Pop culture treasure, high culture trash.

Wednesday, September 12, 2007

When more is not enough

One thing people seem to be missing in the Britney VMAs fiasco is the built-in voyeuristic critique of "Gimme More." In the context of the song, it isn't Brit-Brit who wants more; it's us. "Gimme More" starts out as a straightforward club brag/sex invite not too different from the thousands of others that have supplied pop music with lyrical material for the last 60+ years. But then the story turns, and suddenly we're veering away from the territory of R. Kelly's "More and More" towards something closer in mood and critical intent to the Flying Lizards' "Hands 2 Take"***:

Cameras are flashing my way, dirty dancing
They keep watching (They keep watching)
Keep watching
Feels like the crowd is saying,
"Gimme gimme more, Gimme more, Gimme gimme more"

If it all feels repetitive and unforgiving, that's because the watchers are, too. We (and let's face it, we're all implicated) relentlessly demand more from Britney: more disaster, more trauma, more Bad Girl Mama baby-dropping and limo-exiting crotch flashes. We keep her in the sights of a Panoptical surveillance system so insatiable and vigilant it would make Foucault squirm.

At the VMAs, the premise of "Gimme More" was literalized to the point of absurdity, with the watchers at home and in the Las Vegas audience demanding more even as Britney served it up. By the time she was sleep-syncing, "I just can't control myself/They want more?/ Well, I'll give 'em more!" the entire spectacle threatened to collapse under the weight of its own self-referentiality. And in the end, it did collapse, because Britney didn't deliver on her promise. After previous years of python-handling and Madonna-kissing, the 2007 VMAs' spangly knickers, bleached weave and wobbly phoned-in stripper poses just weren't enough "more" by comparison. They were a whole lot less.

In a weird way, though, Britney did give us what we all wanted anyway: more failure. Nothing's as fun as kicking a diva when she's down, and Brit's been tremendously reliable in giving us glorious, inscrutable failures to consume and shake our heads at. For the time being, failure is her greatest strategy for success. Her real downfall won't come until the screw-ups cease to entertain, and the demands for more gradually fade into a silence that asks for nothing at all.

***"Hands 2 Take"
So you're, you're screaming,
you're screaming out for more
You got hands to take
Hey, what are you waiting for?

Anything you want
In the land of toll-free
At least in self abuse
There's a little dignity


Todd Colby said...

Right on. Well done.

Anonymous said...

A couple of years ago I had the heavy thought that Britney might be a performance artist who is highly aware of how she is perceived with the joke on all of "us" because of the level of absurdity her persona had reached. You're giving me more evidence for my conspiracy theory.

smelly mcsmellsmell said...

you're just brilliant lizzerz. just...brilliant. fff.

Douglas Wolk said...

That's fantastic. Plus: "Hands 2 Take"! The best pop song Michael Nyman's ever been part of!

Cara said...

This post is so true... very well said.