All hail Britney Spears, the only good celebrity
In the midst of a crisis, only the Princess of Pop has proven herself to be worthy of our support. Don't @ us.
If we’ve learned one thing from coronavirus, it’s that most celebrities might actually be quite bad. From the questionable mass sing-a-longs to John Lennon’s “Imagine” to clapping for the health workers of India from the balcony of their multi-million-dollar homes -- the hollow actions of famous people in light of a global pandemic has been a unifying source of amusement for the rest of the world.
Of course, some celebrities have done good, donating money to organisations and fans who need it. Still, this altruism can be hard to swallow when those same people are lamenting being stuck inside their Calabasas mansions practicing social distancing. ICYMI guys, some people are out here sharing a single bathroom with eight people.
Similarly, it’s hard to feel engaged when stars are dredging up 10-year-old feuds and celebrity chefs are doing TikTok dance crazes with their daughters while also laying off 500 people who work for them. Never has the gap between the rest of the society and the lifestyles of the rich and famous been so apparent and jarring.
Nevertheless, one famous person has proven herself during these trying times. It’s confirmation of something that we’ve long suspected and have now had confirmed: the only good celebrity is Britney Spears.
When the impact of the pandemic became apparent in the Western world, it wasn’t initially clear that Britney emerge as our coronavirus champion. In an Instagram post, she joined in with the anodyne “stay positive” messaging so many celebrities favour during these periods of uncertainty. To help “men and children and women around the world”, the singer said that she would be posting yoga poses on her page to help inspire people to “stay healthy and sane”.
As the severity of the situation solidified (and Gal Gadot started messaging her contacts of A-listers asking them to sing that John Lennon song), Britney realised that, in reality, she needed to actually help people. She opened up her DMs on Instagram, telling her followers that if they were struggling financially that she would help them buy food or diapers for their children.
The biggest shift, however, occurred when Britney essentially came out as a socialist. Captioning a post “Communion goes beyond walls” with three red rose emojis, the 38-year-old singer shared some words by queer Chinese-Australian writer Mimi Zhu that seemed to endorse redistributing wealth and general strikes. Comrade Spears had arrived.
For her entire career, Britney Spears has been underestimated. It’s no wonder that after she shared the post, people on Twitter (mainly men, let’s be real) attempted to discredit her new political stance. When she later said in a now deleted post that she had broken Usain Bolt’s record for the fastest 100m run by a whole four seconds, these same people were the ones to discredit her (look, if she says she did it, then who are we to say she didn’t?).
Still, as Britney herself once said, “People can take everything away from you. But they can never take away your truth. But the question is: can you handle mine?” This statement is the foundation of who Britney Spears is, both as an artist and as a person. In the 22 years since she was propelled to fame in 1998 following the release of her era-defining debut single “…Baby One More Time”, the Princess of Pop has been subjected to more scrutiny, hand-wringing and criticism than practically any other famous person alive.
The impact of this has been well documented, and even last year she found herself in the headlines after the cracks began to appear in the legal restrictions that she has been placed under following her public breakdown in 2007. But despite the court dates, press and fan intrusion on her private life, and her artistic contribution to pop culture being low key overlooked, Britney has remained as sweet-natured and kind as she always was.
This has been exhibited throughout her career. Aside from that one time she called Justin Timberlake “pussified” after he came for her with “Cry Me A River”, Britney has largely avoided celebrity feuds, delivering subtle shade where needed, but never explicitly commenting or calling anyone out by name, even when people have dragged her name for likes and press. She has always kept in her lane, except when retaliation is needed, like that time she defended her security guard after he was racially abused, or, as we saw recently, when she called for a revolution.
Compared to some of her contemporaries, Britney is a lot more modest in her spending. For as long as she has been in the public eye, the singer has shopped in dollar stores and Target, and when it comes to fashion, she has never really been one to prioritise designers over high street brands. In fact, Britney is a thrifty queen, often recycling decade old looks and showing them off on her Instagram. Part of this could be down to the economic restrictions she’s under. The conservatorship that Britney has been subject to since 2007 means that her finances aren’t her own. The singer can’t easily access her alleged $59 million fortune, and is instead given an allowance by the conservators (a position previously held by her father). While her pocket money is likely to still be a substantial amount, Britney can no longer go out and spend frivolously.
This financial limitation, and the conservatorship in general, could be behind Spears’s advocation for the redistribution of wealth. Regardless of its machinations, the conservatorship has clearly gone from a means of protection to a model of exploitation (it was worryingly described by an ex-conservator as a “hybrid business model” at the beginning of 2019).
But the #FreeBritney movement aside, the public’s consumption of her personal struggles has provided the singer with something almost entirely unique in the world of celebrity: Britney Spears no longer has an image to protect. When your life has been lived so gruesomely in the public eye, you can’t engage in the sort of posturing that most celebrities partake in on social media. In other words, Britney has nothing to prove, and no one to impress. Her Instagram isn’t a space for image cultivation. Instead, while her TV appearances may be highly constructed, Britney’s account is an unfiltered look at the life of a true eccentric, providing an authentic access to one of the world’s most unknowable stars. More than any interview or People magazine cover, the singer’s account has become a place where Britney can unequivocally be herself. Part of that is the rejection of celebrities’ insistence that they’re just like us. Britney Spears knows that her life, while normal for her, isn’t relatable. Freed from these shackles, she can let her freak flag fly. She’s neither cool nor mysterious, and so instead she paints, says she ran 100m in five seconds, shares Yoga mom memes, Minions pictures, and does fun fashion shows.
For Britney, you get a sense that she’s created a sanctuary away from a world that consistently puts her down. It’s a place of almost unmitigated purity; a utopia for a woman whose life can, from the outside at least, seem so dystopian. Not that Britney would see it that way. In her 2008 documentary For the Record, she rejected the term victim. “See I don’t like that,” she said. “I’ve been placed in that category for some reason. And I hate that because I love to see people making the most of their situations and being positive. I’m a true believer in that. It’s all your perspective.”
When other celebrities preach positivity from their places of privilege, it can reek of empty platitudes. With Britney, thanks to her lived experience, such sentiments feel far more authentic. That’s not to say that other famous people don’t experience trauma or struggles, but there’s an unparalleled, almost blind sincerity to everything that she does.
At this time of uncertainty, difficulty and fear, celebrities are proving themselves as either our allies or our antagonists; the great divide between us and them is widening. Only one person seems able to traverse the bridge between the life of fame and the world of the less fortunate: an unproblematic, pure pop culture icon named Britney Spears. The only good celebrity.