Dec. 8, 2006 — -- Some say that in Hollywood, anything goes.
But for veteran actress and singer Bette Midler, Britney Spears' no-panty antics are too much to take.
On the Dec. 8 edition of the entertainment news show "Extra," the 61-year-old performer -- who has a 20-year-old daughter -- chastises Spears and fellow flasher Lindsey Lohan for their disregard of public decency, calling them "wild and woolly sluts."
Talking about how the stars have repeatedly flashed the paparazzi, the Divine Miss M jokes, "I'm wearing all the underwear that those girls are not wearing -- at least two bras and several pairs of panties."
"Get a life, get a grip," she continues. "I mean, someone should sit those ladies down."
Midler might like to know that Spears is on the road to recovery. After flashing her private parts three times in one week, generating scores of grotesquely detailed Internet images and a flurry of questions about her behavior, Spears announced yesterday that she would put on some panties.
The Web site of the onetime pop princess and recently separated mother of two greets fans with a sheepish apology: "Every move I make at this point has been magnified more than I expected, and I probably did take my newfound freedom a little too far. Anyway, thank God for Victoria Secret's new underwear line!"
Even if Spears covers up her bottom from now on, the pictures of her private parts and the ramifications of a flash-happy celebrity remain in the public consciousness.
For better or for worse, "The Britney Effect" is rippling through society.
People across the country are talking about Spears' crotch shots. Not surprisingly, much of what they have to stay isn't flattering.
Jonathan Tyson, 24, who was browsing in the Virgin Megastore in New York's Times Square, says that when he saw the photos of Spears online, he thought, "There she goes again. … Another publicity stunt."
Unlikely as it seems, three other men in their 20s say they hadn't seen the uncensored Spears' photos and didn't want to.
"I saw the censored version, and that was plenty," says Brian Pursley, a 24-year-old from Ohio. "I have no desire to see K-Fed's used goods."
Most believe Spears began to fall when she hooked up with backup dancer Kevin Federline.
What was once seen as rebellion is now seen as "trashy, slutty and sickening" by many people.
"I think she's lost her mind," says Amy McSherry, 32, from Florida. "Something snapped."
McSherry, the mother of a preteen daughter, worries about the effect of Spears' and other young celebrities' behavior.
"Girls have followed [Spears] from when they were little, like we did with Madonna in the '80s," she says. "They want to dress like them, be like them."
As if parents didn't have enough to worry about with midriff-baring tops and G-strings peeking out from pants, what if girls suddenly thought not wearing underwear was cool?
Psychoanalyst Bethany Marshall thinks it's a trend that could happen.
"They may say, 'I can rebel against society. I don't have to wear underwear, I can do whatever I want to do,'" she says.
Dan Giddings, a 24-year-old from Ohio who says he hadn't bothered to look at the photos of Spears' privates, admits that guys around his age expect women to look "sexier and sexier."
"It's not necessarily a good thing," he says.
Amee Shah, a corporate finance analyst in Washington, D.C., says Spears' crotch shots haven't changed her opinion of the pop star all that much.
"I didn't really like her to start with, and I don't know where she's headed. She started out being a MILF [Mother I'd Like to F---] and now she's this -- it's like, how low can you go?" Shah says.
Though her respect for Spears remains low, Shah says the star's behavior has affirmed her own code of conduct.
"She doesn't have an influence on me. I don't look up to her. But I am going to make sure that my legs are crossed next time I'm wearing a skirt," she says.
Susannah Grossman, who works in marketing for a Philadelphia graphic-design firm, thinks Spears' stunt is to be expected, considering that she's been coddled by managers and image consultants from the start of her career.
"For people to maintain their celebrity without enhancing their skills, they have to rely on this shocking behavior. For someone like Britney Spears, who didn't have an amazing voice to begin with, this is just her latest thing," she says.
Grossman sees Spears' display as a last-ditch attempt to stay a star.
"There's a certain type of person who will do anything when they realize there's a limited amount of time they have left," she says. "This gives another meaning to the term 'overexposed.'"
According to Marshall, Spears has shattered a crucial tenet of common decency.
"She's broken one of the deepest taboos. We call it private parts for a reason. It's supposed to be private," she says.
Marshall thinks Spears' disregard for common decency is her way of insulting the public.
"In a way, it's a bit of a, 'Screw you.' It's just like flipping someone off. The public may feel like they're being flipped off by Britney," Marshall says.
But Bob Thompson, professor of pop culture at Syracuse University, believes people are getting what they want.
"I think we kind of expect it from her," Thompson says. "We buy gossip and celebrity magazines to see people behaving in ways that are unexpected. I don't think people would be entertained if they logged on to the Internet and instead of seeing Britney without her undies, saw that Britney was starting a crocheting class."
Thompson says Spears is fulfilling her role in America's favorite spectator sport: the ever-evolving drama of celebrity life.
"This is what Britney does. She helps run the whole engine of the celebrity soap opera," he says.
According to celebrity publicist Michael Levine, who has represented Hollywood bigwigs, including Demi Moore and Barbara Streisand, the character Spears plays in that soap opera is turning into a caricature of the girl the public once loved.
"She's becoming very pockmarked. There's a cultural sense that she's drifting quickly into the territory of a white-trash cartoon character," Levine says. "She's not there yet. But as Bob Dylan said, 'It's not dark yet. But it's getting there.'"