The year was 2007. Britney Spears had four albums behind her, all of which had debuted at number one. It seemed like Britney’s career had no limits, but a storm was brewing.
She may have stepped into the limelight as a teen sweetheart, but Britney was now a twice divorced mother of two coming off of several rehab stints. Her personal struggles had become much bigger than a highly publicized breakup with Justin Timberlake.
The world watched as Britney shaved her head and attacked a paparazzi’s truck with an umbrella. In 2007, the public reacted to her breakdown with a mix of judgement and amusement.
Tabloids used Britney’s mental health struggles as the punchline to joke after joke. That Halloween, Forbes suggested “crazy Britney” as a hilarious costume. Other publications took guesses at Britney’s weight gain, speculating on the exact number. Readers laughed at unflattering pictures of the celebrity paired with headlines calling her “deranged” and “insane.” One tabloid gleefully predicted her death.
It was easy to love the pigtailed school girl singing “…Baby One More Time,” but people turned on the adult woman who desperately needed help. Spears existed for our entertainment — if she wasn’t going to give us hit songs, we would use her mental health to amuse ourselves.
In 2018, we have a very different attitude towards celebrities’ mental health. When stars like Lady Gaga and Ariana Grande have been candid about their own experiences, they have been considered brave and inspiring. This fall, when Selena Gomez checked into rehab following an emotional breakdown, the internet exploded with love and support. Amidst Demi Lovato’s own mental health struggles, Twitter has been overcome with hashtags like #PrayForDemi and #StayStrongDemi.
It’s refreshing to see how much our attitudes toward mental health have changed in a decade. Now that we show love to recent superstars, it’s time to go back to the original pop princess and realize that she was wronged. There’s a common internet saying that “if Britney Spears got through 2007, you can get through this week.”
And Britney Spears did work through her personal demons to end up right back on top. Looking back at the scared, bald young woman, it’s amazing to see today’s pop legend who now has nine hit albums. The woman who made headlines for being a reckless mother is now considered one of the most hands-on parents in Hollywood, regularly spotted cheering on her sons at their football games and piano performances.
Last month, Britney announced her second residency in Las Vegas. She’s world-famous proof that whatever challenge you are facing, you can overcome it and feel like yourself again. In 2007, the world saw Britney’s mental health as a comical show of weakness. Now, it’s a different, much happier story for A-listers and ordinary people alike.