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
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
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
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
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
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
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