Britney - Yesterday and Today
I knew Britney Spears nine years ago while doing live chats on AOL. She was 17, unsophisticated, naive, not terribly bright. But a sweet child. With real talent. Charisma. Youthful humility. Not so blind ambition.
She was already a Teen Queen and was just beginning to catch the attention of main stream audiences and The Media. She had a boyfriend, a new car, a hit record, a loving family, strong faith and a very promising future.
Britney realized much of her promise too fast and with too little support from her parents. Money and fame and real life hit her like a runaway train. Yet her parents let it drag her along and down.
She became a gigantic star before she had a chance to become a grown woman. And so of course she became a media punching bag, a designated bimbo whose every action is chronicled and maligned around the world.
Yes, she's behaved badly. Celebrities have behaved badly for generations, both publicly and in private. Many of them experienced, educated, urban adults. But Britney hasn't had those advantages. And almost nothing is private any more.
In Britney's case, she keeps bumping into not only paparazzi but her own young, worse self. The signs--filled with irony--were all there from the beginning.
Look at these sad, prophetic tidbits from one of those early AOL chats:
Question: Are you recognized on the street?
Britney Spears: It's not overwhelming. It's just enough to where it's flattering. I've been with people where it's like they can't go anywhere. It's ridiculous. It's sad.
Question: Do you have any idols?
Britney Spears: Yeah, I love Whitney Houston, she's incredible. I totally admire her.
Question: Do you like all the attention of being a hot singer?
Britney Spears: I mean sometimes it's fun, but sometimes it can be a little overwhelming and you don't have peace or time to yourself, but sometimes it is really flattering.
Question: What do find most rewarding about performing?
Britney Spears: Probably just the crowd's reaction is the best feeling when you're up there. Even the songs that aren't out yet, they're still screaming, and that's the best feeling in the world because they know your music. And they're screaming your name! (c) 1999, Entertainment Asylum & America Online.
I guess not so much in the right way any more, Britney.
Remember the You-Tube video made by a distraught fan defending Britney with tearful, over-the-top intensity? Most of us made fun of what we saw as misplaced teenaged celebrity-worship and dramatic angst.
It turns out he was right.
And it makes you wonder about Britney's parents -- what took them so long? Why weren't they the first to defend her, even half as passionately?
Her father's on the case now -- better late than never. I hope he acts like a parent and gets her the help she needs.
It would be a shame to see Britney turn into Whitney. And give away all her tomorrows.