When’s the last time you thought about Britney Spears? Was it when she posted something weird on her Instagram? Or was it when one of her hits came up on the playlist you were listening to? Reignited by a new documentary and developments in her conservatorship situation, the world is thinking about her again. This time, it’s thinking about why she is the way that she is. Specifically, the media is having it out about what role it played in that—that the media failed her. “It shouldn’t have taken ten years to realize the discourse about her had been a hurtful, unhealthy constant,” Craig Jenkins wrote for Vulture. “Before social media restructured discourse, celebrities kept up a carefully constructed façade, and gossip mags poked holes in these narratives with tea and unflattering candids. This fed into a cycle of dehumanization. They were joke fodder for us. We reduced Britney and so many others to punchlines in moments where they seemed to be genuinely unwell, and it should sting when we look back over the era. We failed them. Insatiable thirst for Britney drama only resulted in even more unnecessary scandals. If the tale of the sheltered star told in ‘Lucky’ was fiction, it was a prophetic one. Fame became a trap. Demands were deeply conflicting. When Britney wore tight clothing, it was too revealing. When she became a mother, her parenting skills were called into question. When she took pop music and culture by storm, she was dismissed as a cookie-cutter factory product with a fast-approaching shelf life. When she took time off, paparazzi gave chase. When she was coy, she was called an airhead; when she spoke out, she drew criticism. It’s a wonder that she held it together as long as she did in this climate. There was no peace for her in it, no happy medium she could find to appease us.”
. . . Their podcast did something they never intended it to do—start the #FreeBritney movement: “The comedy of the podcast, we thought, would derive from us taking something so mundane incredibly seriously. So we really intended it to be, maybe not quite satire, but a comedic kind of take, because we thought, ‘How ridiculous to do a deep dive on someone’s Instagram feed.’ And I think we didn’t know it yet, but there was a certain je ne sais quoi in those posts that drew us in. We didn’t know what we were looking at yet, but something was off. And I think that is sort of what compelled us to examine it so closely.” (Los Angeles Times)
. . . Whether it’s Britney, Alicia Silverstone, Megan Fox or Margot Robbie, the “history of male journalists fetishizing their famous female subjects” is pretty clear when you re-read profiles of them from the past. (While we dug that one out of the archives, here’s an updated collection of examples posted to Twitter Feb. 7.)
In other journalism
– One of Spotify’s most popular podcasts, “Reply All,” has been enveloped in scandal—not unlike the subject of its most recent miniseries, Bon Appetit. Both its founding co-host and senior-most reporter were taken off of the show last week after being accused of “contributing to a toxic dynamic” at Gimlet Media. (Vulture)
– WaPo’s Magaret Sullivan: “Being bought by Alden is the worst possible fate for the newspapers and the communities involved.” The Chicago Tribune (and Chicago) might be its next victim.