Monday, August 2, 2021

(FRAMING) BRITNEY SPEARS & Tavi Gevinson: Self-Sexualized or Sexualized Teens?

In Tavi Gevinson's The Cut piece, “Britney Spears Was Never in Control”, she wrote that the New York Times’ Framing Britney Spears documentary did the following:

  1. It made a compelling argument that Spears’ image was an expression of her teen sexuality
  2. It deemed it misogynistic to question Spears’ expression of her teen sexuality
  3. It deemed it anti-feminist\sex-negative to feel that sexualizing a teenager is dubious 
  4. It related that Spears’ expression of her teen sexuality is an expression of female power 
  5. And the documentary rewrote Spears as a teen feminist icon

In addition, Gevinson wrote in “Britney Spears Was Never in Control”:

The New York Times’s Framing Britney Spears documentary casts a spell. I am thinking specifically of the stretch that chronicles Spears’s rise as a teen idol, starting with the “Baby One More Time” video. I had not seen it since elementary school and was unsettled, as an adult, to watch a 16-year-old embody a schoolgirl fantasy.

“Baby One More Time”

[...] Framing Britney Spears was making a compelling argument: Spears’s teen image was an expression of her sexuality, and questioning the kind of agency she had in it is misogynistic.

Ed McMahon & Britney Spears

And like we listed, Gevinson opined that the documentary considered it: “[...] anti-feminist and sex-negative to suggest that there is anything dubious about sexualizing teenagers.”

The filmmakers achieve this by alternating between footage of Spears and her collaborators asserting that she made her own decisions [...] If “Baby One More Time” made me feel queasy, I was soon reminded that America is sexist and sexually repressed. If I wondered what kind of say Spears had in the “sexy” Rolling Stone photos taken in her childhood bedroom, I was soon reassured that she was never just some puppet.

The result is a documentary eager to characterize Spears’s early image as an expression of female power [...]

However, Gevison disagrees with the doc’s positive assessment of Britney Spears' career - especially during Spears' nymphet years. Gevinson shared:

[...] the doc was rewriting Spears as a feminist icon. “[However] [s]he was the Establishment! She was what we were supposed to be: sexy and young. Not a paragon of independence.” 

But Spears shared in the documentary that being sexy is naturally a part of being a nymphet. (Did the "Establishment" force this stance upon Spears?):

“Well, I think we’re all girls, and I mean, that’s a part of who we are. You’d be lying if you said you didn’t like to feel sexy. You know what I mean? You’re a girl.”

And in a 2003 interview for British GQ, Spears answered that the Rolling Stone photographer did a very good job of portraying her - despite asking her to “Undo your sweater a little bit more.”

“How did I realise [I was a sex symbol]? Probably the first Rolling Stone cover by David LaChapelle [...] I was back in my bedroom, and I had my little sweater on and he was like, ‘Undo your sweater a little bit more.’ The whole thing was about me being into dolls, and in my naïve mind I was like, ‘Here are my dolls!’ and now I look back and I’m like, ‘Oh my gosh, what the hell?’ But he did a very good job of portraying me in that way. It certainly wasn’t peaches and cream.” [Emphasis added]

By sharing Spear’s 2003 British GQ interview, Gevinson made the point that we’ve been consistently making in our posts, which is that it’s two-way street - both the "Establishment" and Spears are guilty of using her teen sexuality (i.e., the allure of a nymphet) to make (a lot) of money. (e.g., Rolling Stone photographer: “Undo your sweater a little bit more.” Spears: “But he did a very good job of portraying me in that way.”)

Gevinson even appears to agree with our assessment:

There is no need to believe it’s either Everything was Britney’s choice, and therefore she was always a sex-positive feminist or Nothing was Britney’s choice, and the evil adults made all her decisions

18-Year-Old Tavi Gevinson

The parts of the piece that relate directly to Gevinson are often contradictory. For example, Gevinson wrote:

Like Britney Spears, I was professionally photographed, lying across the bed in my childhood bedroom, when I was a teenager. I had been 18 for a month [...] I remember that the romper had symbolized, for me, my new life starting, and it’s very likely I was eager to update my public image as a sexually active being after extensively documenting an adolescence where I favored bulky layers and granny glasses. [Emphasis added]

But in the very next paragraph, Gevinson wrote:

Still, when I see the photo now, I just see another thin white able-bodied blonde girl being sexualized. 

Wait, so is Gevinson saying that she self-sexualized, she was sexualized or both.

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