Britney Spears Thesis

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Britney Spears -- Pop Star With Plenty of Problems

Introduction to Britney Spears

Pop recording star Britney Spears has become fabulously wealthy over the past decade or so by selling millions of albums, selling an avalanche of merchandise, and she has been a spokesperson for numerous products that have brought her addition exposure, cash, and fame. But in recent years the smile on the image of Spears has turned to a frown, as she has had numerous problems, including parenting / child-rearing issues, embarrassing public scenes, linkage with drug use, psychological problems, boyfriend and husband troubles and more. However, Spears continues to be hugely popular with her younger fans and appears to have straightened out some of the disturbing issues that thrust her into a negative light over the past few years. This paper will review her problems, present various hypotheses as to what is psychologically wrong with her, and offer remedies when available and appropriate.

Britney Spears' Brief Biography

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Britney Spears was born in Kentwood, Louisiana on December 2, 1981. She had a desire from a young age to be in show business, and at the age of ten, after spending summers at New York's Off-Broadway Dance Center and the Professional Performing Arts School, she got her first role. According to an article in The New York Times, it was a role in the play "Ruthless"; following that Spears became a Mouseketeer with the Mickey Mouse Club from age 11 to 13. Her music career took off -- pushed by the firm marketing hand of her mother -- when she hit it big with the song (and album of the same name) "…Baby One More Time." As she became more popular with young girls and boys she changed her style of dress. She went from "flirt to vamp," the Times wrote, and shortly thereafter she changed from "Catholic schoolgirl attire to barely dressed" (www.nytimes.com).

TOPIC: Thesis on Britney Spears Assignment

Spears had a second big hit album, "Oops! I Did It Again" and she was such a hot musical property that she received a $10 million advance for her third album, "In the Zone." The Times reports that the big money made by Spears was not from the sale of albums (CDs) but from the marketing and sales of trinkets like key chains, dolls, T-shirts and from the commercials she has done for Nabisco, Clairol, McDonald's, Toyota and Pepsi (she reportedly received $9 million from Pepsi). She also has an ongoing deal with a perfume company, Elizabeth Arden that pays her an estimated $3 million annually, according to the Times.

Recently Spears has begun touring again after a series of disastrous health problems, including an embarrassing 72-hour mental lockdown at Cedars-Sinai Medical Center in Los Angeles. The issue came to a head after she had been through a very public and stressful child custody battle with her ex-husband Kevin Federline. People Magazine reports that after Spears locked herself in her bedroom with one of her children (January, 2008) her court-appointed child monitor called police. Authorities came and tied Spears down onto a gurney and rushed her to Cedars-Sinai. Police reported that she seemed to be "under the influence of an unknown substance" (Boehm, et al., 2008).

The evaluation at the hospital is known as a "5150 Hold" and it is put in place when a person, "as a result of a mental disorder, is a danger to others, or to himself or herself or gravely disabled" (Boehm). The genesis of the incident was because her ex-husband was to pick up her two boys and she refused to turn them over. This was after the court ordered her to turn the children over because she had become a reckless, unpredictable person who shaved her head and at one point dove into the ocean from a public beach "in her underwear" (Navarro, 2007).

What is the Problem with Britney Spears?

The many public stunts that Spears has been involved in lead observers (amateur and professionals) to seriously wonder just what is her problem. Some of those public scenes are diametrically the opposite of her first years as a star; she was cute, had a powerful voice, she could dance very well because of her athleticism and her concerts sold out quickly wherever she played. Earlier in 2007, a judge in Los Angeles, Scott M. Gordon, ordered Spears to undergo random drug and alcohol testing "twice a week" (Navarro). This order came after he publicly stated that she had been involved in "habitual, frequent and continuous use of controlled substances and alcohol" (Navarro).

In addition to the drinking and drug usage, Spears has been charged with hit-and-run driving, and with driving without a license (she rammed a car in a parking lot). She has been seen and photographed on partying adventures with the likes of Paris Hilton, and has deliberately allowed photographers to catch a quick glimpse of her underwear as she exited a limo.

Her former bodyguard testified in court that he saw her using drugs in a nightclub. And adding to the impression that she was losing control of her life, she made an appearance on the MTV Video Music Awards that was dreadful on September 9, 2007. It was supposed to be a comeback after her various crises, but instead she "appeared lethargic and lip-synched wanly" (Navarro).

So, what is wrong with Spears? Dr. Diana Kirschner was interviewed in People (2008) and concluded that people who behave as Spears has been behavior are "suffering from a dual diagnosis. They have both a substance abuse problem and a bipolar disorder or manic disorder" (Wihlbord, 2008). In that same article a "source close to the singer" said that Spears has "suffered from a psychological disease for years" (Wihlbord).

What explanations are available for her behavior and what information is available in order to put forward a reasonable hypothesis for her actions?

According to an article in www.msnbc.com, Spears could be suffering from bipolar disorder, albeit that is pure speculation based not on medical diagnosis but on the views of family and friends. Certainly her behavior has been erratic and bizarre; to wit, two days after she was taken to the hospital she left early and was seen in Palm Desert drinking a mimosa cocktail with her latest boyfriend, Adnan Ghalib, an employee of the paparazzi company Finalpixx. Looking at the view of Berkeley psychologist William M. Runyan (1981), he explains in his "over determination" hypothesis that as that an individuals actions and behaviors usually have multiple meanings (p.1072); in this case, certainly Spears' behaviors have a number of meanings.

"Experts say she is showing signs of psychological distress" according to Karen Thomas (USA-Today, 2007). Shortly after Spears shaved her head, reportedly she went to a tattoo shop in Los Angeles; upon leaving that tattoo shop -- after receiving a body mark -- the owner was quoted as saying, "We just looked around and said to each other, 'We just saw a huge celebrity on the verge of a nervous breakdown'" (Thomas).

Spears also reportedly checked herself into "Crossroads Centre" a rehab clinic in Antigua, but apparently left shortly after checking in. These seemingly impetuous, radical actions that have no apparent strategy, are certainly signs that Spears has psychological problems and is crying out for help. The author of book The Celebrity Psyche, Terence McPhaul, was quoted saying that when child stars grow up it is not unusual to witness the "rebellious behaviors of a 15-year-old" because they did not have the time during their teenage years to "form their own identities. They are often so used to being handled "that when they want to break away, they aren't capable of making adult decisions" (McPhaul quoted by Thomas).

Putting the star's personal situation into perspective, McPhaul noted that Spears had been through two marriages, an annulment, a divorce and her two children "…with no break in between." McPhaul asked, "Has anyone considered she may be suffering from postpartum depression?" (Thomas). The CEO of the rehabilitation center "The Canyon as Peace Park" suggested that when Spears shaved her head it could be a sign of bipolar disorder. "People who are also struggling with mental health issues can't be helped with a 12-step program alone," said Michael Cartwright. She needs therapy, medication and "other measures" in order to fully deal with the emotional and psychological issues, Cartwright explained. "She seems deeply ill to me," he added.

Again, these opinions are from those who have not personally attended to Spears albeit the professional comments are based on knowledge of psychological conditions that are very apparent in the Spears case. Professor Stan Hawkins of the Musicology Department at the University of Oslo, published an article in Popular Music and Society (Hawkins, et al., 2007) digging deeply into Spears' controversial video "Toxic." In the video Spears establishes a "narrative of eroticism" and as the video moves along she finds her boyfriend in the shower with another woman. But aside from the twisted nature of the video, Hawkins echoes what McPhaul hypothesized, that Spears… [END OF PREVIEW] . . . READ MORE

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