Words: Jamie Tabberer; pictures: Wiki/Instagram
Once upon a time (or 2007), in a showbiz land far away, blogger Perez Hilton and YouTuber Chris Crocker occupied similar spaces in my pop culture brain.
Two gobby gay men (Chris has since out as trans) and ‘internet celebrities’ famous first and foremost for their fixations with Britney Spears.
But Crocker has grown considerably in the 14 years since their widely-ridiculed ‘Leave Britney alone!’ video, filmed at the height of the star’s personal problems and resultant media hounding.
For proof, look no further than today’s follow-up Britney video: a lesson in kindness, humility, and maturity.
In it, Crocker addresses the ‘Toxic’ singer’s blistering court testimony about her conservatorship, which she's likened to ‘slavery’ and ‘sex-trafficking’.
“I've been getting a lot of people reaching out to me today wanting my thoughts on everything,” Crocker calmly explains. "I never know how to speak on anything because I don't want it to be about me. This is about Britney and her finally being able to be free and finally being able to be heard.”
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Emphasising that the focus must remain a woman who alleges she isn't allowed to get married or have a baby, Crocker continued: “That is what's important. Not what I have to say. What Britney has to say. And I hope she gets that freedom and that happiness."
(By the way, Crocker’s original video was on the money, despite the supposed amateur dramatics. As one Twitter user put it, they had “absolute moral clarity about a subject that would take the rest of society 10 years to even begin to conceive the ramifications of in toxic social media pile-ons against people seen as somehow above human suffering from ridicule.” The derision Crocker faced looks increasingly like anti-LGBTQ hate in hindsight.)
Hilton’s past antics have not aged so well, however. And his personal growth? Paltry at best.
“I absolutely apologise and carry this shame and regret”
Back in the day, Hilton amassed millions of clicks on PerezHilton.com – half of which were from me; I admit, I was addicted and thus contributed to this sorry tale – while mocking Britney’s looks, calling her an unfit mother and opining on a T-shirt that she should have died instead of Heath Ledger in 2008.
But Hilton would have us believe he's a changed man.
Jumping at the chance to appear on Sky News to talk about Britney this morning, the 43-year-old said: "I take full accountability for how I behaved in the past. I can't say oh, I was just young and dumb. We know a lot more. Initially, many folks, myself included, were shocked and alarmed and especially concerned for her young children. I know I [did] not express myself as well as I could have. I did not lead with empathy and compassion. Which thankfully it seems most people now are understanding the severity of Britney’s situation. But I absolutely apologise and carry this shame and regret.”
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I took Hilton’s comments in good faith the first time I heard them months ago. But not anymore - because I’ve heard this spiel too many times before.
Just as his regretful comments made headlines today, so too did they when he talked about Britney in BBC documentary The Battle for Britney in May. And when he talked about her on Good Morning Britain last February.
And when he talked about her on BBC World News last November. And when he talked about her in his 2020 memoir.
Did we mention he appeared on Good Morning Britain to discuss her today as well? And this is just the UK! Truly, this apology tour is never-ending.
He’s gotten away with it thus far, but he’s no longer reading the room. Britney herself said only yesterday: "Even my family, they do interviews to anyone they want on news stations. My own family doing interviews, and talking about the situation and making me feel so stupid. And I can’t say one thing. And my own people say I can’t say anything."
Today, Hilton detailed the private, personal apology he emailed to Britney before adding: “I just want to hug her.”
If he has apologised, Hilton deserves respect. And if Britney’s forgiven him, that is commendable. But what need is there to contact her beyond that?
And why does he think “hugging” someone he once viciously bullied is remotely appropriate? What next: milkshakes and sleepovers? Does this man seriously believe he's Spears’ friend?
More likely, he’s so desperate for attention and exposure that he’ll happily pose as a phony Britney Spears pundit, an antihero with a direct line to our heroine, a so-say expert in her story - despite the hand he had in creating this tragedy - for any and every platform that’ll have him.
I would stop short of calling for Hilton to be 'cancelled'. But with an estimated $30m in the bank, why is he still pursuing this? Why not step out of the limelight and find something better to do with his time?
My message to Perez: we’ve heard you, she’s heard you… you’re sorry. Now, in the words of Chris Crocker, leave. Britney. Alone.