And I seriously doubt that will happen...because in recent years, it looks like Britney Spears has begun to embrace her public persona and roll with it, as opposed to self-destruct and reject it. Between 2007-2008, it looked like self-destruction was a possibility, wherein she appeared to reject maturity and becoming attached in favor of becoming increasingly immature and detached...and then that dilemma was put into a seeming holding pattern where responsibility became delegated via a conservatorship and she has spent the last decade in a kind-of stasis, where all there is for her to do is embrace all that she is and learn to like it.
But what is Britney Spears? If she's reinventing her "self" to be more like the image crafted by manager Larry Rudolph and music video director Nigel Dick over 2 decades ago, then what is that image of that could make it identifiable as a form of empowerment for her to realize was already there? What identity is she in the process of adjusting to accepting? At the time of this writing, I present my answer:
In folklore & mythology, there are characters who represent the power of the human spirit to combat and make light of negative behavior patterns. These characters appear in tales of morality and ethical dilemmas. They are identified as Tricksters. These are usually depicted as smart, clever animals, both good & evil, helpful & hurtful - not particularly perceptive or self-aware all the time...but they have the potential to mature into self-awareness. Britney Spears' public persona is essentially a female trickster. The most famous tricksters in folklore - B'rer Rabbit, Reynard the Fox, Coyote, Bugs Bunny, Bill Murray, Batman - are male, but there are notable female tricksters in mythology, particularly the one I believe can most be associated with Britney Spears: the Japanese fox spirit, Kitsune.
So..let's meet Kitsune Britney, shall we?
Now..wasn't that convenient? Britney's line of fragrances includes one emblematic of duality..and for the purposes of my comparison, shape-shifting. I might buy a bottle of Fantasy Twist to see what the two-in-one fragrances smell like, but this is already a head-start on the road to becoming acutely self-aware. Kitsune starts off as a fox and then gains intelligence and magic powers with age; the nine tails of Kitsune represent her "levels" of power & experience.
Through the conveniently-provided visual aid of a perfume bottle shaped like a Pokeball...we can track the journey of this "Kitsune Britney":
Kitsune Britney made her grand debut on the cover of Rolling Stone, prior to the debut of Britney's second album, Oops, I Did It Again. The cover was controversial at the time because Britney was 17 and the photo, while looking pretty tame compared to today's standards, implied sexual intimacy on a cover of a magazine aimed at adults..and yet, compared to most images offered of Britney over the years, this actually looks elegant:
And there she is...looking like a genie in a bottle, hence the bottle. While Christina Aguilera was singing a song laden with innuendo about offering to be "..your genie in a bottle..", we already have Britney, who might as well be classified as ascending to the form of a Djinn, on the cover of Rolling Stone! And Genies are also tricksters. But this is just misdirection, here. This is Kitsune Britney, in the form of a genie, right away standing apart from the competition arisen since the debut of her first album. It's perfect. Kitsune Britney is marking her territory.
Kitsune Britney next appears in the music video for Spears' "I'm A Slave For You", part of her third album, simply titled Britney. Within a short space of four years (1998-200), Spears' career has focused on her coming of age and increasing confidence with her celebrity fame, but an eerie focus/curiosity by tabloids on her eventual "de-flowering" and transition towards appealing to adults more than kids & teenagers. This happens clumsily, because the content of her songs don't deal with growing up emotionally, but rather, asserting misplaced confidence that everything's proceeding as it should and the sky's the limit. Meanwhile, it's clear that the Britney Spears of the music videos is not the same person in private, or may try clumsily to live up to the public image, as her relationship with Justin Timberlake eroded. Kitsune Britney is still art imitating life. Real-life Britney Spears was life imitating art.
Tricksters aren't perfect. Their tales were created to make light of human behavior and serve as parables of success & failure. Whenever Britney dropped the ball, she wasn't quite sure where to go next, professionally or personally. Many stories about tricksters involve encounters where the trickster gets tricked. Between 2002 and 2008, Britney can't shake the sense that her best days were behind her, but like Kitsune, she assumes different roles...she becomes a girlfriend, a mother, a wife, an entrepreneur, a producer. She had even officially embraced the role of a sex symbol with her fourth album, In The Zone, but that role was more effective when it was subtlety handed, not overt. The video and song for "Toxic" looked like nothing more than a better-than-average Jessica Simpson routine. It's all "old hat".
And then there's the breakdown between 2007 and 2008, of which I can observe she's on the defensive all the time, adopting various affects like a British accent, multiple multi-colored wigs, an umbrella (Kitsune's umbrella!) and shaving her head to look like a genie (maybe), all while surrounded by a sinister entourage. It's Kitsune Britney in attack mode, but it's totally unbecoming and sad. A fifth album, Blackout, debuted at this time, of which the one song of note, "Gimme More", hints at the self-awareness of how excessive her life had become, while confirming & unveiling the duality of Britney & trickster Kitsune Britney for the first time. Not exactly good times, though, but they pave the way for the damage control summation of Britney's life by that point in the form her sixth album, Circus, which implies a return of the old wit..And the marked the return of then-former manager Larry Rudolph to bring some stability back to her career.
And we next arrive on the years of her residency in Las Vegas, where she performed nightly to refill her bank account, pay the bills and assure everyone that she's still viable:
This is Britney saying "I've still got it!", but it's also the Kitsune Britney showing off her sexier side more often than in the past, on a schedule. Her outfits almost look like artist's depictions of Kitsune in the form of a sexy woman, but this is more of a reassurance, not a reinvention. It's Britney using her trickster self to play it safe, as safe as you could be, considering it's sexy Kitsune:
The blonde Kitsune on the upper-right looks like the cartoon version of Britney from the video for her song, "Don't Break The Ice".
And so...with the Vegas residency over, Britney has been posting more videos of herself on social media, often as a continued assurance that all is well, but this Britney that we're seeing is different somehow. If her public persona is truly the trickster "Kitsune Britney" and the real Britney is less artful, than this new Britney is either a reconciliation of both identities or Kitsune Britney firmly in the driver's seat. Nevertheless, she's seemingly more self-aware than usual...and self-awareness is not the ultimate goal of a trickster, but in finding it, they seem heroic. Here's to days to come for Kitsune Britney: