The Magazine

Jamie Lynn Spears, SID

Dec 31, 2007, Vol. 13, No. 16
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Not So Little Sister

THE SCRAPBOOK feels abashed that it has paid so little attention over the years--indeed, has paid no attention at all in print--to Britney Spears, the pop singer, former Mouseketeer, tabloid princess, and star of our favorite female-bonding movie, Crossroads (2002).

We concede, there's been a lot of material to ignore: The gyrating teenage videos; the Las Vegas wedding annulled after 55 hours; the marriage to the tattooed dancer/rapper and their self-produced "reality TV" show; the two offspring in swift succession; the contentious divorce; the quick-as-a-wink stints in rehab; the home visits from child welfare agencies; the loss of parental rights; the court order against her mother; the shaved skull; the video of a cursing, bald-headed Britney wildly striking a photographer's van with a furled umbrella.

It's been an interesting few years in the life of one American celebrity. And now, THE SCRAPBOOK observes, even Britney must be astonished to learn that her 16-year-old sister, Jamie Lynn ("I would like to be like Britney, but maybe better") Spears, star of the wholesome Zoey 101 TV program for preteens, is pregnant by her 19-year-old "former boyfriend."

This blessed event has had a number of consequences. First, Thomas Nelson, the religious publishing house, has suspended publication of a heart-warming memoir by Lynn Spears, Britney's mother, about the life of a pop-star mom. Second, it has reminded many Americans of the antiquated legal principle of an age of consent, and the laws governing statutory rape. And finally, it has prompted executives at Nickelodeon, the cable network that produces Zoey 101, to seize a teachable moment.

According to the Associated Press, "Nickelodeon is considering a special for its young audience about sex and love following the news that 16-year-old 'Zoey 101' star Jamie Lynn Spears is pregnant. .  .  . For the special, Nickelodeon said it's talking with Linda Ellerbee, the veteran newswoman who has stepped in frequently in the past with shows on talking to children about difficult issues in the news."

Difficult? We can't see anything difficult about explaining 16-year-old Jamie Lynn Spears, her pregnancy, her "former boyfriend," her sister, her mom, her extended household, and the whole phenomenon of pop culture, to children who frequently see things with clearer eyes than their elders. THE SCRAPBOOK's only concern, especially where Linda Ellerbee is concerned, is preserving the dignity of the Spears family at this special time in their lives.

The Tragedy of SID Revisited

A few moons ago, David Brooks memorably diagnosed in these pages the heartbreaking affliction known as Status-Income Disequilibrium (SID). "The sufferers of this malady," wrote Brooks, "have jobs that give them high status but low income. They lunch on an expense account at The Palm, but dine at home on macaroni. All day long the phone-message slips pile up on their desks--calls from famous people seeking favors--but at night they realize the tub needs scrubbing, so it's down on the hands and knees with the Ajax. At work they are aristocrats, Kings of the Meritocracy, schmoozing with Felix Rohatyn. At home they are peasants, wondering if they can really afford to have orange juice every morning. Status-Income-Disequilibrium sufferers include journalists at important media outlets, editors at publishing houses, TV news producers, foundation officers, museum curators, moderately successful classical-music performers, White House aides, military brass, politicians who aren't independently wealthy, and many others. Consider the plight of the army general, who can command the movements of 100,000 men during the week but stretches to afford a Honda Accord for weekend outings. Or of poor John Sununu, who ruled the world when he was White House chief of staff but had to feed, educate, and house eight children on $125,000 a year. The disparity is not to be borne."

Now the outbreak Brooks identifed a decade ago is spreading upwards, to include New York City lawyers. Robert T. Miller, at the First Things blog, noticed a recent story in the American Lawyer reporting that "lawyers in Manhattan's elite law firms--the kinds of places where partners make $1 million a year and more--are depressed because they don't make as much money as financial professionals. .  .  . Apparently the differences are becoming undeniably apparent in social settings. The article describes a fundraising auction at a private school in Manhattan: When a home-cooked meal by a famous chef was being auctioned off, the doctors dropped out of the bidding at $7,000, the lawyers at $15,000, and then the bankers, private equity and hedge fund crowd got serious and fought it out among themselves, with the winning bid coming in at $40,000.