As I was dabbling through my RSS reader this morning sifting through today's posts--scanning headlines in search of something that would grab my attention--I came across various tirades ridiculing Britney Spears' performance on last night's VMA's. So naturally, in honor of my inner voyeur (perennially salivating over salacious celebrity dish--I say Gimme More), I clicked on the play icon of the first video embed I could lay my mouse cursor on. Yes, yes, yes, the performance was a veritable train wreck. Lifeless, awkward, wacky, tacky--stressful even. I know it made me anxious, even though I already knew she wasn't going to fall flat on her face despite what all her spastic movements seemed to indicate. The celebrity audience, hesitant and puzzled, still managed to patter applause. Personally, I was actually impressed Britney was able to keep her balance throughout--I bet it's not easy to stagger around like that to the beat of a song onstage while wearing stiletto boots, a hooker's get-up, and a wig, all while doped up. I should know. I give her props just for that, for sure.
Anyway, the inevitable digital blitz that has ensued is proof that now more than ever, the medium really is the message. The real event wasn't the actual performance per se, but what came after. So Britney bombed onstage--who cares? The answer is, a lot of us do, and we need to talk about it. If it wasn't for the media documenting all her crazy, drug-fueled antics obsessively-compulsively (the head-shaving incident still makes tops--and hey, it's her prerogative), we would have not cared that much in the first place. It is the media that makes it what it is, and that gives it cultural (in)significance. The shocker is not what the live audience saw last night; it is what the media-inclined are experiencing today--on YouTube, on blogs, in news reports and gossip magazines. Last night, it was just one more mediocre, stale-ass performance. Today, it is an event. It is social construction at its best, live and in real time, and we are all invited. That's the power of digital media. Events aren't important the very second they happen; rather, they gain momentum with time and talk.
The Internet is Mentos to pop cultural Diet Coke. As I read and fervently consumed the comments being tossed around regarding Britney's fiasco, I couldn't help but smile. The one that made me laugh the hardest: "It's Britney, twitch." Genius.