Throughout this whole Lindsay/Britney/Paris nightmare cycle we've been stuck in for lo these many months now, for all the talk there's been about the gals' very public breakdowns -- and man, has there been a lot of talk -- there's one glaring question that's scarcely raised: What does this say about the state of young girls?
Another Britney flake-out came to light this week -- not showing up for multiple scheduled cover story interviews with Allure magazine. It's a relatively minor infraction for an individual who's been shaving her head and hitting people with umbrellas, of course, but it's telling that things have gotten so bad that this is just another day at the office for one of the biggest stars of the last decade.
Yes, there are plenty of budding starlets keeping it together -- Natalie Portman and Scarlett Johansson and Anne Hathaway come to mind. And no, this summer's trinity of tabloid terror aren't entirely representative of all young womanhood. Yet, well, in some ways, they are -- an exaggerated form of modern young womanhood that's so cartoonish, it's easy to make fun of, as we've seen ad nauseam. But the bigness of their situations also makes them easier to dissect, to glean pertinent, and deadly serious, clues from ... if we can stop pointing and laughing long enough to look.
Maybe we don't look too hard because the reality isn't pretty. Our celebrity girls have gone wild, in all senses: You can actually kind-of imagine these three in particular appearing in those college spring-break videos if they hadn't happened upon fame instead. At a time when feminism has advanced women's careers (and even our responsible, adult sex lives) beyond our mothers' wildest ERA-era dreams, our attention-whore culture is doing something entirely different -- objectifying and commodifying people more than ever. As it turns out, young women are the first in line to objectify and commodify themselves, and the only explanation for this is that there's still a market demand for it that doesn't translate to young male stars.
I mean, are we shocked that this is the end result from three girls who have been asked to show as much square footage of bare skin as they have (from sex tapes to major respectable magazines), whose every body part has been publicly debated, whose sex lives have been dissected in print? I'd be shaving my head and batting photographers away with blunt objects and knocking back a few, too, if I'd spent the last five to seven years desperately trying to live up to collective society's sexual fantasies. But is there that much difference between these gals and, say, the teenage girl who gleans from all this that the best way to get the boys' attention is to post pictures of herself lying in her bed in her skivvies (think Britney's famous first Rolling Stone cover) on her Facebook page? Or to make a sex tape? Or to get trashed and drive down Sunset Boulevard?
So what do we do about this? I'm not suggesting we shut down Facebook or even revoke Brit and company's star credentials. But putting down those "guilty-pleasure" tabloids -- and, for the love of god, keeping your mouse away from the likes of Perez Hilton -- is a start. And treating these girls like actual human beings with major problems we, as a society, helped bring upon them -- rather than jokes that have nothing to do with our own upstanding lives -- wouldn't be bad, either.
Follow Jennifer Armstrong on Twitter: www.twitter.com/jmkarmstrong