemble delicate petals, like mine do.
The idea of people having role models at all is weird. As a kid, I don’t remember looking up to people older than me. I just remember wanting desperately to be Harriet the Spy. There’s a lot to be said for positive body image and ambition in the media, but face it: Zoey 101 had a baby and Hannah Montana smoked a bong, and it didn’t change shit. Harriet could have done pretty much anything – gone dogging, become an internet troll and bullied her friends to suicide – and I wouldn’t have cared, as long as I still got to use a pocket mirror to see around corners.
So Britney doesn’t need to be a role-model. I’m not idolising her because I feel the desperate need to look up to something magnificent. I just kind of think that everything about Britney – from her 2012 bootcut jeans (where do you even buy those any more?) – all the way up to her Russian weave, represents a dogged refusal on her part to dissolve into that weird, post-startlet premature celebrity menopause that people like her are supposed to dissolve into. That graceful, sexless zone of juice cleanses, parenting, charity work and Fashion Week frow-ing. Which is inspirational, even if it does come from a place of insanity.
As much as her fans might be rallying behind her at the moment, it’s pretty clear that Britney is beyond salvation; never fully slipping under the "Radar" (HA), but equally unable to play along whispering beauty secrets over kale smoothies with the women’s glossies. She skips between identities like a shape-shifter, an All-American mom in one magazine, a doll-faced 30-year-old superstar in the next. I'm almost certain that she can’t be reduced to one character, because her personality is simply a Frankenstein creation of all the characters she’s been told to adopt.
But can’t we all totally identify with that? Who doesn’t wake up one morning feeling sexified, and the next like two chicken drumsticks held together with ham paste? It’s really refreshing to have an actual connection with somebody who’s done everything you can possibly do in order to look "perfect", but still manages to have slutty hair. Well, it is for me, anyway.
It’s obvious from Lucky's drunken airbrushing attempts that Britney is at the centre of a cultural beauty war. Sorry if that sounds way over-dramatic, but Britney is kind of my thing, OK? It hurts me to see her manipulated into media stereotypes that her character inherently rejects. So when glorified fashion catalogues start blurring her face and re-touching her hairline and slimming her legs out and not directly quoting her because she’s starting to sound like Michael Jackson, it makes me sad.
The worst thing about the whole ordeal is the relish they seem to take in shutting her up. Magazines are obsessed with the premise of featuring the first real Britney comeback (OMG, Britney’s back, she’s had her hymen restored, and she’s hotter than evahhhh), they’re also completely pre-occupied with moulding her into something, anything, that doesn’t reveal the "Toxic" Britney bubbling just beneath the surface. Amazingly, they always manage to draw it out 100x stronger.
I guess what I’m trying to say is that Britney is suffering at the hands of an industry simultaneously fascinated and repulsed by her inability to become a beauty icon, on top of the cultural icon she already is. Blame it on the consumer culture rejecting a prominent female figure who doesn’t drive beauty sales, or call that out as ridiculous because her whole career has been a glorified commercial venture. Whatever. The facts are clear: Britney is totally fucked up, and so are you. And thank god for that.
Follow Bertie on Twitter: @bertiebrandes
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