Sigh. They grow up so fast.
It seems like just yesterday that actress Amanda Bynes was cheek-pinching cuteness personified as the star of All That and The Amanda Show, Nickelodeon sketch comedy series that were popular with millennial tweens.
Then in late March, only a couple months after emerging from semi-retirement, she fired the tweet heard round the world: "I want @drake to murder my vagina." From that point on, it's been a 90-day spiral (seemingly) downward through concentric circles of young Hollywood hell. Her Twitter account has become the C-SPAN of erratic behavior. Everything happening in real time.
But stuff got really real last night. After Bynes tweeted topless pics looking strung-out in a bathroom, Jonathan Jaxson, her friend and a Hollywood publicist, announced via Twitter that he had spoken to her on the phone. That she was drunk and in self-harm mode. That he had called the NYPD to check on her. (Some of his tweets have since been deleted.)
Bynes became angry, denying that she received a police visit and lashing out at former co-star Jenny McCarthy, who has been vocal about her concern for the younger actress.
Jenny McCarthy: "Police are at @AmandaBynes house. I hope they get her help. Enough of this circus. She needs help."
Amanda Bynes: "@JennyMcCarthy you're ugly! Police weren't at my house old lady! Shut the f--k up!"
"@jennymccarthy I need help? What are u talking about? Aren't u 50 years old? I'm 27, u look 80 compared to me! Why are you talking about me?"
Over the last month and a half, Bynes has also been tweeting allusions to an eating disorder, demanding - USUALLY IN ALL CAPS - that tabloids only publish the flattering photos she provides, threatening to sue same tabloids over various "lies!," shaving her head (okay, just one side), macking on Drake some more, and modeling via selfie photos her new look. Imagine a backup dancer from a Sisqo video started gargling with Drano and turning tricks by the overpass behind a K-Mart. Add eyelash extensions. Ta-da.
The whole affair has led to comparisons with Britney Spears' similar saga. It wasn't that long ago when Spears, originally a squeaky-clean Mouseketeer (subsequently molded, perhaps to greater detriment than we realized at the time, into a panting Lolita pop star), was shaving her head. And attacking paparazzi with an umbrella. And stumbling, catatonic, through a VMA performance. And getting wheeled out of her home on a gurney after a several-hours standoff with cops.
The difference is that in 2007, only early adopters were on Twitter - even among celebrities. So while the broadcasting of Britney's breakdown was jarring in its invasiveness, it was still filtered to some degree by the limits of traditional media; we saw only what the paparazzi did, when the tabloids allowed. But through Twitter, Bynes has removed the middleman. She's giving unrestricted, backstage access to the demons in her head. She has her smartphone in one hand and the steering wheel in the other.
We're not rubbernecking at this accident. We're being invited, by a crash victim with a gaping head wound, to please, please watch her bleed.
Somehow, that feels even more profoundly disturbing. And you have to ask: do we have a responsibility? To deny her, for her own good, the attention she's so desperately seeking? After all, she seems more popular than ever right now. Sure, she's lost some disenchanted All That viewers, but there a growing cult of fans that have emerged because of - not in spite of - her recent antics. They tell her she's gorgeous. They demand new selfies. She does something crazy. They call her "queen." She retweets them.
In fact, there's a vocal minority that thinks it's all premeditated kookiness. That Bynes is only crazy like a fox, and actually enacting a Hollywood starlet's version of performance art: digital age-style. Social media is her soapbox and 953,000 (and growing) followers are the curious passerby standing agape on the street corner, watching as Nickelodeon's answer to Karen Finley stands there bathing in honey, or smashing eggs with a hammer over a soundtrack of spoken word poetry - or, you know, taking selfies to show off her new cheek piercings. Whatever.
An act. Hey, why not? Remember when Joaquin Phoenix faked a midlife crisis to promote his movie, I'm Still Here, about having a midlife crisis? (Which was actually a mockumentary about, basically, how easily duped we all are.)
Is this supposed to be Bynes' version? Commentary on obsessions with sex, body image and tabloid culture, coming from some crafty, self-aware starlet? Part of me laughs, and thinks that's ridiculous: "Amanda Bynes. Performance artist. Riiiight." Then I stop laughing. Well, why not? What the hell do I know about Amanda Bynes?
Aside from, by now, more than I ever needed to.
And there you have it. Now I know about her. Now I'm talking about her. That's certainly her point.
But her motivation? That's more mysterious. And whether it's illness, addiction, fame whoring or commentary, I suspect it would require more than 140 characters for her to explain it.
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