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by Karen Turner
brit 1
I spent a day surfing around the interwebs and came across these mesmerizing Pop magazine covers featuring Britney Spears. I couldn’t quite put my finger on what I found so compelling about these Manga-inspired shots of Britney re-imagined as (1) a Japanese school girl and (2) some kind of, sorry to be creepy, child bride? It is certainly fun to see the immortal American Pop Star posing in a totally foreign context, but I think it is ultimately the familiarity of these images that makes them so fascinating. We’ve all seen Britney-the-barely-legal-seductress before, dancing around in a schoolgirl outfit when "…Baby One More Time" premiered on MTV.

The referential layers of these images hardly seem accidental (and not just because I’m a nerd of the worst kind and like to over analyze pop culture). The photos were modeled after a manga called My Wife Is a Grade Schooler, a comic that was publicly criticized by the Japanese government due to…well, just look at the title. The book belongs to a well-established genre of Japanese manga that focuses on young girls as erotic objects–it is just one of many that has come under media scrutiny. But the artist/writer behind My Wife is a Grade Schooler, Takashi Murakami, has since become a well-respected artist, his work even gracing the cover of Kanye West’s album Graduation. 
brit2So Murakami, armed with star power, has fired back at critics of My Wife with Pop magazine. He has recreated the comic’s most disturbing images (a schoolgirl wearing a wedding veil? Yikes) with the infamous Britney, a star entirely built on videos of seductive schoolgirls and teenage dreams. The cover’s stylized images aren’t so different from the Britney we remember, yet she was idolized by our culture and remains, in many ways, a cultural obsession. The Britney franchise made millions while My Wife and other manga were socially ousted, yet they sold the same idea; oversexed young women. Why didn’t the U.S. government publicly decry the PR masterminds who sculpted and exploited this young teenager, as the Japanese did?
I’m not trying to make some kind of argument for stricter FCC regulation, but I am truly disturbed by the American media’s lenience towards the over-sexualization of young girls. I would go past labeling it leniency, actually, and call it downright exploitation as it represents a multi-million dollar industry (hello Miley, Bratz dolls, and the list goes on). Not only are these erotic images of young teenagers tolerated, they provide the foundation for a massive consumer and cultural base in our society obsessed with these girls. And once these girls grow up, once they lose their appeal, we, like we did with Britney, drag them through the mud. It’s a horrifying cultural obsession.
This happens to be my opinion about these Pop covers, but some have speculated that the images are intended to be protests against the Japanese crackdown on alleged child pornography in manga comics. What do you think?
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