Wednesday, September 26, 2007

Britney Does Matter

I’m so bad.

Our local Fox station just started carrying the TMZ tabloid show.

I am hooked.

Normally, I don’t give a damn about celebrity status and all that is happening in their world. Their profession is built around a world that does not really exist and their personal lives seem to be caught up in that fake life. Why should I care?

But then there is Britney.

My first date with a guy was with Britney Queers.

Rumor tells me he’s no longer a guy.

But Britney is still Britney. At least kind of.

For the sake of Britney as a person, I’m worried. Concerned. Scared.

Those who know me know I’m not one to make one of the impassioned, tearful “Brit Boy” or whatever his name is video pleas to spare Britney. I’ve never been a big fan as evidenced by the fact that I had to look up the correct spelling for “Britney” when I started writing. She is (was) an exciting performer though her voice was largely manipulated, but she never reached a status of anything more than novelty with me.

And then there was the MTV debacle.

Professionally I have a background in mental health – I’ve been a counselor.

When I finally saw “the performance” the clarity that Britney’s problems go far beyond bad-girl behavior or substance-induced missteps. Britney’s eyes speak volumes more than Nora Desmond could ever hope. I know I don’t know enough to make even an educated guess as to what is exactly wrong with her, but I do know enough to know there is something wrong with here at a deep emotional level.

Sadly, we have a hard time addressing mental illness. The tabloids and entertainment television shows thrive on the mental illness of so many celebrities. Public policy, the health care system, and cultural norms do not treat mental health with the same urgency as physical health, and make it ok for emotional issues to stay the butt of public humor.

Admittedly, mental illness can be hard to understand. Something shielded behind the fortress of the skull and hidden within the folds of the brain can be hard to grasp. It’s not a broken bone protruding from the skin or a cancerous tumor sucking out the life of the healthy body. Mental illness cannot be cut out and held in one’s hand, but it is no less real than that tumor.

Britney’s partying and bad behavior mask so much of what is going on, but if you look in her eyes, there is so much more than the influence of the substance of the day. Look at Britney’s eyes from her early videos – clearly there was no “A” student in there (that’s a McAfee Daniel story sometime), but there was a live person inside. Lately the look has been different.

It saddens me that the prospect of Britney getting the help she needs anytime soon remains unlikely. She will continue to be fodder for jokes and sarcastic headlines. Mental illness will continue to be acceptably funny, and mental health will continue to be largely ignored.
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