@voyou Plato wrote this in 380 BC, and now I think he's either a time traveler or a witch. https://t.co/vJoSNEo6a7 11 Aug 17 Reply Retweet Favorite

“Crazy as a motherfucker”

There's always been a hint, or more than a hint, of something quite wrong about Britney Spears. Was this ever, in fact, an accident? A while back, I was listening to Le Tigre’s “Deceptacon,” in which Kathleen Hanna performs the hysterical subject demanded by contemporary gender roles, and it occoured to me that this would be a good direction for Britney Spears. Everyone thinks she’s mad anyway; why not embrace that madness? She sort of does that on her new record, although more so on a track that didn’t make it to the album, “When You Gon’ Pull It”, where the vocal production changes Britney’s usual mildly absurd gurgle to a strange shriek.

Britney embraces her madness in a slightly different way on “Piece of Me,” (a great song built around a sample midway between the crash of a bag of coins and the smash of breaking glass), in which she refers to herself in passing as “shameless,” which is one of the qualities I prize most highly. As Aristotle points out, shame may be a virtue in children, who don’t know any better, but is always a vice in adults. I imagine this shamelessness will lead to the song being described as “unrepentant,” or, as our local student newspaper rather stupidly says, “Britney needs to accept some culpability.” What’s Britney culpable of and, more importantly, what’s going on with the passive-aggressive “need” in that sentence, positing the reader as somehow in a position to demands a confession from her? This is an instance of the now familiar logic of the celebrity as always-already guilty, who simultaneously confesses to us and on our behalf.

I’m finding this particularly disturbing since having recently read Jodi Dean’s Publicity’s Secret, which argues that celebrity is one of the paradigmatic contemporary forms of subjectivity: we are encouraged to think of everything about us as known, or at least potentially known, by an imagined public. Part of this, as Jodi points out, is a kind of generalized sense of shame, in which we always have to apologize for going shopping in crap clothes, or coming out of a club drunk, or flashing our genitals to photographers. Perhaps this is part of what is going on the recent media penitence of the student tased for asking John Kerry a question.