Thanks to an unexpected stay in a waiting room without a book of my own to pass the time, I recently became far more aware of the trials and tribulations of Britney Spears than I ever thought I would. (It was either the gossip mags or the Antlers, Ammo & Assholes With Guns shit, so…) I learned all about the drama during and immediately following her public derangement, about how a family’s love vanquished drugs, depression, estrangement, and scheming manipulative boyfriends. Now little sis is busy churning out young ‘uns, Mom’s hawking a tell-all book, and Britney’s back to performing; everybody loves and supports everybody else as they hold hands and walk towards the light, happily ever after, cue the syrupy strings, amen.

*sound of needle scratching record*

I do feel sorry for Britney the person. It’s easy enough to ignore vapid celebrities, so I don’t see any point in wasting energy hating them. Especially child stars, who probably haven’t had much say in anything about their lives. If I could snap my fingers and give her a life far removed from all that, I’d be glad to.

When it comes to Britney the abstract spectacle, though, I have to say that I’m at least glad to see The Narrative™ disrupted by this turn of events. You know, the teleological redemption narrative that has launched a thousand Lifetime channel movies and People magazine cover stories. Embrace the chaos, Britney! Think cyclical, not linear. As James Wolcott once brilliantly said regarding Oprah being snookered by James Frey:

Oprah and her disciples have no problem with rough stuff as long as the sinner or victim find a rainbow of redemption at the end of the alley. They wanted to believe the worst in the book because it made for a steeper arc of ascension…

The whole concept of redemption seems fishy to me, another form of sentimentality. How many people do you know have found redemption? What does “redemption” really mean? It’s got a lofty religious sound, but the vast majority of people improve or worsen in varying degrees over time, and even those who radically turn their lives around or pull themselves out of the abyss still have to go on doing the mundane things we all do, often suffering relapses or channeling their sobriety and sadder-but-wiser maturity into passive-aggressive preening of their own moral goodness. Most change for better or worse is undramatic, incremental, seldom revealed in a blinding flash or expressed in a climactic moment of heroic resolve.