When You Shame Britney Spears, You Shame Us All

CW: Mental illness, mentions of suicide.

 If you want to see how people really feel about mental illness just look at any comment section of Britney Spears’ Instagram. 

I haven’t quite been able to wrap my feelings around this situation because it’s so deeply disturbing and everywhere I look there is another disrespectful reminder of how society can turn someone’s trauma into a TikTok challenge. 

I’m a 90’s baby. 1991. I remember the exact day my grandmother and I stopped gardening, we buckled into her sky blue car and drove to Sunrise records to get Baby One More Time. My grandma had a CD player which was a huge deal and I would abuse it over and over and over again between games of Scrabble. She never let me take the album home so the only way I could hear it was on the radio and when I went to her house. I think she did that on purpose because I was at her house A LOT after that. 

Almost everyone my age has emotional attachments and memories of Britney Spears- or really any of their childhood celeb obsessions. Their movies, songs, art, or comedy resonated with us so deeply that for some of us, it saved our lives.

There are few things more devastating than watching one of your favourite celebrities crumble before you. You see the outbursts, you see the flood of headlines, the social media posts, the cancelling, the shame- and you just sit there with a destroyed heart feeling protective and confused. A lot of celebrities these days deserve it- their old racist or abusive shit is surfacing and they’re being held accountable for it. Good.

But what if all this shame and destruction is happening and the person has no control over their actions? What if it’s not just problematic behaviour but deep trauma and mental health issues? What happens when the super-human person you have admired starts showing their humanity? 

It’s heartbreaking. It’s truly heartbreaking. Not only does my heart and soul break for the way Britney Spears, Amanda Bynes, Bella Thorne, Taylor Swift, Kesha, etc, have been manipulated and exploited by the men around them since they were young- but for everyone with a mental illness that silently watches the way people talk about them. They are human beings.

If you're joining in on this ridicule, you don’t think we see? You don’t think we feel it? You don’t think those of us who exhibit the same signs because of our trauma, depression, anxiety, dissociations, bipolar, borderline, or schizophrenia- you don’t think we are hurt reading your words? You don’t think people feel like shit about being on their life-saving meds because of *your* judgements? You don’t think it makes us question every time you’ve sent words of support or said you understand? It’s clear you do not.

We are not animals. We are not malfunctioning robots. We do not belong in cages. We should not be off social media and in a therapist chair 24/7. We deserve to be seen, heard, and validated in our pain. We deserve to gather a community of humans to heal in a safe space. We deserve to cry out for injustice the same way you do. We deserve to change our minds. We are allowed to say no more.

What the fuck is with our obsession with building people up in a dehumanizing way and feeling entitled to every ounce of their time and energy? Why are we so obsessed with draining, belittling and antagonizing people while they’re alive and then pretending we ever cared if they die?

Doesn’t it disturb anyone else to see Rihanna’s fans put her on a pedestal and then harass her for almost 5 years to do something she doesn’t wanna do? It doesn’t sit right with me that we only love and support people when we can gain something from them- an album, a makeup line, clothing, whatever it is. We become possessive, judgemental, disrespectful and violent in the ways we demand and feel entitled to entertainment from celebrities and influencers like they’re fucking circus clowns. 

We watch women like Amy Winehouse completely self-destruct in front of us and we bully, belittle, drag, and shame her to death. We do it to any celebrity who has been used and abused from childhood and has had their perception of humanity so warped that they can barely even function in “regular” society. Wtf?! When celebrities die from overdoses we hardly peel back the layers and wonder what is so insidious about celebrity culture that so many of them feel the need to escape with pipes, needles, and pills. People act like being holed up in a mansion with an inflated bank account somehow stops you from feeling human things. From experiencing human trauma. Sure, these people have way more access to support than the average person but they also have way more access to ridicule, judgement, control, exploitation and global ridicule. For some reason, we have begun to dehumanize celebrities to the point that we don’t even see them in their pain until it’s too late. Look at Chester Bennington. His pain is weaved throughout his music and has touched so many of us, and yet none of us ever stopped to think about what would happen when he couldn't take it any longer. We didn’t even know Robin Williams was suffering to the degree he was and we lost him. Did he receive our empathy because he suffered in silence and didn't inconvenience us? Does Anthony Bourdain not deserve space for his story because he's famous? Is it just men that we extend this courtesy to because they internalize and women express?

Maybe none of us were ever supposed to have our life played out in front of billions of people, maybe we’re not built to withstand the constant bombardment of attacks online, in person, and in our own homes. Living in a pressurized fishbowl under constant watch would make anyone paranoid, irrational, anxious, and weird. We, normies, have a device full of ridicule that we choose to engage with 24/7 and what has that alone done our mental health? We can barely handle it. In Canada, ¼ of people will be diagnosed with depression alone.

Is no one else seeing that celebrity culture is inflated, toxic, unhealthy and inherently exploitative? Sure fame and money are coveted, but do you know what a lot of celebrities say they would give up to have any sense of normalcy? Fame and money. It’s not all it’s cracked up to be and just because a human wants to be celebrated on a large scale for their skills does not mean they should have to deal with endless abuse. “You signed up for this!” Okay, but why are we not looking to change the game so people don’t have to sign up for abuse? Remember the days when there were a million degrees of separation between the people on t.v. and