Monday, May 19, 2008

Why Do You Build Me Up?

If you heard that an acquaintence or a friend's daughter was having problems with drug addiction and mental illness, acting erratically and was in and out of hospitals, you would probably say, "I'm so sorry. That's terrible."

Replace "friend" with "pop star" and all bets are off. When it comes to Schadenfreude-star-power no one outdoes Britney Spears. Whether you were raised on MTV or you don't know the Spice Girls from Hannah Montana; even if you've never heard Britney sing a note, you probably know she had a meltdown and shaved her head; that she is divorced from someone named K-Mart or something, and that she likes to party with Paris Hilton and leave her underwear at home.

That Britney has inspired the do-it-yourself artists over at You Tube to produce hundreds of Schadenfreude-themed opuses is no surprise. That her tragic young life has inspired a ballet is a bit less expected. Meltdown, a 14 minute dance sequence by choreographer Hubert Essakow for the Rambert Dance Company, portrayed Spears’ constant hounding by the paparazzi, including the moment she shaved her head and culminated in Spears’ character being carried off stage on a stretcher. It was performed at the at the Queen Elizabeth Hall. The music was composed by Richard Thomas, the man behind "Jerry Springer the Opera."

Essakow must have had his fingers crossed behind his back when he told the BBC that the ballet was not designed to wallow in Schadenfreude but as "an homage" to Spears.

Gemma Nixon, who danced the role of Britney, practiced by watching the pop star's videos. "I was a bit embarrassed," Nixon told the BBC. "It is sort-of grotesque this persona."

NPR did a feature on the production, and from this page you can also access economic reportage on "cashing in on Britney."

So why do we put stars on pedestels just to knock them off? The online publication Global Politican spoke with a Dr. Sam Vaknin, Ph.D on this subject. (Unfortunately the site offers no credentials for the good doctor, so I'm only going on the assumption that his Ph.D was in psychology and not agriculture.)

"The celebrity's inevitable downfall and corruption is the modern-day equivalent of the medieval morality play," said Vaknin. "This trajectory - from rags to riches and fame and back to rags or worse - proves that order and justice do prevail, that hubris invariably gets punished, and that the celebrity is no better, neither is he superior, to his fans."

Being a celebrity is a terrible, unnatural state that leads to madness and unhappiness. Thank goodness I avoided that tragedy by working at the Piggly Wiggly...

Incidentally, word is that Chris Crocker, the "Leave Britney Alone" guy (whose Wikipedia entry is nearly as long as Britney's), is hoping to turn his 15 minutes of You Tube fame into a TV career.