Britney Spears, spectacle

Posted: Sep 12, 2003 12:00 AM

Are you ready for some football? That's the usual ABC question kicking off "Monday Night Football," but this year, ABC and the NFL should have first asked, "Are you ready for some lip-synching ex-teen queen in black and white leather?"

Real pro-football junkies were probably taking in Rush Limbaugh and the other pre-game analysts on ESPN. But I'm sure there were many young men who found a new dream job: being one of the two male assistants who removed Britney's pants in the middle of a song on national TV. The concert was ostensibly held to honor the sacrifices of our fighting men and women, but the Spears segment of the broadcast wasn't about patriotic tributes. It wasn't even about music. It was only about the spectacle of Britney, prancing around with the Capitol in the background doing her best butt-shake.

This is what ABC considers appropriate material for the family hour: a pop-culture icon getting jiggy with a set of dancers copying her undulating moves.

Now that Britney's turned 21, she's legally become America's official symbol of slutty sex appeal. Not only did the NFL plaster her image everywhere to kick off their season, but ABC's "Monday Night Football" is now mingling saucy video clips of her mouthing lame, nasal vocals into the show's generic glitzy opening. Apparently, Hank Williams Jr. just isn't entertaining enough to carry the ball by himself anymore.

Britney's attempt to dominate the smutty spotlight can also be found on the cover of the new Rolling Stone magazine. Pressed up against a wall, she's wearing nothing but a leering grin and some white underwear, described by the E! cable network as "Britney puts out for the cover" and "she looks more like a Playmate than a pop princess." A photo for inside the magazine has the scantily clad pop star tugging down on her underwear for the camera. Her agent has no doubt heard from Hugh Hefner and Larry Flynt. If the new album she describes as "sexual" and "sensual" fizzles in November, there's always a temporary career in porno centerfolds.

Four years ago, it was controversial for Britney to appear on Rolling Stone's cover in a black bra and polka-dotted panties. The cover promised a look "Inside the Heart, Mind and Bedroom of a Teen Dream." Now, it's just another half-naked day at the office for Britney.

The week before the NFL kickoff concert, Spears forced her way into the spotlight with her open-mouthed kiss with Madonna to give a buzzworthy beginning to the MTV Video Music Awards. She was dressed in white stripper-wear, while Madonna played the boy in a black get-up with a top hat. The girl-on-girl lip lock was "all too brief," complained the gay press, but the buss was long enough to give birth to a fantastic publicity stunt for MTV. Newspapers across the country plastered the kiss across the front page, and TV news stations and cable outlets played it way too often.

Some cultural analysts caught the symbolism precisely of Madonna's MTV kisses of Britney and fellow sing-and-strip act Christina Aguilera. Madonna is passing the torch to a new generation of musical sluts. The music is always secondary to being infamous and drooled over, and don't forget the truckloads of cash.

Several members of Britney's family were trotted out to endorse this ridiculous attention-grabber as "cute," and none of them were more pathetic than her almost lookalike little sister, Nickelodeon channel star Jamie Lynn Spears, age 12. "Come on, Britney likes boys!" she protested on the E! Channel. "I mean, if you wanna make something up, go ahead, do that. But, I mean, it was totally awesome. It looked cute. I thought it was totally neat." Britney Spears: role model.

To those people who put together these musical television extravaganzas, desperate for any shred of publicity, we must ask if they would think stripping, butt-shaking and lesbian kisses on stage are behavior they would think is (or would have been) "totally neat" for their 12-year-old girls to emulate? Ask anyone, from Viacom CEO Sumner Redstone, to Disney chief Michael Eisner, or NFL commissioner Paul Tagliabue. Hopefully, the odds are that, in the privacy of their own homes, they would find these displays semi-pornographic. So why are they imposing these slutty singers as role models on the rest of society? It's not for anything more than a quick buck.