Britney Spears is a drug-addicted, washed-up former teenage star with two kids. Whenever an Us Weekly cover blares a headline about “Britney’s Drug-Crazed Drama,” the people reading it and judging her are forgetting that she has two kids at home who need a mother.

She’s divorcing the dumb-ass piece of trailer trash she married a few years back in a fit of early-20s superstar megalomania and short-sightedness. She shaved off all her hair to avoid a positive drug test and the risk of losing custody of her children. She’s a complete disaster.

I'm not denying anything about her situation. All I ask is: Can we finally leave it alone?

Has the situation gotten sad enough that we can move on with our lives and allow her to attempt to move on with hers?

More importantly, can we please shift the focus off of someone who wasn’t very talented in the first place, never deserved this much attention, and won’t possibly come out of this tailspin while that magnifying glass is peering over her? It doesn’t matter to me what we shift the focus to, but can we please look at and talk about something else?

Answer the following questions honestly: When listening to a Britney Spears song, were you ever impressed by what you were hearing? Did her voice ever do anything for you? Did her nasal, thin, severely limited vocal cords ever knock you out?

The answer, of course, is no. Had Spears come of age in another era, she wouldn’t have existed on this large of a scale. She was a product of MTV and the vapid generation it has spawned. Think about the first video that sky-rocketed Spears into everyone’s lives, the Jailbait Special known as “…Baby One More Time.” She was nubile, young and cute as a button, but wearing a whored-up Catholic schoolgirl outfit, complete with pigtails and knee-highs, sashaying around the halls of a high school like the bad girl everyone wanted to graduate with. The only thing missing from her persona in the video were some cigarettes, but that would’ve interfered with the presentation of the sugary innocence coating all that barely contained sexuality.

I remember how huge this video was when I was coming up. A friend of mine had pictures of her all over HIS locker. No one could get enough. But something always struck me as kind of scummy about the whole deal. Never, in that video or any that followed, did she ever show any actual talent. Seriously. She wasn’t even that good of a dancer. She was just so smoking hot and young and knew how to properly showcase those attributes that everyone let her obvious, glaring lack of musical ability slide.

There was a definite progression, too. How about the snake dance at the VMAs? The sweat-drenched video for “I’m a Slave 4 U”? The Madonna make-out? She kept pushing further and further, and we kept eating it up. As things turned sexier, however, they also turned more artificial, the beat jacked up, the superficiality cranked to 11. Hell, on “Toxic” there are so many vocal effects anyone could be singing, Mr. Federline included. What no one else could have done was look so sexy in the video.

And then along came the sideshow, which pretty much brings us up to date. What we’re left with is a question: Why did it ever matter?

We’ve been obsessed as a culture with celebrities for so long, there’s no use denying our predilection. It goes hand-in-hand with all our proud American bootstrap-pulling. But we used to make them earn it. Not anymore.

The next time you’re watching TV, bored out of your mind as some vaguely attractive, bleached-out leach talks about the trials and tribulations of a famous person you’ve never met who hates you for watching that kind of show, think about what anyone involved did to earn your continued interest.

Diversion is big business in America. No one likes thinking about that unfortunate war killing so many people on the other side of the world; our confused, unqualified and grossly out-classed President; the shaky economy; the brutal job market; the freefalling housing situation; or anything else important to our society’s growth, prosperity or basic survival. Everyone would much rather sit back, watch Britney Spears’ continued disintegration, and think, “Man, that poor girl. Glad that’s not me.”

Sure, she’s an absolute mess who needs a massive amount of help.

But by staying up-to-date on the fallout, everyone’s got more in common with her than they think.


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