We know she's a party animal who's had her share of recent mishaps, but has Britney Spears' career officially jumped the shark?
That's the question asked by various gossip sites and major media outlets this week, as Americans wonder if the negative publicity associated with Spears' wild partying has sunk her to irreparable depths as fans scorn her.
After all, if you're a young woman, there's nothing worse than to party a lot, hook up with guys and become an exhibitionist commando queen.
Think about it. She could cheat on her husband while still married with Sean Preston and Jayden James at home and not be subjected to this kind of scrutiny. They'd say K-Fed deserved it. She could become a full-blown drug addict and people would give her a free pass. It's tough to handle fame in the spotlight, after all! Right, Tara Conner?
But to fans, there's nothing worse than being a slut - or perceived as a slut. This month, the singer's largest fan site, World of Britney, will close down. Last week, students voted Spears the most ill-mannered celeb of 2006. Spears split in October with her publicist, and her record label's spokeswoman left in late December.
World of Britney founder, Ruben Garay, says he has no doubt that, if her music is good, a career comeback is not only possible, but will likely be successful. Spears is working on an album and may release a single this summer.
But she might want to make a move before then, public-image experts say. After all, it will take a lot to undo the damage done by the late-2006 deluge of nude and nearly nude Britney Spears pictures.
"If she were to make some apologies now, it would work in her favor to redeem her persona," says Boston publicist Evangelia Souris.
Spears' original appeal with fans, Garay says, was that she came from a small town and worked hard to succeed. But in 2006, the gap with fans widened considerably. The final straw for Garay was not the pics of Brit clubbing in no pants, but the fact that Spears was a no-show in October for a scheduled meet-and-greet with fans.
That was about the time students nationwide started voting for the best-mannered stars in an annual poll by the National League of Junior Cotillions. In a rare move, the ill-mannered category was added. Spears won by a large margin, with fans stating, unequivocally, that she lowered the standards for civility and morality.
But is she really any different than most 25-year-olds? The eschewing of pants is a bit extreme, but we all make bad decisions. Celebrities like Katie Rees might be stripped of her Miss Nevada crown over some naughty pictures taken four years ago, but she shouldn't be stripped of all respect. She's only human, and if we were all judged strictly by our worst moments as teens, we'd all look pretty awful.
T.H. Gossip believes there's nothing wrong with partying and getting your fade on. We will defend Britney any day of the week - but that's not going to be enough for the singer to regain the trust of her fans, however unfair they might be towards her. Hopefully, she'll pull it together - not for us, because we accept her no matter what, but for her own sake, so she's happier with herself.