THE PLANK SEPTEMBER 14, 2007
On Sunday night, it seemed pretty clear that Britney Spears' performance at the MTV awards ceremony was the biggest prime-time fiasco of the week. Then came Thursday night and President Bush's Oval Office address on Iraq. At first blush, coverage of the white trash kid turned tabloid fodder and the rich kid turned good ol' boy would seem to have little in common (besides, of course, the four years of high-profile futility that followed the respective 2003 triumphs of Spears' In the Zone album and Bush's "Mission Accomplished" speech). But what's astonishing is the similarities in this week's coverage of the two fallen ingenues. For instance:
Before the big event:
"Britney Spears will open the MTV Video Music Awards on Sunday in what promoters are calling the fallen pop princess' long-awaited comeback." -Reuters, September 6.
"Mr. Bush has repeatedly asked Americans to give him another chance in Iraq, and Thursday night will be no different. 'His main goal at this critical juncture,' said another senior official, also speaking anonymously, 'is to ask Americans to stop and take a fresh look.' " -The New York Times, Thursday.
The critics weigh in:
"President Bush's TV address tonight was the worst speech he's ever given on the war in Iraq, and that's saying a lot." -Fred Kaplan, Slate, Thursday.
"Britney's performance can be described in two words: Hot mess. I can't say I was surprised--I didn't expect her to rock it--except that I was. It sucked that much." -Seattle Post-Intelligencer, Monday.
Worrying about their bodies:
"Out-of-synch lip-synching. Lethargic movements that seemed choreographed by a dance instructor for a nursing home. The paunch in place of Spears'once-taut belly. At times she just stopped singing, as if even she knew nothing could save her performance." -Associated Press, Monday.
"He seemed almost broken to me. His voice raspy, his eyes watery, his affect exhausted, his facial expression almost bewildered. I thought I would feel angry; but I found myself verging toward pity." -Andrew Sullivan, Thursday.
Not to mention their mental health:
"Every reader of trash gossip or viewer of tabloid television is implicated in what's happened to Spears, because that shift toward existential celebrity is what drags such characters down. The inability to separate fantasy from reality is a mark of psychosis. More and more, we are rewarding stars for blurring those boundaries." -Ann Powers, Los Angeles Times, Thursday.
"The notion that we're one of 37 countries fighting over there against the bad guys, there's so much of this that's truly--and I don