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