My friend has a Britney Spears poster in his bedroom. In this specific poster, she is wearing a cap, doing a semi-wink at her viewer, has a crop top on to expose or reveal her naval piercing, and is quite voluptuous for the rails that usually top the fashion and celebrity charts.
The Britney Spears poster stays on my mind for numerous reasons. First, for probably the first two years of her stunning shoot to pop-stardom, I had no idea who she was, despite being really into pop culture for my own interests and for those—at the time—of my students, who when they took a composition or critical thinking or other class with me got everything from Teletubbies shows to Madonna concerts to films like Trainspotting and Little Big Man. That is, I stayed up on current celebrities, shows, music, film and other media to incorporate it into the classroom where we would analyze, deconstruct, or somehow connect literature and rhetoric.
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Working with one student who is a brilliant writer, I would come to collaborate on plays and other works with him. And, because of him, I would come to know of this dynamo, this mini-diva, through my first Britney Spears poster and through his obsessive allusions to Britney Spears as the be-all and end-all of performing artist.
Next, becoming close friends with another student a couple of years later (another brilliant writer who is now finishing her graduate work to become a teacher), I found myself face-to-face with another Britney Spears poster. This time, rather than having a penchant for her music/on-stage performances (which I now see as wonderfully engaging events to watch, by the way), this student saw Brit as the epitome of health. She didn’t appear to diet, gorge and puke, or starve herself by living on hi-test caffeine and cigarettes. My friend was a beauty in and of herself, but was often fixated on being “too fat” (and wasn’t), so the Britney Spears poster reminded her that women with curves were acceptable…even gorgeous and sought-after.
So when I now visit my new friend, who is gay but has Britney Spears posters on his walls (as a diversion for his unknowing father) and who idolizes her for her pop value, I think, I re-visit the positive images in my head and likely in the head of thousands of young females…who may just grow up emulating someone healthier and more real than the boob-job queens or the coat hangers whose claim to fame is how exaggerated their rib cages are when they walk down a runway or gyrate on a stage.