I am way too old to watch the MTV Video Music Awards. I couldn’t pick a good chunk of the nominees out of a lineup. I don’t own any of the performers or presenters’ CDs (though I have downloaded a song or two, legally — because I am old). Yet, still, I plan to watch this Sunday. Why? Why put myself through the ordeal of watching something so clearly not aimed at my demographic, tastes or sensibilities? Why grate my teeth to a nub at the nominated songs and their accompanying bad grammar? (“The Way I Are”? I Are? Ahhhhh!) Well, it’s simple and terribly shameful. I’m going to watch the VMAs for Britney Spears.
Now, before you come after me with barber shears and a bag of Cheetos, let me explain. Sure, Britney isn’t much of a singer. Sure, she isn’t much of a scholar. And, clearly, she isn’t any kind of a role model. But there is one thing you can always count on from ol’ Brit: pure, unadulterated, unintellectualized spectacle. For good or bad, the girl knows how to create a scene. And some of her best stunts have come at the VMAs. Things like — oh, I don’t know — this.
You see where I’m going with this. Do I expect the nubile Madonna-kissing, snake-wielding, hip-shimmying pop tartlet of days past? Of course not. This Britney is a very different, much sadder creation. And, as long as I’m admitting shameful things, part of me wants to watch to see if she fails. Let’s face it, everyone loves to rubberneck as they go by an accident. But then another part of me, in some perverse way, wants to see her pull it off after all. In this absurd celebrity culture we’ve created where the famous are hunted like quarry with their every flaw dissected for our amusement, and where even 25-year-olds have to worry about comebacks, Britney is the epitome of our love/hate relationship with our stars. We scorn them, but we can’t stop watching either. I, for one, would much rather watch something like this again.