Like so many people around my age (30, and I swear it’s really not that bad), I remember exactly where I was when Britney Spears shaved her head back in 2007.
I was at a college sleepover at a tiny railroad apartment in the East Village, and I even remember the exact five friends who were with me, because we spent half the night researching the incident on sites like DListed, losing our goddamn minds that our reigning teen idol fell so hard, so fast, and so very, painfully publicly.
I also remember where I was four days after my 27th birthday in 2013, because what happened is not really the sort of thing you ever forget. I was in the hospital, checked in for a nervous breakdown that was at least a year coming, and one that quickly spread through my work and social circles as I disappeared to recover. I remember the doctors confiscating my phone and all sharp objects, the instant relief from the Xanax. I remember repeatedly, purposefully throwing some sort of “rate how you feel from 1 to 10” form pencil on the ground then giggling when my hot male nurse picked it up for me, because the tranquilizers made me loopy.
I definitely remember lying away in the giant gap in my resume from the next few months to prospective employers, and writing down a list of names to apologize to for how I acted before I stopped using drugs to solve my issues, mostly (but not all) accrued from an abusive relationship that spanned my early-to-mid 20s. I remember the anxiety I felt and still feel when I run into certain circles of people in the entertainment industry, knowing that to them, I’ll always be that girl who went nuts.
I also, though, remember healing most of all. I remember how good it felt to reconnect with an old group of friends I’d abandoned when I met my boyfriend, and the help of a caring therapist. I remember discovering that working out feels better than alcohol and hurts a bit less the next morning, and how good it felt when I landed a great job again a year later, despite still feeling like a social pariah. I remember learning how to be okay with that feeling.
Britney undoubtedly has felt all of these things too, and we know this because we’ve seen it. We’ve seen her look happy and engaged onstage in Las Vegas, we’ve seen her relish her life as a mother and fully embrace the benefits of exercise, we’ve seen her absolutely, hilariously, give zero fucks about promoting herself on Twitter. Britney can live in her own skin now, and she clearly doesn’t care what you thought about her lip-synching on Carpool Karaoke.
But since Britney’s in the public eye, and since 10 is a number of years that makes Lifetime say “hm, we should probably make a movie about this, now,” Britney has to relive her humiliating, very public breakdown in a way me and so many others who have struggled with mental illness will never, ever have to.
And to that I say: “No thanks, Britney Ever After.”
In theory, there’s nothing wrong with a hilariously bad Lifetime biopic. The Unauthorized Saved by the Bell Story was not my favorite film, but it was also amazing drinking game fodder that made for a fun night on Twitter. But The Unauthorized Saved by the Bell Story wasn’t capitalizing on the pain of a woman battling mental illness, and it at least ostensibly provided a different take on a story we thought we knew, being based on Dustin Diamond’s behind-the-scenes book.
But since no one in Britney’s life is remotely involved with this project, Britney Ever After is not going to give us that different take. Britney’s terrible, horrible, no-good very-bad 2007 went down exactly around the time that sites like Perez Hilton and DListed began exposing celebrities and their pain to the world in a way we’d never seen before — but also, just a few years before celebrities “coming out” as anxious and depressed became weekly fodder for feel-good blog posts — so we’re all pretty much as up to speed on the gory details as the project’s producers are, thank you very much.
And since this was definitely before we all started thinking about how incessantly photographing sick celebrities is a really shitty, morally corrupt thing to do, all of the pics are still on Getty if you really need them.
Also, thanks to both the lasting personal consequences of her breakdown and to all of the aforementioned blogs and the paparazzi they worked with — thanks to our incessant obsession with celebrity — Britney is, in some way or another, going to have to relive her 2007 every single day for the rest of her life. She’ll have to relive it whenever she discusses the terms of her conservatorship with her father and their lawyer, and whenever she announces new music.
Hell, even Britney’s sons are a firm reminder of where she came from, being that they’re the product of her doomed relationship with Kevin Federline, whom she divorced three months before she picked up the clippers. And she’ll definitely live through it all if she ever decides to Google herself. (Which, to be fair, I’m sure she doesn’t.)
With all that in mind, I definitely don’t want Britney to have to wake up to news stories on Sunday, February 19th that confirm what I hope isn’t true — that millions of people tuned in to Lifetime the night before to watch the worst night of her life dramatically reenacted by actress Natasha Bassett.
This woman, who has entertained us so spectacularly for two decades, who has provided us with endless Halloween costume fodder and enough workout tunes to fuel an entire half marathon playlist (I know this because I’ve done it, and you should, too), deserves better than that. She deserves fans who show up to Vegas, buy #Glory on iTunes, and send angry tweets to the VMAs for making her perform right after Beyoncé.
She deserves our compassion not because she’s special, or because she’s famous, but because she’s human. And if our anonymity provides us the privilege to move on from the worst nights of our lives, than we should stop and think for a second about how we can grant Britney some of that privilege, too. She’ll never be able to switch industries or move to a different city where no one knows her to start over like you and I can — but she should, at the very least, know that her fans have better things to do than watch her sob story be paraded as spectacle to make Lifetime some coins.