February 19, 2003

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The Litter Box

Celebrity journalist
By John O'Neill

ALAS, THERE is no such thing as rock school, so little concerning music criticism is written in stone, with the possible exception that, invariably, some drunken a-hole will yell "Freebird!" at a show. I'd like to be able to say with complete and utter authority that my words are not mere opinion but an irrefutable thunderbolt of judgment cast from the Mt. Olympus that is my (undersized) desk. Then maybe we'd have the answer to mysteries like, If 16 million copies of New Kids on the Block were sold, how come you never run into someone who owns one? But there aren't any straight answers. Critics have nothing to guide them but personal taste and a willingness to push it down the throats of one and all. That and, of course, it helps to be able to look down your nose at anything that attracts more than a couple dozen people as being part of a plot to anesthetize the uneducated proletariat. This is where I'm a Viking.

I once had a certain pride in my ability to shrug off both popular music and pop culture like the couple of bad viruses they are. Marrying millionaires, nu-metal, flavored beer, designer soda, tattoos, boy bands, pop divas – I could plead ignorance about almost everything. I couldn't tell you how Survivor was played, what made a good latte, or the name of a single dude in Incubus, Stain'd, or Linkin Park. Not that I went out of my way to avoid all of this. Of course not! You don't need to bite into a dog turd to figure it's probably going to be unpleasant. And so I rolled blissfully along, in reality TV-free orbit, content with the knowledge that I would never be one of the sheep.

I mention this because I find myself on shaky ground of late. With a single click of the mouse I was transported to the E! Online gossip page, and my world was turned upside and my belief system shattered. Until that moment I had no interest in the rich and famous. Now I follow their lives with creepy fascination. Pop culture has wrapped its slimy tentacle around my brain, and now my thirst is unquenchable. I am sick. I need an answer to just one question that for the past week has been haunting me like a gypsy curse.

What in the world was Fred Durst thinking by dissing Britney Spears?

Don't get me wrong, I'm not a card-carrying member of her fan club or anything. I'm not even sure how many albums she's put out, or the titles of any of her songs except "Oops." Until Durst's recent sneak attack, all I could say about her is that she dances pretty well in that Pepsi commercial. But I do have a heart, and these days it's broken. This Durst guy is way out of line, and what I need to know is why everyone isn't outraged like I am? People, I understand that Britney may not be perfect, but why the character assassination? She's 21, rich as hell, a knockout, and a former Mouseketeer, for goodness sake! She isn't like you and me and shouldn't be held to the same standards. And she sure doesn't need the likes of Mister Fred Durst calling her out in public like she's young Streisand. The nerve.

First he goes on his crappy band's dumb message board and tells his stupid fans to butt out of his life. He has "never felt this way about anyone before," and continues incoherently, berating everyone and anyone who has an interest in his personal life, which is nobody's business but his. He tells everyone to get a life, and then, three weeks later, he turns around and flames the supposed love of his life on MTV.

Well, I've got something to tell you, Durst. You're the one who needs to get a life! You couldn't even hold on to your guitarist. You're lucky she even tossed you a one-night stand, you classless mook. It's obvious she's still on the rebound from the whole Justin thing. Did you know he totally iced her out at his birthday party and she left in tears? Or were you busy putting the pressure on her because you "never felt like this about anyone before." The fact is that five years from now she'd be supporting your sorry ass. It's better she pulled the plug now, because you'd only grow to resent her. Unlike yours, her career arc hasn't peaked.

In summation: Lay off the haterade, Fred.

And Britney, I would die 4 U.

E-mail John O'Neill at litterbox@sfbg.com.