A collage depicts how women in the music industry are often sexualized and slandered, even at a young age. Photo courtesy of Flickr
Last week, after 13 years of her father controlling her financial and personal life, musician Brittney Spears’ conservatorship ended. The #FreeBritney campaign is likely both the most fascinating and effective movement in media history, acting as an example of positive changes being pushed primarily through social media. In retrospect, the situation also acts as a reminder for the dark aspects of female child stardom.
Spears was only 16 years old when she released her first single “Baby One More Time” in 1998. Even with her career beginning years prior to singing for the “Mickey Mouse Club” show, this song is notable for two reasons: firstly, the album on which the single is featured rose to number one on music charts, kickstarting Spears’ career. The other reason is due to the song’s controversial music video, where the underaged Spears wears a revealing schoolgirl uniform.
I watched the music video for the first time post-conservatorship, and it made me feel gross as a 21-year-old male. If this was considered appropriate for Spears at the time, it scares me to think how her parents controlled her behind the scenes.
Spears using her connections with Disney as means to start a legitimate music career is a trend still seen today, even with young stars of Nickelodeon shows such as Ariana Grande.
Like many my age, I watched the teen sitcoms growing up, often mindlessly as background noise during homework. Recently I have noticed a trend of now-adult fans questioning the sitcom’s questionable treatment of young actresses. The most offensive show in this manner is “Victorious.”
The treatment of Grande on this show is perhaps the most disgusting ever shown on children’s television: Grande’s character Cat is not only overly flirtatious in body language, but also constantly seen wearing skimpy attire. One notable example is in the episode “Survival of the Hottest,” where a group of teenage boys sprays Cat with water guns as she wears high, tight jean shorts and a bralette.
Grande’s sexualization is too consistent to be accidental. In 2018, Nickelodeon took action by ending their contract with the creator of “Victorious” Dan Schneider after allegations of Schneider behaving inappropriately towards young actresses. I honestly have not watched anything from Nickelodeon in years, but I have yet to hear any backlash to the degree caused by Schneider’s productions post his removal.
Schneider’s past co-workers at Nickelodeon continue to make both him and the network look bad. Production assistant Jason Michael Handy on the show “All That,” a show written and produced by Schneider in the 1990s, has been convicted on charges related to pedophilia, including lewd acts to children and another charge in child sexual exploitations, according to the Los Angeles Times.
Fortunately, both Grande and Spears have since overcome monsters like Schneider and Handy. Grande is one of the biggest names in music right now, and Spears has a whole life of well-deserved freedom and support to look forward to. Let us all hope that the outing of these horrible individuals leads to the end of the exploitation of young actresses.