Belfast Telegraph speaks on Britney

It's open season on Britney Spears at the moment. As in the title of her No 1 hit, recent Press comment on the star has been Toxic.

Pictures of her at the weekend, with a mild case of acne and the slightest of double chins, prompted a welter of criticism.

"Spot's happened to Britney?" screamed one headline. "What is zit, Brit?" went another.

One rag even went so far as to claim that Britters had aged 20 years in two years, lining up a panel of experts to assess the crisis.

"Spots around the chin are a sign someone has a problems with their small intestine," declared one.

Of course, this sort of sniping has been going on at Britney for months now.

There's been snidery about her "chunky" legs, her alleged cellulite and apparent outrage that while she executed demanding dance routines she didn't always sing live.

That's like asking one of the Williams' sisters to talk us through their serve as they slam the ball over the net.

And then there's the old snob factor, too.

Commentators are fond of using the words "white trash" and "Britney" in the same sentence. They don't like her new boyfriend and, though they don't spell it out precisely, it's really because they think he's a nobody.

They'd rather she'd husband hunted a celeb catch like Zeta Jones, Paltrow or Aniston.

Ah, but Britney doesn't need to.

It's all hilarious, of course.

What the carpers really want is a morality tale about the tragedy of too much fame too young, blah blah blah.

But they've written off Britney too soon.

Spears is a top star who'd still be in the middle of a gruelling world tour had she not suffered a knee injury.

She's taken a few weeks off, snaffled a few bags of crisps and had the odd drink.

It's also known as having a life, something which is altogether more reassuring than the hyped-up cause for concern.

Britney isn't going bonkers. She's normal. The zits were tiny, the double chin probably just a bad camera angle.

Alas, the snipers just can't stand the fact that Britney, still only 22, is sexy, rich and very, very successful.

Plus, she's young enough to turn herself round in less than a week and be back cavorting on the beach in some cobwebby bikini thing.

And that's what they hate most of all.

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