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‘The X Factor’ Wants You to Think Britney Spears Is Mean

Aside from the adorably predictable morality plays The X Factor set up for us last night on its Season 2 premiere (vaguely racist white girl is mean to young black mother and is murked by Cowell! Know-it-all popster brags to SoCal bros and is burned!) the show’s primary concern was playing up the arrival of its biggest star: new judge Britney Spears. But it wasn’t enough to have Mrs. Lifestyles of the Rich and Famous on the panel next to L.A. Reid, Simon Cowell, and Demi Lovato — the show went out of its way to play up the fact that Britney is a total meanie. They even ran a voice over of an anguished contestant yelping, “Britney is SO MEAN” after a montage of her seemingly harsh put-backs:

“I want to know who let you onstage. I feel uncomfortable with you even standing there.” (This particular clip ended with a musical cue: “Toxic”)
“I think you need to practice a little bit more.”
“I thought it was just kind of bad.”
“The singing came in… and it wasn’t very nice.”
“You need a new teacher… to teach you how to sing.”
“I felt like I was listening to Alvin and the Chipmunks.”
“I think you’re like Vanilla Ice meets Lauryn Hill meets West Side Story.”
“I didn’t really get it.”

Most of these aren’t actually harsh. (“You need a new teacher… to teach you how to sing” is a personal fave.) What they do demonstrate is that after soaking up a decade-plus of our culture’s harshest criticism, Brit isn’t adverse to dishing it out a little, too. The majority of Spears’ critiques actually came from her face, which flickered between a handful of expressions:

Ick and awwww!
Where’s my assistant?

After reports about Spears’ shaky start (she allegedly walked off set during several early auditions), the show seemed out to prove Spears is no softie, but even more importantly not a blank Brit bot. Maybe she was just relieved not to be onstage for once — facing down Don Philip, a onetime collaborator whose life seems to have been plagued by trouble in the past decade (not unlike her own), Spears delivered this line slowly and deliberately: “I feel like though the years, maybe you’ve gone through a lot of hardships and battles, but your voice really isn’t up to the bar of the standards of The X Factor and what we want.” Right now, she is what The X Factor wants. Badly. On to episode two.