Britney Spears should be loved, treated like a sister
The Rev. Torey Lightcap
Glenwood Springs, CO Colorado
So, let’s talk about Britney Spears.
Yes, really ” Britney. Ms. Spears.
Because the very public spectacle that is this young woman’s meltdown and demise has been played up, headlined, dissected, and laid out before us, offered with knife and fork like Sunday’s pot roast.
It’s clear that whether we choose to participate in this feast of her shame and humiliation is our choice. But folks, the choices we make, down to the smallest decisions, do define us, and I want to suggest as strongly as possible that it’s wrong to participate in the slow-motion train wreck that is Ms. Spears’ life, even if it’s just a passive watching.
What I find to be the most painfully offensive element is the need to offer her up for laughs. The late-night comedians have been relentless ” absolutely merciless ” as they have skewered every conceivable detail of her life. To these men and their cheap-shot writers, and to us, their audiences, this is just wrong. It’s wrong.
If your daughter or your sister fell into divorce and lost her children, would you stand by and laugh? If she screwed up every chance given to her to make good and turn things around, would you make jokes about it? If she turned to substance abuse or demonstrated mental instability, would you keep laying it on? Of course not. But the reality is that she is a part of the human family; she is your sister, your daughter, your granddaughter, your goddaughter. There’s no getting around it.
You may contend that the downward spiral of Ms. Spears’ life is just the price of fame: that if she hadn’t willingly gotten herself into show business she wouldn’t be in this pickle right now; that she couldn’t handle the pressure; and that if you can’t take the heat you should darn well stay out of the kitchen.
Yeah, I know that argument, and you know what? It’s a gigantic cop-out. She may well be on the way to completely destroying herself, but that doesn’t give us license to encourage the effort. Not if we take the time to see her as an actual human being.
Please don’t take any of this as a defense of the abysmal way that this woman has chosen to live ” her behaviors and proclivities. Certainly she has made choices, too, and those choices have defined her, just like our choices define us. In a sense, her life is ripe for judgment and repentance. But our uncharitable laughter ” something over which we do exercise a measure of control ” will only send her over the edge faster and further.
Do we retain the right to laugh at the misfortunes of others when offered up for guffaws? I suppose so, in the sense that tragedy can be the basis of so much comedy. Otherwise, how would you define 99 percent of what passes for funny? But there is a grave difference between obvious comedy and indefensible cruelty; and joining in on the spectacle of another person’s collapse cannot possibly pass for entertainment except in the lowest ranks of the human heart.
I should close with a point of clarification. I mentioned the late-night comedians, and I would like to point out that Craig Ferguson, whose show airs after David Letterman’s on the same channel, is actually the person who got me to thinking about all of this. In an eloquent opening monologue several months ago, Mr. Ferguson spoke with passion, naming and shaming this tendency of ours to want Ms. Spears to fail and falter. He compared her failings with those of his own, mentioning specifically his hard-won experience of deciding to pull himself out of the downward spiral of alcoholism and how difficult it was to ask for help. It was a beautiful and touching soliloquy that dared to express a true morality.
The difference on the stage of his show that evening was simply that Mr. Ferguson was willing to put himself in Ms. Spears’ shoes, to empathize with her plight, to wish better things for her than she herself would be willing to imagine or desire.
Which just shows … sometimes, even when people are watching, we do get it right.
The Rev. Torey Lightcap is priest-in-charge of St. Barnabas Episcopal Church in Glenwood Springs (www.saint-barnabas.info). Torey and his wife have two children and live in New Castle.
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