Britney's public meltdown

Like Diana and Anna Nicole Smith before her, Spears dismissed as another woman facing death by paparazzi

From Saturday's Globe and Mail

Did it start with a provocative video or a quickie marriage? Did things take a turn for the worse at the moment of conception or the site of a head shaving?

Wherever the sad tale of Britney Spears began, it is safe to say that the rapid, public decline will not end with the pop star's hospitalization on Thursday night. Ms. Spears, a 26-year-old mother of two, was wheeled out of her California home by paramedics under the full glare of the paparazzi and taken to Cedars-Sinai Medical Center, where she is reportedly on suicide watch.

Police were apparently called after Ms. Spears refused to hand over her young sons, two-year-old Sean Preston and one-year-old Jayden James, to a representative of her ex-husband, Kevin Federline.

To some, this is just another episode in a Hollywood soap opera created by tabloids and fed by Internet gossip sites and declining public taste. But at the centre of the celebrity storm is clearly a very sick young woman whose self-destruction has become an international spectator sport, and whose once promising career as an entertainer has been forgotten in a haze of crotch-shots and court documents.

Whatever your taste in music or news, it is difficult not to wonder why those who know her - from family members, staff, doctors and lawyers, to her management, fans and even her casual observers - have allowed her life to essentially become one long snuff video.

Evocations of Diana, Princess of Wales, and Anna Nicole Smith are regularly made, as she is crassly dismissed as yet another young woman whose death by paparazzi is inevitable.

She has been nicknamed Unfitney, her life described as Warholian and her image grouped with those of Paris Hilton and Lindsay Lohan under the category "girls gone wild."

Her troubling behaviour has been chalked up to bipolar disorder, drug abuse, postpartum depression and intense narcissism brought about by childhood abuse.

Whatever the cause, the signs of trouble began four years ago, when Ms. Spears married a high school sweetheart in Las Vegas, only to have the union quickly annulled. She began dating Mr. Federline, a backup dancer, in April of 2004, when his then-girlfriend, actress Shar Jackson, was pregnant with their second child.

Mr. Federline's negative influence on the fallen ingenue was soon a hot topic, as she was photographed walking into public bathrooms without shoes on and flipping off omnipresent photographers. The couple's romance was documented in a reality show called Chaotic, which suggested that Mr. Federline's main appeal to the star may have been his ability to ignore her.

But the public's ability to turn a blind eye to Britney evaporated when she proposed to him in June, and photographs of the couple heading to the clubs after their Sept. 18 wedding were snatched up in a tabloid feeding frenzy.

With her career on hold, Ms. Spears began a symbiotic relationship with the media, feeding off its attention even as it trumpeted her new identity as unstable and dangerous.

In February of 2006 she was photographed driving with five-month-old Sean Preston on her lap, the first of many incidents that called into question her parenting abilities.

In April, child safety officials were called to her house for the first time after Sean Preston reportedly fell from his high chair. Then in May she appeared on David Letterman to announce her second pregnancy, nearly dropping Sean Preston the following day while walking in New York.

With mounting public disgust directed at her family, Ms. Spears attempted to repair her reputation with a Dateline interview, in which she explained to Matt Lauer that driving with your child in your lap is a Spears tradition because: "We're country."

But it was her physical appearance on the show that raised the most eyebrows. Chewing gum, her eyeliner smudged with tears, Ms. Spears's dishevelled look was a far cry from the highly stylized, hyper-sexualized image she had cultivated as a teen pop sensation. It was meant to be a turning point, the moment when a star realizes how low she has sunk and begins the triumphant path to redemption.

Instead, Ms. Spears gave birth to Jayden James on Sept. 12, 2006, nearly a year after his brother's birth, and dumped the boys' father Nov. 7, via text message.

The glee with which the public celebrated the end of her marriage was soon displaced by shock, as the newly single mother returned to the party scene with a vengeance, befriending Ms. Hilton and being regularly photographed exiting cars without underwear.

At this point, the former Mouseketeer began to quickly spiral out of control, checking in and out of rehab centres and publicly shaving her head, reportedly to avoid drug traces in her hair being used against her in a custody dispute with Mr. Federline.

But if these were cries for help, Ms. Spears would not admit it. She fired her long-time manager and derided his decision to send her into rehab, claiming that it was "actually normal for a young girl to go out after a huge divorce."

She continued to court public attention and flout interventions, attacking one paparazzo with an umbrella, checking into hotel rooms with another, performing a disastrous routine at the MTV Awards, ignoring court-ordered drug tests and the advice of a parenting coach.

And now she is in the hospital, visitations with her children suspended yesterday by court order, as the world watches and waits to see what she does next, focused for now on photographs of a 26-year-old girl in the back of an ambulance, eyes glazed, forcibly restrained, smiling for the cameras.


Our Commentary in the Globe and Mail

Ottawa Mens, from Ottawa, Canada wrote: Bipolar disorder, drug abuse, postpartum depression and intense narcissism brought about by childhood abuse. That’s a description which is “politically incorrect”. It makes you wonder, when the evidence is so obvious just how and why has she managed to repeatedly fail to turn up to court and get to have a relationship with her kids. Canadian Family Court Judges don’t want to hear about mental illness, drinking problems, bipolar, schizophrenia, are all “taboo” words. The real killer is “post partum depression”. You see, most of our family court judges are brainwashed feminists, they get judicial training that men are bad and women are victims and woe betide anyone who suggests that the reverse might be the case. Ontario Family Court Judges are too few & been short of staff for decades, our government is responsible for indirectly telling out judges to “get rid of cases” and apply a feminist paintbrush to every case. Judges like Justice Denis Power flagrantly abuse their judicial power to assist feminist judges by making draconian orders for costs to prevent any further litigation regarding the best interests of a child, that means a father never sees his kids again. Justice Denis Power of Ottawa also issues restraining orders for no other purpose than to justify a draconian order for costs that he knows will permanently prevent litigation regarding the best interests of a child. If Justice Denis Power does not like another judges order, he will simply issue another order to indirectly and improperly act as a court of appeal. He then issues orders for costs that permanently prevent the litigation from continuing. Children remain with mentally ill violent mothers who turn to the extreme feminist cult for referrals to extreme feminist lawyers who personally blatantly fabricate evidence and obstruct justice. Federline is extremely lucky that he is not in Ottawa Family Court were the hatred towards men literally oozes out of the walls. Posted 05/01/08 at 12:03 PM EST