In the 2000s, at the height of the rise of TV, the media breathed breathlessly into the lives of pop singer Britney Spears and socialite Paris Hilton. They were the main sites of tabloid headlines and late night punchlines, recorded regularly but rarely really noticed.
“Packed into consumer product,” said Allison Yarrow, author of “90s Bitch: Media, Culture, and the Failed Promise of Gender Equality,” a book that re-evaluated Clinton-era journalists such as Lorena Bobbitt and Tonya Harding.
But there was always more to the story – and in the last few days, the culture in general has had memories.
“Framing Britney Spears,” a documentary from the New York Times that aired on February 5 on FX, painted a troubling picture of her life under court-controlled detention – and examined how the star’s public image was distorted by sexuality and sentimentality of the news media.
Four days later, Paris Hilton reported to Utah lawyers on the “daily” verbal, mental and physical abuse she allegedly suffered at a troubled youth facility in the 1990s – an important text to the life of a woman who was often ridiculed by comedians and others who shape public opinion.
Hilton’s emotional testimony came a week after Evan Rachel Wood – the “Westworld” actor who made Marilyn Manson’s relationship a tabloid fodder in the late 2000s – wrote on Instagram that the musician had “abused me from years ”after“ dressing ”him as a teenager. Manson has denied Wood’s allegations.
The revelations about the three women seem to have sparked a wave of reassessment, causing many to reconsider their views and reflect on the well-known celebrity culture that critics are embracing. Spears said he complained, rested at Hilton and apparently overlooked Manson ‘s history of sad comments.
“I think there was a lot we could allow because of who had to tell the story and who had the power,” said Bea Arthur, a licensed physician and social psychologist, adding. to which the mainstream media has often approached the point of view of “the white father of suburbs.”
In the days since the release of “Framing Britney Spears”, Twitter has been flooded with old headlines and critics of television that critics believe show the demise of the struggling pop star. with mental health issues, suffering from the public, the media and the legal system.
ABC News anchor Diane Sawyer has conducted a special investigation for a 2003 interview with Spears who critics believe was sexualized. In the interview, Sawyer appeared to be defending comments from the first Maryland woman at the time, who had said she wanted to “shoot” Spears, then 21. ABC News did not respond to a request for comment.
Matt Lauer, who was the host of the “TODAY” show that was shot by NBC News in 2017 amid allegations of sexual misconduct, has also defied criticism for a 2006 interview with Spears, which appear in the documentary, in which he presses the singer on her “skills” as a mother. NBC News officials declined to comment. (Lauer has denied the misconduct allegations.)
Similarly, Wood ‘s post on Instagram was followed by a renewed focus on Manson’ s views in the past. In a quote that surfaced in several news articles about Wood ‘s allegations, Manson told Spin magazine in 2009 that he called her 158 times one day after a breakup.
“I have fantasies every day about breaking his skull with a hammer,” said Manson, who first met Wood when he was a teenager and was in his late 30s.
In response to questions from music magazine Metal Hammer, Manson’s representatives last year said his reference to Spin was “obviously in a theater rock star interview inspiring a new record. “
In many ways, the reassessment of these entertainers is a testament to a society that has been radically redesigned with the #MeToo movement and, more generally, a closer focus on issues of trauma, mental health, body shaking. and fraud – and where these exist issues intersect with questions of identity.
“I think people thought that the lives of famous people were being used as a hobby, which greatly destroyed their humanity,” said Arthur.
“What’s happening now is a postmortem,” said Arthur. “What did we do wrong? How did we fail those women? “
The exploration for the explorations of what lies beneath the cultural room mill may have been inspired by # MeToo documentaries such as “Surviving R. Kelly,” Lifetime about the R&B musician, and “Leaving Neverland,” with HBO about Michael Jackson. (R. Kelly has denied allegations of sexual abuse. Jackson, who had long proved his innocence before his death in 2009, was acquitted of child abuse allegations in 2005.)
“We now have a generation where young people are very much consumers of the media and much more relaxed about reports given to them than I think teenagers were in the 1990s and early 2000s,” said Yarrow.
Yarrow said one important difference between the media landscape 20 years ago and today is that celebrities can “craft their own personalities” through social media platforms, weakening the influence of paparazzi photographers and viewers. -making other images.
Twitter and Instagram, in particular, are forums where average people can bid for high-profile figures they believe have been unfairly misbehaved – something recorded in “Framing Britney Spears. ”
#FreeBritney, a fan-led social media campaign that believes Spears is effectively imprisoned by its detention, has been partially inspired by young people who a sense of spiritual relationship with the popular artist and a deep sympathy for her mental health challenges.
While many Gen Z members were not alive or just babies when Spears first exploded onto the pop culture scene in the late 1990s, Gen Z members have found strength in Spears’ music and the story of her life.
When Daniel Read, 23, who lives outside Coventry, England, was a child, his mother would play pop music while she was evacuating. That’s when Read first heard the hit track “Baby, One More Time,” beginning a lifelong respect for Spears.
“After 2007, I started to appreciate it even more because at the time I was going through bullying at school and you could obviously see she was going through this stuff. I just thought she had so much strength to be able to get through that, and I think it helped me a lot, ”said Read, who is part of the #FreeBritney movement on the social media.
On TikTok, one of the main platforms where humor, culture and Gen Z trends are shaped, the hashtag #BritneySpears has been viewed over 1.6 billion times and the hashtag #FreeBritney has been viewed by more than 421 million hour. On Twitter, accounts belonging to stans – strong fans of pop stars – have begun to include the hashtag #FreeBritney in show names and image bios.
While Spears ’support on social media is greater than Hilton’s support, there has still been output for Hilton, too. Many users on platforms like Twitter have thanked Hilton for not only opening up about her abuse but also testifying about it to a Utah court.
The way Gen Z is behind Spears and Hilton could link the openness of the generation to mental health issues and the likelihood that its members have been treated for such issues.
A 2018 report from the American Psychological Association stated that “members of Gen Z are more suited to their own mental health than previous generations,” and Gen Z said it was the largest percentage of any generation receiving psychological help.
Social media culture has helped Gen Z debunk these issues and recapture mental health conversations as a form of power, rather than as a punchline. Young women on social media have also taken steps to curb feminism, mental health challenges and female sexuality.
“In my life, it’s short, but the way I felt didn’t change until I got on the internet and I could see people for real. That made me push that to be truly me, ”said Chrissy Chlapecka, 20, of Chicago, creator of TikTok with over 2.4 million followers who make sexually progressive, anti-misogynistic content. promoting the power of feminism.
Members of Gen Z say they hope these moves will push society away from seeing women like Spears and Hilton as ridiculous and closer to a world where themselves – and women like Wood – have the power to speak without being afraid of stigma or from going over their own posts.
“My generation is looking at things and being like, ‘Why? Why are we doing this? Why is it like this? ‘We take everything, we question everything and we say,’ Oh, that’s bulls —. ‘ I think there is a lot of potential for change, ”said Clapecka.