Culture

How Are We Supposed To Talk About Amanda Bynes?

The answer: not at all.

If the phrases ‘Amanda Bynes’ and ‘Twitter’ haven’t crossed you in close succession over the last month, you’ve been lucky and/or living under a huge rock without ADSL2+.  The former Nickelodeon star and She’s The Man actress — and, now, a budding hip hop artist? — has plummeted into online pop chatter — firstly with a string of bizarre tweets that hinted at a variety of eating disorders, and then with a string of tyrannical tweets directed at, well, everyone.

First it was Drake, cordially invited to “murder [her] vagina”. Next in the firing line was Rihanna: “Chris brown beat you because you’re not pretty enough”, she tweeted. And her old friend and ex-‘N Sync member, Lance Bass, was next: “Sorry you’re an ugly ex boy band member w/ no talent or career”. (For a full list of other notables Bynes has called ugly, head to Perez Hilton – a celebrity gossip columnist who Bynes has instructed to, quite simply, “stop living”.) Oh, and she sent this one out last night:

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These, combined with repeated driving-related arrests, a few bizarre home-made clips, topless photos and some unusual aesthetic choices, have dominated pop culture sites and celebrity gossip hubs, and left my friends saying, as they jump into their Saturday night Taxis, “Let’s get Bynes”.

There’s Nothing New About This

Bynes joins a long line. Lindsay Lohan, Britney Spears, Amy Winehouse, Anna Nicole Smith: the story of the spiralling female starlet repeats itself time and time again, all the way back to Marilyn Monroe. But in the case of Bynes — forgive me, but I’m especially interested this time.

I watched The Amanda Show as a kid. I liked the dancing lobsters. Now she’s calling everyone ugly and I want to know what’s up.

I’m not alone. My conversations, my Facebook feed and my day-to-day life have been inundated with information about the Bynes saga. All the usual suspects, from the NY Daily Times to Perez Hilton to Buzzfeed, have blogged furiously about Bynes’s apparent descent into insanity; The New York Observer were especially helpful: “For your convenience, we’ve composed The Complete History of Amanda Bynes’s Breakdown”.

The headlines continue: ‘The Amanda Bynes Meltdown‘, ‘Amanda Bynes: The Breakdown of a Meltdown‘, ‘What The Hell Is Going On With Amanda Bynes: A Treatise‘, ‘The Demise Of Amanda Bynes‘… Okay, okay, we get it!

What Are We Meant To Do?

We read it, we like it, we share it, we write about it, we hypothesise; we get worried when the police show up, and we say ‘Isn’t it just terrible’ to that one person we think had a pretty bad spat of manic depression a few years back.

But it’s never long before a bigger person pipes up to kill the fun, and remind us that we’re doing it wrong.

“It seems to me that our modern media acts more and more like a shallow pack of mean girls passing harsh judgements for fun and profit,” stomps the all-of-a-sudden Holier-Than-Thou Huffington Post, and the Mummy Blogs soon follow suit: “I hope that Amanda Bynes finds help (or her way) in the days to come. If she doesn’t, though, everyone who has rubbernecked her life will have played a role, especially those who have made jokes about her problems.”

Fortunately, a messiah of some sort is never far away; someone who will take to the blogosphere to save us from our sins/guilt. Bassey’s open letter to Bynes featured on Jane Pratt’s XOJane is just one of many, and mirrors a thousand call outs from concerned tweeters. “As someone who lives with a mental illness, the red flags were crimson and lost amongst the clouds,” it reads. “Much like I felt you were. I remember thinking to myself, ‘Something is wrong here’. But I’m not a doctor.”

Cue the kumbaya. We’re all in this together, and we unite, arm in arm, and form a big ‘B of love’ for our beloved Bynes; our broken beauty.

…But then of course, that doesn’t quite cut it either. Mid-way through our flash mob of support, Guardian feminist writer Jill Filipovic ‘ahems coughs’ her way in to give us a strict talking to: “Wide mockery followed by feigned concern for the person behaving erratically only benefits the pontificators,” she reminds us.

She is joined by Hannah Jane Parkinson, who’s quick to remind us that we’re not only damaging Bynes, but anyone with a mental illness: “Being able to ‘Like’ a celebrity having a crisis isn’t merely distasteful; it contributes to a culture of stigma that is part of the reason that people are actually dying.”

Finally come the meta-nutters who, halfway through a toke, decide they have it all worked out. Up they pop, sticking their noses in it and declaring absurdities like “The Americans are behind 9/11”, “The world will end in 2012” and “Amanda Bynes is trolling us all”.

The responses to Amanda Bynes have been varied, but they do possess one cardinal trait; each exists to pass the blame of Amanda Bynes on to somebody else. And in the meantime, her situation doesn’t appear to be improving.

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So who is responsible for the transformation of this adorable tween into a tyrannical twitter monster, obsessed by image and driven by rage? Her parents, for introducing her to show business at such a young age? The industry, for its pressure and competition and endless naval gazing? Amanda Bynes herself, for indulging in the celebrity culture that’s chewed up and spat out so many before her — and for not deleting her Twitter account?

It’s the culture that’s behind it all, that’s spawned pop culture blogs and gossip columns — and you and I are to blame for that. Me for writing this article, and you for clicking on it.

Henry Boles is a South Australian writer living in Melbourne, where he’s resided for seven months without a Myki Card. You can follow him on Twitter @henry_boles if you wanna hang out sometime.