February 23, 2007

Chaotic: Not Just a Catchphrase

I spent the morning reading websites, email, Yahoo, basically anything my right forefinger deemed interesting, hoping I could find something to post about. After lunch I had totally given up and was reading some Cracked Top Tens, and resigned myself to a slovenly, postless day…until I saw Craig Ferguson do this bit about Britney—or rather, not about Britney.

This may be old news to you, but I feel the need to say how glad I am that somebody isn’t responding to this in a typical fashion. One, because it is so inherently mockable that it seems orchestrated (more on that in a minute), and two, because it’s just not funny anymore. Celebrities buy things, celebrities have babies, celebrities go crazy; non-celebrities do those things everyday, too—just on a smaller budget and in a less sparkly way. Since celebrity actions are amplified by their recognizeability and mountains of cash, we treat them as spectacles—we gossip shamelessly, offer our opinions and yes, laugh at them. Because they’re not real people.

I’m not assigning blame, because I do it everyday, and because how is naming your child Pilot Inspector not 1) a crime and 2) begging with its pants around its ankles to be made fun of? Ditto Madonna’s Hebrew name, ditto Tom Cruise's anything, because our non-public-record speculations are harmless. The Britney deal: not so much. There’s a different element to the story, a human element, the tragic bit about fame where no one tells you when to stop. I’m glad someone saw this thing as it was, and didn’t just whip off a one-liner about it—which would have been way easier (see yesterday’s Anna Nicole comment), and taken a fraction of the twelve-plus minute monologue Ferguson delivered extempore last Monday night.

I need to interject a long tangent here: I love the honesty, the humor, when people talk about addiction. One of the best books I read so far this year was Dry, because much like Ferguson’s monologue, it’s equal parts laughter and sobbing. I identified with the cycle of addiction (my particular frame of reference is food addiction) so much so that every time the narrator drank, I drank, I felt the guilt, I was ashamed, I felt hopeless, I wanted to shake myself and tell me to act right, all while itching to go into the kitchen and eat. There was despair in every chapter, and somehow the author and I still laughed at it—at first out of denial, then out of disbelief, then recognition, then the ridiculousness of the healing process. At one point in the book, Augusten recounts the day he came home from rehab. I don’t know if it was the situation or the writing, but I cried through the whole thing; how do you go home, to a house you haven’t been in for a month, because you couldn’t trust yourself to be alone? Admittedly, my insights into rehab are based on this book and my repeated, inexplicable viewings of 28 Days, so perhaps there are facilities that don’t let you leave alone, who make sure you have a sponsor who can take you to your empty house, to help you plan the life you lead now, because if it’s you and a handful of pamphlets against the world… well, handing someone a Shape magazine is a lot different than running alongside them. I can understand not wanting to leave rehab; you let someone with admitted control problems back out into the world and there are just too many variables, too great a chance of failure. How can you learn to be responsible after a life time of doing exactly what you want?

Which brings me back to Britney. Obviously, she’s got some shit going down, or it’s all a publicity stunt to get her back on top. I sort of hope it’s the latter for her sake, but if she needs help, nobody should begrudge her that need or admission. My sister suffered from post-partum depression, and from what she tells me, this sort of behavior is pretty bang-on.

Now, I normally subscribe to the school of Celebrity So-What. So what if Britney shaved her head? It’s like item number one in the high-school rebellion handbook. Number two? Tattoos. So what of she got lips tattooed on her wrist? I think it’s genius; I want lips tattooed on the sides of my forefinger and thumb so I can annoy people by having my hand talk to them. But if she needed rehab and checked out after 24-hours, that is a problem. Money, in whatever amount, can’t cure crazy—not overnight, anyway—but it can buy you some top-notch therapy. It’s worth looking into, ideally before you start cutting yourself, because damn, girl, you’re somebody’s mother. Mothers can get tattoos. Mothers can shave their heads. Mothers can even use the f-word. But if a mother does all of the above as a cry for help and then bails on rehab, that is a problem—and the problem gets worse if nobody calls her on her shit.

I love that Ferguson refers to Britney as a ‘baby herself’ with actual concern, not judgment, that she’s not a fully-formed adult. She became a milllionare practically before puberty, had a person of questionable character for a mother / manager, and spent the majority of her life being a rock star. The only thing typical about her life was the getting married and having babies young, and she didn’t have the benefit of real life to ground her, to force her to grow up, during any of that—and certainly no one on the bus was going to bring up the fact that she should slow the hell down. And that’s the sad part; you’re rich, you’re famous, people love you while not giving a shit about you. She tortured us with “Lucky,” she knows the gig, and it’s tragic. I’m not saying people pulling down $25K a year need to stop and weep for the pop stars, because I hated that damn Kid Rock song as much as anyone, but I think it’s tragic that Britney doesn’t have someone to sit her down and say 'what do you need?' Everybody should have that.

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