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Posted at 10:44 AM ET, 04/18/2008

Highbrow: Britology

Turns out there's a good reason we spend so much time covering Britney Spears -- she's the most important cultural figure in America. Or so posits Vanity Fair's Matt Pressman in an online piece examining the embattled pop tart's unprecedented coverage -- not only in the tabloids, but by mainstream media and even predictors of societal bellwethers, like The Atlantic and Portfolio.

Preposterous? Not so much if you consider the level to which Spears has saturated our daily lives -- from those headlines (for example, The Britney Economy) all the way to the art world (Exhibit A | Exhibit B).

Here at Celebritology, she's something of a patron saint. Not only have we deemed her the Biggest Train Wreck, I've devoted more than 44 entries to Spears over the past two years -- more, by orders of magnitude, than for any other celebrity. TomKat, another perennial fave, tallies only 16 posts and ubiquitous "I(dio)t" girl Paris Hilton only 13. Beyond those longer postings, the constant crush of Spears headlines spawned a dedicated "Spears Watch" in the Morning Mix over the past year or so -- her life has become a walking, talking serialized soap opera and, try as we might, we can't seem to look away from each new installment.

But, why Britney? What's so compelling?

Says Rolling Stone's Vanessa Grigoriadis in the Vanity Fair online piece:

"The thing that's hard to remember now about Britney is that she sold more albums that any other female artist. She had a $9 million Pepsi contract, she was everywhere, she was the golden girl. What makes her so poignant is that she had everything and it has destroyed her anyway."

But, then, so did Lindsay Lohan and Anna Nicole Smith and countless other starlets who succumbed to, rather than harnessed, fame. Yet, it is Britney's story in which my 72-year-old mother, 48-year-old brother and seven-year-old niece are equally interested. Could it be that she's actually got something -- a cult of personality working for her even as she offers herself up for a series of public meltdowns? Is Britney the sacrificial lamb, suffering for the sin of a society that has oversexualized underage women with nary a pang of conscience?

Share your take below. I'll be checking back throughout the day...

By Liz Kelly  |  10:44 AM ET, 04/18/2008

Categories:  Britney Spears, Britney Spears

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