“It's the terror of knowing What this world is about Watching some good friends Screaming, 'Let me out!'” - Farokh “Freddie Mercury” Bulsara - David “Bowie” Jones
“Got you all fired up With your Napoleon complex, Seein' right through you Like you're bathin' in Windex.” - Mariah Carey
“Oooo-eee, boys, we've got ourselves a turdnado.”
Kip, a human male in his mid-thirties stands before the assembled group of beige and besuited men. Kip is referencing a tornado, a violently rotating vortex of air where the unstable heat of the brutal summers meet the cool air of a thunderstorm. This climate occurrence is common in his native Oklahoma.
“We're in the eye of shitstorm now. Buckle up, its gonna be a fucking messy ride.”
After moving to Los Angeles twelve revolutions around the sun ago, Kip began affecting a deep Southern accent. Dialect coaches throughout Hollywood were unable to pinpoint it origins. In reality, its a hodgepodge of what he assumes people want to hear in a Southern accent. Part folksy, part crass, he started this charade to seem endearing to people. He soon found another benefit. He can swear with abandon and insult people to their face, all the while, his audiences will smile and think, 'oh how charming! Oh how provincial.'
“Our client, Miss Britney Spears---”
He gestures at the 3D holowalls that line the boardroom, all broadcasting the length, heighth and depth of this human unhinged. He needs say no more, the partners have followed her unraveling religiously.
Kip is a partner at Hephaestus Talent Agency, where he tells people that his job is to make dreams come true. In reality, his job is to juggle a slate of human cogs and shove them into elaborate systems of cogs at entertainment factories to create highly-manufactured commodities like movies and pop songs.
Today, he and his partners will weave the fate of Brit-Brit.
She, along with half the human population, were assigned at birth the label of female, conscripting with a set of paradoxical norms: to grow their head hair long, yet shave and pluck all other hair, to starve themselves for a skeletal frame yet somehow retain fatty tissue around their hips and above their rib cages. These demands were a constant background noise, a static that could spike throughout the day, distracting them. As a young human, Britney was thrust to superstardom, propped up as the princess of popular music and idealized as the paragon of this myth of womanhood.
But Britney had been carefully crafted by dozens of men to create the most-idealized version of this womanhood. The hair of hundreds of women had been cut off and then glued onto Britney's scalp so these extensions could form the perfect, natural yellow mane. Her white skin was sprayed an orangish-brown color. Implants where shoved into her chest to create larger mammary glands. Her nose was slimmed and her lips were plumped. Her face was shellacked under layers of makeup. Her body shape was carefully regimented with strict diet and exercise. When she sings, the words were crafted by men. Her voice was frequently augmented with auto-tune, giving it a robotic quality. Her movements were carefully choreographed. Even her life decisions and finances were out of her control.
Her life story could almost best be told through the list of men who manufactured her and profited from her. Her father became her conservator. He made $130,000 a year to control his daughter's financial and medical decisions (along with 1.5% of gross revenue from her performances and merchandising). Her background dancer became her husband and then used her to launch a failed rap-and-reality star career, but then settled for a consolation prize of $240,000 a year in child support even though he wasn't the primary parent. Her paparazzo became her boyfriend and tried to sell photos of her for half a million dollars. Her onetime business manager became fiancé. And on and on the list goes.
She is a commodity that had changed ownership in her decades-long working career, which began at the age of 11. From Disney to Jive to RCA to Legacy and now, in the early twilight years of her career, to the Hephaestus Talent Agency.
With a wave of his hand, the hologram folds into a soccer ball shape, each pentagon evoking a different image of their malfunctioning Spears.
“Gentlemen, we had been afraid of this.” Kip shakes his head.
This breakdown occurred a month after the death of Britney's father and conservator, James Spears. Since her last mental health breakdown, the paternal Spears had meticulously controlled Britney's every movement and meal to ensure that she would remain stable and productive. For more than twenty years, all of her financial, professional and basic life choices were controlled by her conservators: her father and a lawyer. All of her purchases had to be approved by them and then carefully documented and stamped by the courts. She paid millions of dollars for them to control her. This program was generally used for individuals who were mentally, physically or emotionally unable to make these decisions on their own. Yet, at the same time as the courts of California judged her unable to take care of herself, she made half a million dollars a night performing in Las Vegas and $15 million to judge talent acts on a popular television program.
All of these accomplishments should have proven that she was well enough to take care of herself. But a billion-dollar industry had grown around her and those who profited from her thought it was best to not gamble with the possibility of losing revenue by granting her her freedom, and thus her life had remained so overprotected.
During her decades of conservatorship, armchair philosophers, lounging on their chaises, swirling their rosé, would debate, does Britney Spears have free will? Is she freest when she's being controlled? Isn't Britney happier when she's healthy and working even if she has to sacrifice the ability to choose? Can people with mental illness who are prone to making decisions that are detrimental to their health ever truly make the best decisions for themselves? Can any human ever make the best decision for themselves?
Moments after her agency learned that one of her father's artery's clogged, depriving Mr. Spears's heart of oxygen rich blood, they feared the worst. What fragile technologies humans were, in only a few minutes deprived of Earth's atmosphere, these beings built over decades could cease to function, forevermore.
“What's Britney's situation?” One of the agent's growls.
“Safely out of harm's way. A judge signed an emergency committal. He said she had endangered herself. Apparently, decapitating a drone with your teeth could have electrocuted her. The police found her on the floor of her kitchen, making snow angels in giant piles of sugar.”
“Where's she now?”
With a wave of his hand, Kip rotates the holosphere. He swipes past a few open screens to find---
“Here. At New Sunsets, the nation's premier rehab facility for aging starlets.”
Stock images of cheerful older women beam beneath the site's banner. Under these, in jazzy letters, reads one of the facility's classes:
“Art of the Scarf – 20 tips to hide your jowls.”
Ah, the neck wattle, the final facial frontier. At this point, no plastic surgeon had successfully transformed this area, though many customers had been left with slit throats after failed attempts.
“When she gets out, we'll have a public relations nightmare on our hands. But, I reckon this escapade has revitalized interest in her dying brand.” His audience smirks at his understatement.
Kip's hand rotates the 'sphere and stops at a video of a kickboxing class.
“Over thirty Britney workout classes have sprung up.”
The video shows spandex-clad women and men squatting, bobbing and weaving as their own hologram Britney kicks and swings a bat at them. A dance instructor can be heard screaming.
“And bob and weave and up and down and up and down. High kick, high kick, squat.”
A scoreboard hovers over each Holo-Brit, showing how many times she lands a direct hit.
“And from Cebu to Ibiza, people are making knock-off Britney fashions and accessories”
Another whirl of his hand turns on the next screen. This hologram shows a collage of women wearing tutus, gold jumpsuits, purple fishnets and necklaces of plastic, smashed drones. Stores began selling bootleg T-shirts with the image of Britney Spears wearing a T-shirt with her face on it. Viewers are hypnotized with this Spears within a Spears within a Spears Droste effect.
“Gentlemen, I smell good money here. But, we gotta play this recovery just right. We have to keep her edge but still endear her to her fans. I've already planned a 'Returning of Things Stolen' ceremony to Hot Topic. But that's just damage control. We need the public, particularly her demographic of women ages 30 to 55, to clutch their chests and say 'awwwwww' when they hear her name. Alright, shoot me your best turd blossoms.”
As the pause prolongs, Kip leans over and pulls out a fencing sword.
“Any ideas,” Kip twirls the blade over his head, brandishing this before his protégés.
Skylark quibbles in his seat. He feels the wave of the blade inches from his face. His hair follicles sway in the sword's wake.
“Uhhh” Skylark stutters.
“We got a live one!” Kip says, thrusting the blade millimeters from Skylark's nose.
“Well, what about a charity?” Skylark shifts uneasily as a half-formed, constipated idea pokes out. “Kids with cancer in... war torn---”
“NOPE, American's don't give a mouse's teet about the suffering of others. When they start to see the pain in the news, they flip the channel.” The sword's tip flips the right collar of Skylark's shirt, providing all the exclamation he needs.
For humans, news had become a form of entertainment. The news outlets covered Britney's breakdown ceaselessly because it had sex appeal, a mystery ending and was tragic, but not too tragic. This wasn't the only tragedy occurring. Stories that were shelved that week included a hurricane that decimated Haiti, killing 83,000 people, three distinct polio outbreaks and the extinction of a dozen species. Those stories would be too tragic, numbing the audience with the pain of life and ensuring they wouldn't buy any of the sextuple-ply toilet paper or erection medicine advertised between segments of suffering.
“Easy, a tell-all memoir,” Rory bellows. This bull of a man always sat at the corner of the table closest to the snacks. The uppermost button of his oxford shirt cinches his beefy neck until it bulges like a boa constrictor swallowing a deer.
“She gets an easy $4 million to queef up some sob story, does the talk show rounds, cries about her parents or a bad relationship, and then her key demographic collectively clutches their fat tits, tilt their three chins and say 'awww.'”
Kip stares at Rory to raise the suspense of his reaction. Kip knows humans crave validation. Even the slightest nod of approval can cause waves of oxytocin to be released in Rory's brain, bathing him in joy for hours. Kip lets his eyes dance for Rory, giving a momentary sense of hope as he opens his mouth.
“Are you stupid, son!?”
Kip drops his blade and circles the table. What starts with a firm hand on Rory's shoulder quickly becomes a headlock.
“I asked you a question, are you stupid, son?”
Rory was a former college football player. Football was a sport where millions of humans cheer on a much smaller group of super humans to feel momentarily, adjacently victorious. These college franchises raked in billions of dollars on the labor of their unpaid student-athletes. Rory suffered eighteen concussions during his three-year college career. The swelling in his brain never returned to normal. His ability to process language and thoughts has remained stunted ever since. This should have led to an affirmative answer to the question posed, but Rory has never accepted his fate and won't share his shortcomings now.
Rory's larynx struggles against this forearm vise to pipe out a response. Before he can, Kip twists Rory's head until his field of vision focuses on the target in the back of the room.
At the end of the table is a sculpture commissioned for the agency, entitled “Pile of Shit.” Artist Phoebe DuBois had extracted trash from the agency for this piece, including the castoffs of terrible ideas and mementos of the most monstrous decisions. She rolled these in freshly made puddles of cow manure. She glossed the poo-piece with an airtight sheen, trapping the fecal matter and shitty artifacts together. The piece stands in the main conference room, a reminder of what horrors their carelessness can bring.
And buttressing it all as the cornerstones of this tower of caca were Britney's previous memoirs: “Say Hello to the Girl that I Am,” “Can You Handle My Truth?” and “Why am I so Real?”
“She already put out three books, each selling worst than the last. Heck we tried to gift that last son-of-a-bitch in our Christmas care packages. A few clients paid their assistants extra to hurl them at our office. Those heavy suckers even smashed a few windows.”
Kip releases Rory and stomps around the table.
“What in the fuck am I paying you for?”
The water molecules expelled by his hard P-sound dance in the air and glide to the table.
“Make her the victim.”
All eyes dart to the source of this sound.
Caden does not waver from the hologram baseball game he manipulates five inches above his right palm.
“Alright... Keep this pussy wagon rolling.” Kip says.
“Well... Who done broke her?”
Skylark jumps at the chance to prove himself. He grabs onto Caden's coattails and claws. “The Paparazzi? Fame?” His voice falters. “Her parents?”
“You want a fistful of SHUT the fuck up!?” Kip huffs at Skylark. Skylark's nostrils flare as a high squeak escapes his mouth.
“Oh, does baby need a time out?” Kip devolves into the indecipherable babbling of a human infant attempting to communicate.
Caden thwacks a home run with his middle finger. A muted cheer erupts from a holographic stadium that extends from his knee to his navel. At peace with his progress, he looks up.
“Who made her?” His question mark dangles, interrogating his audience.
Caden stands and leans over the table, giving the room a glimpse of how well he fills this year's fashion. The Hamm'ing of men's clothes had pushed inseams higher, making pants tighter, allowing all to see what the wearer is packing. Consequently, the number of bulge implanted underpants had soared 2,000%.
One hundred revolutions around the sun ago, showing ankles or shoulders aroused horror and excitement. The dominate culture craved the tantalizing appeal of what's almost revealed. Human appetite for arousal created more daring apparel. Hemlines grew shorter and tops cropped lower. But like all human desires, every shift to gratify these quickly brought diminishing returns and a race to an ever-receding state of satisfaction.
In terms of girth and length, Caden clearly demonstrates that he's the cock-of-the-walk and all the betas buckle before their new alpha.
“Disney. She was forged by the burning lights in that pre-adolescent factory, the Mouseketeers.”
Disney was a conglomerate of companies with a stated goal of making dreams come true, but with an actual goal of creating more wealth for its shareholders. It originated as an animation studio started by two brothers surnamed Disney. The studio experimented with animating people and became successful at manipulating human emotions with these cartoons. Along with using this emotional power to convince families to forfeit money to this corporation, Disney once used this manipulation for war propaganda by, among other things, motorboating Adolf Hitler.
As its empire grew, Disney expanded its holdings to dominate the entertainment industry for children and families. The company soon added live-action entertainment. This demanded the use of actual human tools to generate money for its owners rather than cartoon ones. The majority of Disney's tools were children. Children were a protected class of humans who the dominant culture agreed should be safe from all forms of labor, except for farming, delivering newspapers and entertainment.
“Think about it! All the tools manufactured by Disney are broken. Lindsay Lohan, Milez Cyrus, Christina Aguilera, Justin Timberlake, Raven-Symoné, Shia LeBeouf, the Jonas Brothers, Demi Lovato and, of course, Britney Spears.”
As Caden says each name, their worst deed hurtles into his coworkers' minds. The past twenty years had seen a rapid escalation of bad behavior among celebrities. These agents wished their problems were as simple as the flaunted labia of yesteryear.
Milez Cyrus, feeling that their life had followed their name and become hopeless, suffered a public breakdown. During a performance before Disney's Annual Meeting of Shareholders, they stopped mid-twerk, slid off a giant inflatable rubber duckie and stared at their audience.
“You did this to me!” They screamed as they took out a pair of pliers from their bejeweled fanny pack.
“Take these back, I never wanted them!” Milez ripped out their three front teeth, lobbing them at the tuxedo-clad diners. As blood gushed from their mouth, they attempted to protest their dental dominance by Disney. They were unable to enunciate their message before their microphone was cut off and they blacked out. Afterwards, they retreated from public life to live in the forests of northern Montana, embracing their genderqueer identity and a new name, Milez, ensuring they could always have the best of both worlds.
Shia LeBeouf's masturbatory “art” performance entitled “Wash in My Sins” was a cinéma vérité mess. In the self-produced, self-directed, self-acted piece, LeBeouf broke into the baptistry of the Los Angeles Mormon Temple. He climbed one of the twelve marble bulls and tumbled into the baptismal font. He recorded himself swimming naked and vigorously masturbating to climax. As his waterproof lens documented the travails of his spermatozoa shooting through the holy water, his voiceover explained that, through the transitive property, he was giving a facial-by-proxy to all who had been baptized here. After his trial and plea deal and after he finished paying all cleaning fees and a large fine to the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, he simply chuckled to church authorities, “so we're even stevens, right?”
And Lindsay Lohan, the freckled redhead, found her calling luring the children of billionaires with her husky-voiced siren song. These plain children longed to be fêted by celebrity. So Lindsay gave them what they wanted. She treated them to soirées. She surrounded them with models, actors and musicians. She wined, dined and then drugged them with scopolamine, a.k.a. Devil's Breath. The drug turns her victims into witless zombies who eagerly act out what she wants and forgets everything by morning. In an evening, Lohan would get access to bank accounts, email passwords, phone numbers and would record them saying key phrases. Lohan used this material to catfish their unsuspecting fathers for millions of dollars in the ultimate parent trap.
As the collective daydream ebbs, Kip begins.
“Ok, I'm following, but flip this bitch and fuck it home.” Kip rubs his blade phallically.
“A class action lawsuit.”
The sparks of recognition ignites in the men's minds.
“Now hold up, give me the gist of your gristle,” Kip shakes his head and stares at Caden, slack-jawed.
“They all got their start as child labor, working in the Disney factories. And now they're fucked up. Coincidence? Shit, no! We unite all these burned out stars, with Britney as the lead plaintiff against Disney. We can sue Disney for... reckless endangerment, lifelong trauma, emotionally stunting them. Heck, lets keep piling claims on. This will be a publicity blitz. Think of it. The Trial of the Millennium!”
“Disney. Holy shit. HO-LY Shit!” Kip begins to rub Caden's shoulders . “Fuck. Cunt. Ass! Now this! This! Is an idea! Say it one more time.”
“We will sue Disney for child endangerment and ruining these stars' lives.”
“SAY IT AGAIN”
“We will sue Disney.”
“Let's fuck this bitch!” Kip whips his tie back, licks his open palm and slaps the table. He clutches it to brace himself as he gratuitously thrusts his hips, simulating procreation. Kip hasn't successfully fornicated in seven years. With each pounding of the table, he tries to push away this reality. The amount of red meat he consumes on a daily basis for the current fad diet, the archeologically inaccurate Neanderthal diet, has clogged his arteries, raised his blood pressure and flooded his brain with hormones force fed the cows he consumes. All of these factors ensure that blood will not flow to his penis, which halts his arousal from becoming an erection.
He wipes his brow, straightens his suit and expels a climatic sigh.
“Ugh, ahhhh, this feels good, gentlemen. Damn Good. Ok, let's give this idea the giant tits it needs to be a winner.”
Skylark pulls out a tablet from his Ed Hardy tiger-covered man-satchel and slides it across the table.
“I think you better have a look at this.”
He scrolls and clicks on a headline buried near the bottom:
“Early Childhood Fame Leads to Mental Disorders.”
The byline explains that researchers at the UCLA Charlie Sheen School of Psychiatry are to present the findings of their 25-year longitudinal study.
Kip waves the headline around, tapping the agents lightly on their noses.
“You smell this? YOU SMELL THIS?”
His well-threaded eyebrows leap up.
“THIS. This is the hot sweaty ball sack of legitimacy. Take a good whiff.” Kip inhales deeply on this article-cum-scrotum.
“Gentlemen, its time to lawyer up!”