The Handling of Britney Spears

Liz Day in The New York Times:

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Like many women in their 30s, I feel a certain nostalgic connection to Britney Spears. In high school, I remember watching her dizzying rise as America’s golden girl. Then came her public struggles and searing battering by the paparazzi and tabloids while I was in my early 20s. I have also felt a fascination with her unusual court-approved conservatorship, a legal arrangement, now 13 years old, that put others in charge of her physical and mental health and her finances. It appears to raise a contradiction: How can someone be seemingly able to function at a high level as a superstar performing sold-out shows in Las Vegas, while also being so unable to take care of herself and at risk that this layer of intense protection is needed?

…Were there really mainstream commercials centered on the premise of older men wanting to sleep with a young Ms. Spears? Or what about the “Primetime” interview in 2003 where Diane Sawyer played a clip of the wife of the governor of Maryland saying that she would shoot Ms. Spears if she could for the example she set for young girls? In 2006, Matt Lauer asked Ms. Spears to respond to criticism that she was a “redneck.” That same year, did the paparazzi actually take a graphic up-skirt photo of Ms. Spears a couple of months after she gave birth, and the public’s reaction was to largely laugh?

During the height of her public struggles in early 2008, a “Family Feud” episode featured contestants gleefully shouting out answers to “something Britney Spears has lost in the past year” with “her husband,” “her hair” and “her mind!” (Other approved answers included “her kids” and “her dignity.”)

More here.