Tuesday, May 28, 2024
HomeOpinionColumnsThe perfect pop princess doesn’t exist because we won’t let it happen

The perfect pop princess doesn’t exist because we won’t let it happen

- advertisement -

Various horror stories from Britney Spears’ music career still haunt the streets of Hollywood and conversations on social media. In 2020, the internet put its full attention on the pop star and her conservatorship, which she had been placed under after a series of public mental breakdowns in 2008. The internet raised its voice to bring awareness to her situation, and in November 2021, Spears was finally free of her perpetrators. 

But not even all the support in the world can mend catastrophic injuries. 

Britney Spears, Whitney Houston, Amy Winehouse and other high-profile celebrities such as Marylin Monroe and Princess Diana are no longer remainders of outstanding accolades, but titles to some of the saddest cautionary tales of popular culture. The pop music industry has been an intoxicating place for women, and as liberal and progressive as the public claims to be now, the actions that are constantly taken against young female artists prove that we haven’t learned our lesson yet. 

2024 began with the announcement of new music by two major powerhouses in pop music: Ariana Grande and Taylor Swift. However, unlike their previous releases, these announcements were not received with as much enthusiasm as expected—the two have found themselves in major controversies in the last year that have heavily affected their public image. 

Allegations of Grande being a homewrecker and a serial cheater hit the internet. For two weeks, the internet was flooded with information about the artist’s past and videos detailing her alleged scandalous actions. Swift hovered over the line of overexposure and world dominance. Her relationship with NFL player Travis Kelce exploded all over the news, infuriating football fans; her private jet emissions were once again a topic of conversation; and her Grammy wins left a sour taste in the mouths of the public. 

When released, the albums performed well commercially; Grande’s “eternal sunshine” earned 58.2 million streams on its first day, the biggest female album debut of 2024 at the time of its release. Swift’s “The Tortured Poets Department” broke the record for the biggest global streaming week with 1.76 billion streams worldwide. 

In their projects, Swift and Grande detail the fallout of their previous long-term relationships. Both include raw and emotional material that is questioned to be their best work yet. Despite their astounding successes, the internet refused to change its opinions on both of these women. 

It must be acknowledged that the scrutiny they receive is sometimes warranted due to their problematic tendencies. However, the recent hate that they have faced is something that is affecting the pop industry as a whole, extending to young up-and-coming pop singers. 

Artists like Olivia Rodrigo, Sabrina Carpenter, Madison Beer and Renee Rapp have been constantly scrutinized because of their appearances, their private love lives or their music. However, it wasn’t always like this.

In the YouTube documentary, “Britney Spears – An Icon Ruined by Fame,” Sammy Lazarus explains the levels of scrutiny faced by female celebrities: “First we buy into this young maiden, you know the virginal sweetheart… then, when they stray away from that image of innocence, they become the whore,” said the YouTuber. 

Olivia Rodrigo, as an example, was once preached and loved for her edgier and punkier spin on pop music. The artist was described as a combination of Avril Lavigne’s angst with Taylor Swift’s lyricism. Unfortunately, with her newest album, “GUTS,” the artist has been straying away from her child star roots, which has prompted parents—attending her “inappropriate show unfit for children”—to criticize her online. However, Rodrigo should not be held accountable for these claims; parents are the only ones responsible for making this an appropriate experience for their children. People projecting their parenting failures onto a 21-year-old celebrity by harassing her on social media is unjust.

This cycle is especially damaging as female artists feel the need to define themselves according to how the public perceives them. 

As a self-fulfilling prophecy, Olivia Rodrigo came out with “teenage dream.” The song deals with her image as a teenage pop star, how people will view her in the future and how she feels the weight of people’s expectations on her shoulders.

The internet only likes women when their images are moldable. Once they rise to fame, they become idols, an idea to follow, and they feel obligated to carry the burden of meeting the public’s expectations and fantasies. 

Taylor Swift expresses this stress in her song “Clara Bow.” She explains the tendency of the public to compare one pop star to another and how difficult it is to meet the industry’s wishes. 

“Beauty is a beast that roars down on all fours demanding ‘more,’ only when your girlish glow flickers just so, do they let you know, it’s hell on earth to be heavenly,” writes Swift. 

Celebrities, like us, are humans bound to make mistakes; however, we never treat their errors with as much grace as we treat our own. Instead, we sentence them to never forget their shortcomings and we keep putting female artists into the same cycle of destruction. 

“It’s what we do, we raise a humble human to the stages of God, then smash them down again just to prove that they’re mortal,” states Sammy Lazarus.

The dissolution of Spears’ conservatorship ended the reign of terror that her father and lawyer inflicted, but it didn’t fix a lot of the issues that the public had with her image. Even a decade after her alleged controversial actions, the media continues to negatively document her every move and comment on her appearance. 

This is what people do to women in the public eye, and if young girls see how much hate and scrutiny the women whom the world claims to love get, what can they expect from the world themselves? Instead of uplifting young voices and encouraging rising female performers to follow their dreams, we are beating them down as soon as they cross through the door. 

I am the projection of a 12-year-old me looking up at Taylor Swift and Ariana Grande with stars in her eyes, dreaming of being admired like them. As the ghost of that girl, I beg you to think twice before you comment on someone’s appearance, actions or even the art they choose to represent themselves with. 

Angela Serna-Norzagaray is an Opinion Intern for the spring 2024 quarter. She can be reached at asernano@uci.edu

Edited by Trista Lara and Jaheem Conley.