“It’s Britney, bitch.” What makes Britney Spears a cultural icon?
Britney Spears is undoubtedly iconic. Credited with the teen pop revival of the late nineties and early noughties, the princess of pop’s contribution to music and popular culture cannot be ignored.
How Britney found fame
At the age of 12, Spears joined the cast of the popular children’s show, The Mickey Mouse Club. By the age of 16, she had shot to stardom with the hit single Baby One More Time, in 1998. The song went triple platinum in the UK and then in 2020, Rolling Stone named it their greatest debut single of all time.
While the song itself is certainly brilliant, it is the accompanying music video that really showcases Spears’s ability as a choreographer, dancer and all round performer. The video is recognisable to all, regardless of age (myself being born two years after the release). The school uniform and plaited pink ribbons are equally admired and criticised as inappropriate.
This video was the first of many showstopping examples of videography, including the red jumpsuit of Oops!… I Did It Again and of course, the masterpiece that is the Toxic music video.
Spears’s fashion sense is just as iconic as her music. Fashion trends, in general, follow a 20-year rule, meaning certain trends become fashionable every 20 years. The 2010s saw a nineties revival, equipped with chokers and acid wash jeans.
Now in 2021, 20 years after the early 2000s, we are yet again seeing the emergence of y2k fashion. Juicy Couture, Von Dutch and Baby Phat are reappearing on the high street. Whether you see this as a positive or not, low-rise jeans are also making a comeback.
Britney Spears is the epitome of y2k fashion, and as these trends become popular again, it is obvious Spears should remain an icon within popular culture. Britney’s trademark looks included low-rise denim, crop tops and glitter, all within the realms of a bubblegum pink aesthetic.
The Free Britney movement
Despite the admiration of Britney Spears, she has also faced a tirade of criticism against her throughout her career. This includes private matters such as her mental health and children. She has been hounded by the paparazzi since her teens and has received constant media scrutiny. As Chris Crocker states in the viral video: “Leave Britney alone!”
It was her poor treatment by the media that has also added to her relevance in 2021. The documentary Framing Britney Spears highlights the poor treatment and invasions of privacy inflicted on Spears throughout her career. The documentary also focuses on the controversial conservatorship, whereby Spears’s father, Jamie Spears, controls her assets (and has done since 2008).
The #freeBritney movement has also been making waves, with fans all over the world rallying for the end of her conservatorship. Spears’s career has opened up a discussion about privacy violations and respect, which unfortunately she did not receive.
The impact of becoming a superstar overnight
Britney’s achievements and contributions to American culture are what make her an icon. Her rise to superstardom was short and swift, much like taking a lift to the top floor of a skyscraper. She was marketed as the ‘girl next door’. In other words, the ideal of American female beauty. The impossible standards she was held to may have increased her celebrity, but it is also responsible for her demise.