Thursday, February 22, 2007

Deep Down Somewhere

I remember watching the Today show lead-in around 2001 and hearing that Tom Cruise and Nicole Kidman were divorcing after ten years of marriage. My first thoughts were derisive and scornful – another Hollywood glitterati power couple throwing in the towel. Then Katie Couric’s comment to Matt Lauer went something like this: “It’s hard enough to get divorced, especially with kids involved, but when the whole world is watching it must be really tough. I wish them well.” I remember being sobered by how much more gracious her reaction was than mine.

I reflected on this recently as new headlines detailing Britney Spears’ rapid further descent into even more bizarre and pathetic behavior blared from the web news sites and grocery store magazine covers. One morning while listening to KSBJ the announcer suggested that instead of laughing and rolling our eyes at Britney’s increasingly alarming behavior, maybe we ought to pray for her. Once again I had to admit that this was far more of a Christian response than I had been feeling.

Here’s the thing: everyone is someone’s daughter or son. Everyone at one time was a tiny, adored (hopefully) child with their whole life in front of them and dreams and aspirations of who they could become. Then life happened, and often things turned out much differently than they expected. I’m not saying that people are not responsible for their actions; of course they are. I’m saying that the expression “Christian charity” means trying to see the best of what people want to be or could be, or once were.

Consider that Britney Spears was born in Mississippi and raised in a Baptist family in Louisiana. She practiced gymnastics and performed in local dance reviews and Baptist choirs. By age 11 she was performing on television on The New Mickey Mouse Club. At age 14 she went home to finish high school and continue singing. We’ll call that the end of her childhood. By age 17 she was on the cover of Rolling Stone and selling millions of records worldwide. By age 20 she had signed a huge endorsement contract with Pepsi. By age 21 Forbes magazine named her the most powerful celebrity (male or female) in the world. How many people do you think can capably handle fame and fortune on that scale, that quickly, that young? When I was twenty-one I bought a motorcycle for $1500 and began my senior year of college.

Her increasingly sexually provocative, then raunchy, then pathetically narcissistic and destructive behavior leaves her at age 25 divorced, with two young children, and in her third attempt (at this writing; it changes daily) at detoxification. Hollywood is a tough, tough, place. Fame and outrageous fortune are not for the faint of heart. Instant mega-success is far more a curse than a blessing.

So say a little prayer for Britney Spears. Teenage girls deserve better guidance and protection than she got. We’ve watched her life become a train wreck and we’ve rolled our eyes. But she’s got a Mom and a Dad and she’s a person behind the celebrity. Just like everyone’s a little kid in their heart deep down somewhere.


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