A few years back there was a Rachel in a sitcom. She was funny in an “I’m stupid,” self-denigrating, laugh-at-her-not-with-her manner, and she usually made allusions to her licentious ways when it came to relationships. So, early on in “Friends,” Rachel was most precisely described by the terms “dumb” and “easy.” But as the show progressed, she became exponentially more sophisticated, conservative, accomplished, respectable and, oh yeah, way better looking. By the end of the “Friends” series Rachel was a veritable role model for the feminine cause. Thus, she is a good example of something that starts off ghastly but becomes extraordinary.

Then there is the antithesis: Britney Spears. She started off as an archetypical 21st century Victorian woman. She dressed? evocatively (as opposed to that other, more appropriate 10-letter E word), her songs were unabashedly racy and she definitely ate up the spotlight. And we all know what she did nightly in the sordid minds of millions of pimple-popping, prepubescent boys, a good number of post-adolescent World of Warcraft aficionados and a few middle-aged IT guys disillusioned by the comparatively pedestrian looks of bikini-clad Princess Leia.

But as instrumental as Spears was in exhausting the energies of a whole generation of football team rejects, she also did a lot for women (culturally I mean). Her status as a pop icon triumphed significantly over the cult boy-bands who dominated the ’90s. She drove many trends in female fashion, including her single-handed creation of midriff baring clothes (dammit, where have those gone?).

She also did more damage to the feminist cause in a few short years than decades of “Playboy” publications and beauty pageants did, but she introduced the idea that it was “okay” not to sleep around. Her widely publicized stance on premarital sex epitomized the possibility of being “cool” but not “loose.” All in all, she helped make the ’90s a triumphantly joyful time (I am sure massive economic growth, cheap gas, lots of jobs and a little thing called the computer had nothing to do with it).

But then everything went to tears for the legendary songstress. She became consumed by her own spectacularity and, like so many famous musicians before her, spiraled down a path of self-destruction, scrutinized at every step by millions of bemused tabloid-reading Americans. That is the end of that story.

Except that it’s not. Britney has decided to make a comeback characterized most accurately by the fiasco that was her recent VMA performance. Her new single “Gimme More” from the upcoming album “Blackout” is a clone of her previous work. It will fascinate youngsters around the nation, but most college students will find it monotonous. Besides, there are lots of younger, better-looking Britney clones running around. Who needs the original? Case and point: Ashley Tisdale can’t sing worth a damn but she can carry herself in a music video with so much more panach than her predecessor.

The story of Britney Spears, chronicled by her musical publications, is shameful and repugnant. Unlike the admirable rise of “Rachel,” Spears entered the public eye with a silver spoon in her mouth, spit it out and opted for numerous, less refined sources of sustenance. I have had enough of the ballad of Britney Spears. Nobody cares anymore. The woman should take a cue from previous has-beens and fade gracefully into obscurity instead of prostrating herself in the bowels of American media for just one last pitiful hurrah. That is, unless she can bring about a comeback of those midriff baring getups, in which case Britney Spears would, like, totally rock, dude.

Singh is a member of the class of 2008.

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