The hive mind is at it again, delighting in the downfall of one more member of the young, rich, famous elite. I’m guilty too; for my moth of a sleep-deprived or overworked mind, celebrity gossip is a delicious flame, just attractive and distracting enough to replace my own flaws and burdens with a superficial narrative, played out by fake faces and their string-pulling publicists.
Sometimes it’s not so fake, though. Sometimes someone is so uncomfortably raw that it can’t be an act, but the public forgets not to treat it as such. No one trapped behind the gloss of magazine covers can possibly be real, we think. No one who courts the cameras for a living deserves — or wants — a single day away from them, we say. Turn on the brightest spotlight you’ve got and burn away, baby, until there’s nothing left of them. Somewhere along the way, hostility takes over and we have no concept of celebrities as human beings. We’re a crowd cheering in the public square as strangers are shamed or beheaded or burned alive. We’re the audience for which gladiators live and die.
But they are still human, and however narcissistic or out-of-touch, they’re still just as wide open to the same awful sicknesses that pop up in this “real” human race every day. Rihanna was beaten to within an inch of her life by a man who had gradually but forcefully saturated her whole mindset, her whole sense of self-worth… but the public was only willing to hold out sympathy for so long. They were only willing to feel for a woman who fit the picture-perfect narrative of an abuse victim. Never mind the statistics, never mind her age, never mind the indescribably horrific details of her attack or the unfathomable
lack opposite of accountability or remorse on the part of her aggressor. Never mind the fact that abuse victims almost never leave the first time, or even the second or third. That whole sickening saga is still being played out, with a world of vouyers watching and judging as a woman unravels before their eyes, drugging and dosing her self-doubt, handing over her identity to the same hands that almost took it completely.
Anyway, this isn’t a Rihanna and what’s-his-face post. There’s many an eloquent treatise out there already (notably this one), rendering my own inadequate, if not totally redundant.
This is an Amanda Bynes post. She traipsed into court today in gym clothes and a blue wig, and her ever-shifting appearance is just a fraction of the symptoms being screamed into our collective, apathetic face, but it’s worth dwelling on for a second. Empirical evidence has piled up to solidify my long-standing hypothesis that colorful wigs and shaved heads, while not indicative themselves of anything but one’s sense of style or humor, are a staple of the cry-for-help catalog. Consider Britney Spears. Consider the ”shaving your head and moving to B-Dorm” cliché, my college’s reductive but ubiquitous version of “jumping the shark”, wherein a student breaks up with reality (and their hair) in a twisted facsimile of performance art, and concerned peers declare high alert.
This is not performance art, or even self-sabotage. It’s an absence of self. It’s the iceberg on the outside, pointing to the invisible, gradual takeover happening on the inside.
And it isn’t the culmination of some long downhill spiral, or the predictable finale of an ungrateful, ever-enabled child star’s reprehensible, ungrateful attitude (see: Lindsay Lohan, whose complete lack of accountability/respect over the past *seven* years has trashed what scraps of sympathy I still harbored for her).
No, it happened pretty suddenly, in fact. Just as suddenly as adult-onset disorders usually show themselves, in white flashes of judgment lapses and uncharacteristic attacks on loved ones. A personality contorts, sign by sign, into some mangled, unrecognizable shell of its former self, and I know how alien it can feel from the inside, but now I see how cleverly it can disguise itself from the outside.
Her Twitter feed could be a page from my journals, scrawled almost illegibly during the worst of my manic spells (because witchcraft is sexier than anything episodic), spouting desires that contradict my entire value system and beliefs that I’d despise in anyone else. The delusions of grandeur, the paranoia, the attacks on loved ones who have never seen that side of her — who can’t even believes it’s *her* at first — it’s all there, plain as day, and the public reaction reminds me just how unequipped and backwards this society still is when it comes to dealing with mental health.