So, Let's Talk About Amanda Bynes...: The Mendoza Line of Celebrity Schadenfreude
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So, Let's Talk About Amanda Bynes...: The Mendoza Line of Celebrity Schadenfreude

By Courtney Enlow | Celebrities Are Better than You | April 18, 2013 | Comments ()

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Laughing at celebrities is practically a national pastime. And why not? Often, these are ridiculous people, clowns and court jesters, grist for our proverbial mills of judgement, scathe and scorn, particularly for those of us in the pop culture industry. I harp on this subject a lot, but the world of Celebrity is, to put it mildly, a bizarro world most of us could never imagine. We laugh at famous people for things we wouldn't even blink at in "normal people" and forgive them things that would destroy the aforementioned "normal people" in every social circle; meanwhile, the people they *actually* know only feed them "yes" and "more" and more "yes."

But, as with everything else in life, there is a line. And I feel like that line has been crossed with Amanda Bynes.

If you haven't been following the Tower of Terror that is the life of former Nickelodeon baby standup Amanda Bynes (likely because you were way more into Lori Beth Denberg) let me explain. ... No, there is too much. Let me sum up. Basically, Amanda Bynes has spent the last year or so careening off the sanity track. The thing is it actually started three years ago, with her retirement announcement and hasty unretirement, but, because her star had been fading for a few years by that point anyway, people just giggled and lost interest. Then, beginning last April, she caused at least three car accidents in as many months. In June, she reached out to Obama for assistance, swearing she did not drink and drive, even though she had been charged with DUI. Then she re-retired, fired her entire management team, was seen stumbling and dancing, then was reported to have locked herself in a fitting room crying and talking to herself, was seen mumbling to herself in an adult gymnastics class where she did a cartwheel and started crying because her wig fell off, and various other bits and pieces here and there. Also, vagicide.

Somewhere around tweeting Obama, why didn't someone help her? Why didn't someone stop this?

I spoke to someone in the mental health field (my source requested to remain anonymous, but if you know what my husband does for a living, I mean, it's not that hard to guess) who said Bynes is exhibiting symptoms of psychosis (perhaps schizophrenia), along with some form of personality disorder, common among celebrities who show signs of mental illness.

We would never laugh at a mentally ill person we saw in a library, or at the grocery store. But, apparently if that mentally ill person starred in Sydney White, all bets are off.

When Britney Spears started flashing her c-section scar all over town, it was amusing. When she talked to the press in an English accent, the reaction was very "LOL BRIT." When she shaved her head, people thought it was funny enough to make it THE Halloween costume of choice that year. Then she locked herself in a bathroom with her child and had to be hospitalized. While her official diagnosis has never been made public (court records have been sealed to protect this information as her team fears it could damage her career, though they allude to a personality disorder), she has remained under a conservatorship ever since.

And people still laugh at her.

I laugh at famous people all the time. I do it for a living. So, I understand that when we already live in a society that accepts the notion that these are not people, they are things for our amusement, we've already begun the roll down the hill. Why stop when it gets sad? Paparazzi photograph stars at their craziest all the time--of course they're going to up the ante when those photographs show a legitimately "crazy" person. Tabloids shill woes and heartbreaks and fabricated stories of drama every day. Why stop when it's real?

Because there needs to some modicum of humanity. We live in this world and that's that. Celebrities do exist as fodder, many of them with complete and total involvement and management. I mean, the paps don't keep GPSes on all of these people; if you're not the Brad and Angie-level of fame, someone has to make the phone calls. And that's fine. I don't think that's so bad. But there is something so old timey freakshow about reading about sick people as entertainment that makes me so uncomfortable.

Now, the line is, of course, subjective. For me, Lindsay Lohan isn't there, because she's more "entitled asshole" and less "unwell person." Charlie Sheen is still okay to smacktalk because he's less "tragic drug addict" and more "fucking shot a lady."

So the line has been drawn. Upon hitting "post", you won't read about Amanda Bynes on Pajiba again unless it's trade news or actual news (or unless I'm not the one writing it because I can't tell these other people what to do, I'm not their mom).

Get well soon, Amanda.

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Comments Are Welcome, Bigots and Trolls Are Not

  • Nadine

    I want to post is on the 'Jiba but I'm on a tablet and disqus is bei g a dick; what worries me the most is how many people want to try and ignore it by claiming its a PR stint, that she's some marketing genius. There are all these offers flooding in via twitter for hosting jobs or to do interviews. No one wants to admit those people making those offers are not playing into her big olan, theyre fucking vultures, the same kind of people who fired Britney off what ever talent show judging panel she was on because the girl stayed on her meds and didn't have an in camera nervous breakdown. It was sickening to watch Britney go through that the first time and its sickening to watch Amanda go through it.

    It is genuinely terrifying and I am genuinely afraid Amanda will end up harming so done, herself, or ending up ins situation where she is completely vulnerable. If she's taking something, and i think we all believe she is exacerbating her mental health issues chemically(weed is mostly harmless unless you're really mentally ill, then it isn't going to help at all, and that vine vid was the most coked up thing I've ever seen) then what kind of people might she be around, is there any one, single responsible person in her life? Not that shrieking idiot from twitter, not fucki g Jenny McCarthy who I wouldn't trust to tie a fucking shoelace but anyone who is actually responsible in any way??

    Her family say she's cut off all know where the fuck she is, Bynes family, there will be someone somewhere who will sign off on hospitalisation, or are they waiting for her to toss a knife at somebody ? (like cops did with a friend of ours who had a nervy b) or just util she's found passed out or worse?

    I find mental health issues to be terrifying. I find my own head overwhelming sometimes but I have control and I can focus. If she has even a few moments of clarity, she must be so afraid, if she realises how bad things are she must be terrified. Se needs her mum or someone like a mum to take care of her. Poor Amanda.

  • ELee

    Loved Amanda in Hairspray and Easy A. She was even good on her less-than-mediocre Nick show. Her recent behavior is sad though. Scary. If she was a friend or relative of mine, I'd encourage her to seek help. She needs help more than she needs to be famous. Poor girl.

  • N

    I agree that this is a horrible situation. What really drives me crazy, though, is that the yes people surrounding the celebrity at hand (whether it's Britney or Amanda, or Anna Nicole Smith, or whomever) continue to prop the person up and feed them to the public rather than focus on the person's true well being and mental health, because they don't want to stop the money train.

    Britney Spears is a commodity. Her name is a product, and that product sells. Unfortunately, she (and other celebrities like her) have been living as commodities for so long, that even the people who should care for them the most, the people who are closest to them, their family and friends, have lost sight of the actual human being behind the money machine. When every person you know is on your payroll, each decision they make is tempered with whether or not they will be able to afford their mortgage, or speed boat, or kid's private school tuition, or new Escalade if they refuse to do your bidding and are fired as a result. When people's greed overtakes their sense of the value of a human life, the life in question is not guaranteed to continue, unless the individual is willing and able to take responsibility for their actions and to seek out help. When you're spiraling down, and everyone keeps telling you yes, you'll dig yourself to an early grave under the weight of your own success.

  • duckandcover

    She's slowly morphing into Nicki Minaj.

  • poopnado

    I do feel bad for her, but she also says hilarious things on Twitter. Hilariously crazy, but I still laugh. I think a lot of what she tweets is for a laugh (vagina murder?), but a lot of it is muddled and strange. Is it okay to laugh at the intentionally funny stuff? Even though it's hard to tell when she's trying to be funny and when she's just accidentally funny?

  • dizzylucy

    Definitely a difference between the entitled assholes and narcissistic brats, and those really dealing with an illness. Amanda seems to be the latter, and I have sympathy for her and hope things improve for her soon. It must be heartbreaking and frustrating for her family.

  • Slash

    I don't laugh at mentally ill celebrities, or drug-addicted ones, either. I just usually don't give a shit. I mean, I feel a little sorry for them, depending on the extent of their difficulties, but despite what Hollywood or the internet or people who eat this shit up with a spoon seem to think, many of us (I hope it's most, but I could be wrong) don't really care about the daily lives of celebrities. We have better things to do.

    I don't follow them on Twitter, I don't discuss them with coworkers. I just don't care. If Amanda Bynes has a family that cares, then maybe one of them should do something, as much as they're able to.

    I'm still a little too verklempt over the shit in Boston and now the shit in Texas to waste attention on some C-lister's odd behavior.

  • e jerry powell

    I'd ask where Jennie Garth was during all of this, but she was probably busy getting that "divorce-is-not-an-option" divorce.

  • Rochelle

    Apparently Jennie Garth has tried to help but was rejected. And I hate myself for knowing that.

  • e jerry powell

    But you can't be blamed. It's almost obligatory for co-stars to act like family (at least publicly).

  • babykangarootribbiani

    i have to get this out of the way first... CHARLIE SHEEN SHOT A WOMAN?! really all i know about charlie sheen is he;s off his rocker and has a lot of kids with a lot of women but he shot someone?! now i have to go look that up...
    anywhos, back to amanda bynes, i agree with your main point, and it;s the same way i feel about lindsay lohan. i watch the parent trap or freaky friday and remember when she and jamie lynn curtis would do "disney surfers" interviews and wish that lindsay still existed somewhere. and i may be the only person who remembers this show, but i watched "what i like about you" every year it was on and continue to watch it on teenick, and whenever i see that ever-ubiquitous set of pecs nick zano in a new show, i think of vince, the bike messenger turned realtor who was holly;s (amanda) love interest. and like with lindsay lohan you kinda know (or are told) that her parents had their own hand in it because her mom was taking her out clubbing and stuff, but amanda bynes claimed recently she doesn;t talk to her parents anymore, so like who does she talk to? is there anyone out there who can help this girl?

  • Less Lee Moore

    Charlie Sheen has done some atrocious things.

  • Jo 'Mama' Besser

    He shot Kelly Preston when they were dating. She can sure pick 'em.

  • kirbyjay

    Paul Peterson, former child star and tv son on the Donna Reed Show, has a foundation of sorts to help child stars

  • Mrs. Julien

    Kelly Preston.

  • Superasente

    Man, you guys are really taking this seriously. I looked at the header picture of that tentacle-like wig and was trying to construct a joke about her being Cthulhu's girlfriend or something. Now I just feel bad.

    My prayers are with you, Amanda. Ph'nglui mglw'nafh Cthulhu R'lyeh wgah'nagl fhtagn.

  • Rebecca Hachmyer

    Of all the celebrity tailspins, this one really bums me out. I always thought of Amanda as someone with a good head on her shoulders.... to the degree that when she "retired" from acting I assumed that she was enrolling in college and planning to use her charisma and brains to do something positive out there in the actual world. As someone with a mentally ill brother, I can imagine how daunting all of this must feel for her family but someone has GOT to take the lead in addressing these issues before it is way too late.

  • prairiegirl

    I worked at Nickelodeon for many years and one day, while Amanda was doing a photoshoot on the floor where I worked she came by my desk and said hi. We chatted for a while and she seemed very grounded, down-to-earth, and extremely funny. Her dad came over and joined the conversation, along with her brother. They appeared to be very normal, caring family. The people I worked in production all had positive things to say about her, too.

    It has made me very sad to see how things have turned for her and I really hope that she can get help for whatever problems she is facing. And I agree, we need to stop laughing at people who are clearly unwell.

  • Bert_McGurt

    Perhaps it's just confirmation bias, but the frequency with which former child actors turn up symptoms of mental illness really makes me wonder if something in that course of work is particularly bad at exacerbating any latent issues they have. Then again, maybe it has no effect and they're doing what they would have done anyway, just very publicly.

    At the very least it seems like it'd be prudent for those in the industry to have a heightened awareness of potential mental health issues with young actors, to the point that someone could raise the question before it gets to a point like Bynes has.

  • Less Lee Moore

    I feel such heartache for child stars who go down the path of mental illness, addiction, criminal activities, etc. It really hits me right in the gut. I don't think I'll ever not be sad about Dana Plato. For various reasons, her decline and death just broke my heart. And I'm dating myself here, but the fact that Barry Cowsill was trying to escape New Orleans right before Katrina to get to rehab but ended up drowning just kills me.

  • I agree entirely, but that can only work if there is someone around who is

    a) genuinely concerned for your well-being above all else
    b) willing to speak up, and therefore
    c) willing to be fired/ignored/harassed.

    As Courtney mentioned, so many celebrities are surrounded by Yes Men ("they're all sucking the teat!") that no one is willing to speak up. It is a tragic truth, and it seems especially true of young celebrities. Think about it; if you are suddenly in a position that all of your (considerable) family income is coming from your 12 year old daughter, there is/can be an odd sense of said daughter running the household. And if she is the bread winner, she's calling the shots and that gets messy fast. Now, that scenario is s**t, and those parents need a good sit-down themselves, but it is so often the reality.

  • Completely agreed on all points. It was incredibly hard to watch Britney's breakdown because it was very clear that something major was wrong. But it was even sadder watching people making fun of and laughing at her. I'll never forget the moment I knew that Britney had some serious issues, it was when she was walking with her baby in one arm and a glass in the other and she tripped and almost dropped the baby. She then went into a restaurant and openly wept for a long time while paps were filming and taking pictures of her. That whole thing broke my heart.

    Amanda clearly has some bad stuff going on in that brain of hers. She already openly admitted to having an eating disorder and we know that she's using drugs. I can't help but think that something awful happened to her when she was a teen star. Especially with that fat fuck Dan Schneider overseeing her career at Nickelodeon.

  • NateMan

    I'm kinda fine with it when it's an actual celebrity. They get into the business, they have to (or should) know what to expect. I won't talk shit of Amanda Bynes, mostly because she's in not in any media I care about or an actress I know the slightest thing about, but it's sad and then we move on.

    What gets me is the reality television that snags 'normal' people and then turns them into caricatures and monitors their breakdowns. All the TV shows about addictions and strange phobias and nonstop breeding and the like... Yeah. That stuff is messed up.

  • oilybohunk7

    That pretty much covers all of Dr. Drew's body of work.

  • Tinkerville

    Except often these are child actors we're talking about, or former child actors, so I don't think it's fair to say that they should know what to expect when it's their parents who forced them into that position.

  • NateMan

    Are they really forced into it, though? I mean, are there many child actors out there who had no interest in acting and one day their parents said "Get in the car, son, we're going to Hollywood!"

    I obviously don't know the answer to the question. But what counts as forcing and what counts as encouragement? I like hunting and fishing, partly because my dad took me hunting and fishing. Did he force me to do it by involving me? There are lots of shitty parents out there, certainly. But it seems more likely to me the kids (typically) got a taste for it, liked it, and wanted to do it more.

  • I'm sure many of them want to act, but when I was 7 I wanted to be a dinosaur and my parents certainly didn't quit their jobs and move us to Jurassic Park. It definitely seems to attract a particular type of parent.

  • NateMan

    Well, A. You couldn't be a dinosaur, and B.Jurassic Park doesn't exist. Whereas child acting\dancing\singing\sweatshop work is a real thing. Unless we're going to make a rule that no child can work in a professional field until they're 18, we're going to have to rely on unions to protect kid actors and parents to not be shitty.

    Many, many people are good at things now because they've been doing them since they were pube-free. Part of NPH's awesomeness is because he's been doing it for so long, and he's publicly (on the Late, Late Show) said that if his kids want to act he's not going to say no, but he's not going to push them into it. Tiger Woods may not be able to keep his penis in his pants but he's a fantastic golfer because he's been doing it for so long it's second nature for him. Ditto the Williams young women with tennis. Ron Howard and Natalie Portman weren't visibly damaged by their childhood acting days.

    Sure - and again, from the outside, going off anecdotal evidence - child acting sometimes attracts a certain kind of parent. A sort of less batshit version of the beauty pageant moms. But there are terrible parents of every stripe. I don't know that we're doing something really productive by blaming the parents of every childhood actor or singer for the way they turned out.

  • DON'T TELL ME WHAT I CAN'T DO! -dinosaur John Locke

  • Rebecca Hachmyer

    Life finds a way.

  • I admire your decision, Courtney. It's a real "going Fergeson" moment: realizing that the whole "celebrity" thing is just a label, and that you can only laugh at so many antics before empathy grabs you by the throat and makes you realize there is a human being under all the glitz.

  • Batesian

    Yes indeed. Ever since Craig's monologue a few years back got me to thinking, I've followed a similar philosophy.

    (Reposted, removing the link to Ferguson's Britney Spears monologue since apparently it freaked out Disqus. Search for it on YouTube; well worth the watch and relevant to the discussion.)

  • Less Lee Moore

    That was really moving. Thank you for sharing.

  • foolsage

    I'll try to link, because I often have decent luck with that, and that monologue is awesome.

  • TheAggroCraig

    I just looked that up. I very much cringed when he said "That Anna Nicole Smith woman, she DIED" and the audience laughed.

  • Are we sure it's mental illness, though? Last I heard, it was drugs.

  • I'm with Jayne. Dual-diagnosis or undiagnosed mental illness accounts for a lot of addicts.

  • Reasonable assertion. But if Bynes had signs of mental illness, why didn't we see any outlandish behavior until after her career stalled?

  • chanohack

    If it is indeed schizophrenia, that usually hits people around 18 - 23 years old. It seems about right. And who knows, maybe that's WHY her career stalled.

  • Huh. I had no idea that schizophrenia manifested later in life like that. Very interesting! Thank you!

  • Maya

    Mental illnesses like schizophrenia can often first appear in women when they're in their 20s or early 30s (Bynes is 27).

  • Yeah, many mental illnesses don't become symptomatic until adulthood.

  • NateMan

    Joining in on the long-distance, no actual information psychoanalysis, a lot of pretty unstable people are outwardly okay until some part of their life goes tits-up. In her case, it could have been her career. Or her career stalled because she was starting to break down. It could have been with her out of the limelight, but still visible to the people she had worked with.

  • The pessimist in me would say she had enablers keeping her together.

    But I would also say that it's possible the steady work kept her busy and focused. She was probably running around from job to job, not really settling down. Once the work dried up, she was left with only herself. That lack of regular interaction with other people can combine with already heady issues to exacerbate the problem.

  • Jayne Marie Severin

    It's probably both. A lot of people with mental illness tend to start self medicating with drugs and alcohol.

  • Good for you, Courtney. Amanda really breaks my heart - she was so good in Easy A and Hairspray.

  • And What I Like About You -- I still stop channel surfing for that basically awful show because the cast is so good. She is/was so talented. I really hope she puls it together.

    EDITED TO ADD: "I didn't for one second believe the plot of "She's the Man," but I did believe for the entire movie that Amanda Bynes was lovable." Roger Ebert said that. Sniff.

  • Yes, I love that one, too. Charming Potato AND Amanda? It was charming as hell.

  • BWeaves

    What's sad is that many of these mentally ill actors were child actors, pushed into the limelight by their parents so they can live off the money and fame the kid makes. These same parents should be staging an intervention and getting help for their kids, but they either are enablers (Lohan) or still trying to live off the kid's fame (Spears).

    Sadly, this goes all the way back to Jackie Coogan, who starred with Charlie Chaplin, and had to sue his parents for the money he had earned, only to find that they had already spent it all.

  • For once I actually don't think that was the case for Amanda. I think that her parents are both white collar professionals(dentists, I think) who didn't need her to work and she was actually pretty well protected while she was young. I believe they've tried to help her now and that was one of the reasons that she moved to NY(trying to get away from everyone who loves her and wants her to get help.) She's cut her parents out of her life and wont even see or speak to them.

  • DeltaJuliet

    Of course, part of the problem is that social media makes it possible for these people to constantly be in our faces. It's not like Bynes is being crazy in her own corner of the world, she's all over Twitter, Facebook and whatever else is out there. Girl needs to put away the cell phone and get help. Or, if she can't, she needs it TAKEN away and someone in a position to care for/about her needs to do their damn job (mom/dad/siblings I'm looking at YOU)

  • Maguita NYC

    Or, Social media had made it possible to spot troubled souls faster. It had made it more obvious to platform one's hidden troubling thoughts, and highlight the deterioration course to mental instability.

    As we use social media to hunt down murderers, and track rapists' every step during the hours the victim blacked-out, Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and all the other irresistible narcissism-promotional tools make it easier to understand thought pattern, measure emotional instability, and degeneration of grasp on reality.

    The question remains, as it was a few months back when a movie critic was threatened over her Batman review: Why aren't we doing anything when reading or retweeting such obvious cries for help? Or death threats. Or any kind of violence threats. Because of everyone's right to Free speech? Would we act the same if someone spat promises of brutality straight in our faces?

  • George

    Unfortunately family can be all over this shit and sometimes it just dosn't matter, sad facts...

  • The big problem today is that it is very difficult to force mental help on people who may need it pretty much until they transgress the line into criminality. As long as Amanda isn't a danger to herself or others, there's not much anyone can do.

  • Yup, she's an adult so her family can't force her to do anything. The only reason they were even able to help Brit was because she had children whom she put in danger. Amanda is single and free from commitments and is really only hurting herself so no one's going to be able to do anything about it.

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