Going 'on the record' implies you're going to tell the uncensored truth. Not only that, it indicates that you're going to reveal something the world didn't previously know. But when celebrities aspire to 'tell all', I smell a large, stinky rat. A rat in the form of the PR machine, eager to dispel rumours, innuendo, and scandal.
Britney Spears joined the ranks of celebrity 'truth'-spewers last week, in her much-ballyhooed and much-watched TV special, On the Record. It's amazing that we still care about this girl, whose VERY public meltdown last year shocked and scared us. Spontaneous head shaving? Attacking a car with an umbrella? That's the stuff of a severe psychiatric case, not a multi-millionaire performing artist. And you'd think we'd have enough sense to leave the poor thing alone...but no. Instead her handlers and recording company still see gigantic dollar signs swimming around her, and they keep squeezing out every last dime.
On the Record wasn't just an exercise in exploitation [look at me! I'm Britney! I'm OK, see? It's totally fine to buy my CD because I'm OK now! (Soraya: AHAHAHAHAHA! I'm not buying it, and I mean that in both senses of the term.)] - it was a sad, sad farce. You could almost see the proverbial gun pointed at her head off-camera, forcing the girl to engage in what amounted to a counselling session for the whole world to watch. (Soraya: The only time she really needed that gun point at her was by her mother when she was a teen doing drugs and sleeping around. I kid. I kid. Sorta.)
Some parts were titillating, others boring. But every part of it was heartbreaking. Britney pretty much admits to having no control over her own personal affairs - her weave is in place and her freshly-taut skin is blemish-free, but who is she beneath all that? And who's in charge here? Her father? Her agent? Her PR company? Or maybe it's a constellation of all three. Regardless, this girl has two young children, a string of exes, and a history of mental illness. Is it really in her best interests to re-enter the spotlight, baring all?
Whenever I contemplate Britney's TV special, I keep thinking back to Michael Jackson's disastrous attempt to get back into the public's good books in 2003, when UK journalist Martin Bashir followed the pop icon around his Neverland Ranch for a TV special, Living With Michael Jackson.
To put it simply, the footage and deeply personal interviews in the special were shocking. While there's a substantial difference between Jackson's admittance that he sleeps with young boys in the same bed and Britney's controlled confessions, they're along a similar vein: both celebs seem to think that what they're going through is normal, run-of-the-mill stuff. (Soraya: It's normal for Hollywood, I guess.)
They both grew up in the spotlight with cameras in their faces, so there's no anxiety or fear involved. And that detail may be the most harrowing of all. What we're seeing onscreen is the real thing, a shell of a person shuffled out for TV in an attempt to airbrush a tarnished image. What ended up being a disastrous turn for Jacko may in time hurt Britney as well. If her robotic, dead-eyed acceptance of trophies at the MTV Music Awards recently is any indication, there's some rough waters ahead for her. Too bad she can't work through them without millions of eyes watching.