In a society obsessed with labels, we are surrounded by amateur psychologists at every turn. Low attention span? ADHD! Social awkwardness? You’re probably on the spectrum. Had an argument with your partner? Maybe he’s a gaslighting narcissist. You’d be lucky to have a mid-afternoon drink without whispers that you’re an alcoholic. The West’s obsession with diagnosing disorders reveals a need to blame someone, or something, for our actions.
And yet I can’t help but wonder whether we’re watching someone showing real signs of psychological distress and choosing to ignore it. Just look at Britney Spears. Her latest Instagram selfie shows her totally starkers, save for a small pulsating love heart emoji over her bits and pieces. ‘Britney Spears posted a full-frontal nude on Instagram – good for her’, purred the Independent.
It’s not just nudity (which there is a lot of). One video shows the 40-year old standing, hands awkwardly in pockets, reciting swearwords. Another has her pretending to be dead, handcuffed and covered in blood.
This behaviour, excused by her fans as ‘reclaiming her autonomy’, isn’t normal. It seems like the moral obligation to check whether people are OK simply disappears when their actions match the accepted narrative. The Free Britney Brigade campaigned to overturn her conservatorship – a legal constraint brought in by her father – which saw her personal, economic, and contractual decision-making powers handed over to others. It was a story of liberation.
But where is the Britney Brigade now her behaviour is becoming ever more erratic? Instead of concern, they claim outrage at suggestions that she might be anything other than fine.
Few seemed to care about the 13 years of the conservatorship until the final months.