The @AmandaBynes Show

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The first time someone showed me Amanda Bynes’s Twitter feed, it was sent to me via text message, accompanying the link with a “holy fuck lol.” My interest was piqued. I quickly followed her account (count me in among the first few thousand or so – an awkward Millennial badge of social obsession and warped nostalgia), excited to see what came next.

Amanda didn’t disappoint.

She Tweeted pictures of herself in bathroom mirrors, avoiding paparazzi [1], trying on racy outfits accompanied by a “;),” doing some public name-calling with figures as diverse as the Obamas, Rihanna, Perez Hilton, US Weekly, anti-vaccine/science nut Jenny McCarthy, and others. Oh and there were Amanda’s new piercings, the police incident involving a bong being thrown out her Manhattan apartment window [2], and I heard not too long ago that she and Waka Flocka Flame, the highly popular and terrible Atlanta rapper, were planning on collaborating together on an album.

Within the last six months, Amanda Bynes of Nickelodeon’s “The Amanda Show” and “All That”—childhood TV staples for anyone between the ages of 19 and 25—had reappeared in the public consciousness as @AmandaBynes, something of a social media star for her now 3 million plus followers, live-tweeting her increasingly unbalanced lifestyle and chaotic state.

A couple weeks ago, Amanda Bynes was hospitalized in California after pouring gasoline on her dog and setting a part of her pant leg on fire in Thousand Oaks. Taking her into custody, officials said that a 5150 hold had placed on Bynes—a move that would enable a 72-hour forced hospitalization period. Quickly the hold was extended to a period of two weeks, and Bynes’s parents filed for conservatorship power.

Since July 20, @AmandaBynes hasn’t said a word. Her last tweet, “drake is gorgeous,” sits there, an eerie reminder of just over four months ago when her tweet asking Drake to “murder my vagina” rocketed her back into the public eye. The story of @AmandaBynes, initially a Twitter shock and awe campaign of fake hair, tacky fashion sense, and erratic social commentary, has metastasized into something far, far darker.

Let’s clear a few things up.

From the outset, the media —whether it was the millions of people tracking Bynes’s virility or the outlets that hyped up whatever Amanda did, fucked up. And they fucked up in that way that suggests they knew they really stepped in it a long time ago (4). But they’ve been so invested in The @AmandaBynes Show, that they didn’t drop the HEADLINES EVERYWHERE APPROACH until it became clear they very publicly browbeat a 27 year old child-star into an uncannily Britney-esque hospitalization to fit a specific media archetype (and yes, Britney had the exact same 5150 hold placed during her breakdown in 2008).

TMZ still has an Amanda Saga tracker but it’s slid down the page some. The Daily Beast’s Entertainment section [3] doesn’t have any Amanda Updates or splashy visuals for the moment, but that’s because of the break from this story that’s been afforded by the hospitalization. For the most part, the @AmandaBynes Show has gone on hiatus; we’ve quickly moved on from gawking at the car crash-like quality of Bynes’s mental health, and I’m unclear on what lessons to draw.

I don’t mean to say, “how can I turn a twenty-something woman’s personal problems into a learning moment,” but what I mean to say is that I am angry. Why is it that when figures like Lindsay Lohan, Britney Spears, or Amanda Bynes “act out,” we indulge into stigmas surrounding serious mental health concerns [5] or immediately treat these women as broken toys?

The answer is self-evident structural sexism that leads us to treat all celebrity women, especially former child stars, as either “damaged” or “stable.” We have an obsession with watching women who break down or “go crazy.” This “fallen woman” trope stretches all the way back to Adam and Eve, and its resonance today is striking.

Consider this: What happened to the male pop star who (entirely on camera) peed in a restaurant kitchen and yelled “fuck Bill Clinton!” at a photo of the former president, and in a separate incident rubbed a fan’s phone on his genitalia and threw it back into the crowd?

The star of this episode, none other than Justin Bieber, got a private phone chat with the 42nd leader of the Western hemisphere after which he tweeted that the former commander-in-chief was a “#greatguy.”

But what about Amanda Bynes?

When she dropped a bong out her window and accused a police officer of sexually harassing her, Courtney Love was the one who offered support on Twitter for Bynes – calling her a “talented and beautiful young woman.” Regardless of the veracity of Bynes’s claims about the whole episode (an internal investigation cleared the officer accused of sexually harassing Bynes), it was Courtney Love who became the public line of defense and took Bynes’s troubles seriously – not her post-hospitalization supporters like fellow Nickelodeon alum Nick Cannon, or the newly sympathetic gossip outlets.

In a way, the media’s treatment of Amanda Bynes mimics another pernicious media stereotype of women – the “manic pixie dream girl (MPDG).” Best described as the Kirsten Dunst character from Elizabethtown or Natalie Portman’s role in Garden State, the MPDG is a woman whose purpose is to make the men around her better at being Men. What characterizes the MPDG is a quirky carelessness (I love dancing in the pouring rain! I have a pet ferret! I make collages out of Heinz ketchup labels! You get the idea…) balanced with a damaged soul that combines to make the fetishized waif, ripe for male exploration (and exploitation).

In this case, the @AmandaBynes Show became an MPDG moment as we clicked follow and encouraged this “damaged” girl unravel herself to us. And again, we reminded ourselves of when she was “a good girl” and had the “purity” to be a mainstream sensation, instead of a the Internet-tabloid equivalent of a carnival attraction [6]. An example: Elite Daily, that veritable home of slut-shaming and idiotic slideshows, labeled her “Batshit Bynes” a couple weeks back and hasn’t offered up anything by way of an apology or even a terse acknowledgement that they had played any role in driving the media internet shit storm.

But maybe things can get better.

Not too long ago Bynes requested to leave to psychiatric care and was denied her request. She’s been put on medications for schizophrenia, and it has been reported she is showing significant progress. This is good news.

And Lindsay Lohan is currently on a guest-hosting stint filling in for Chelsea Handler on “Chelsea Lately,” and the internet is happy. The Daily Beast described her as “spectacular” and “alive again” in one headline, and the New York Times characterized her performance as a “perfectly good job.” Nicole Richie decided that she is no longer about that life. And Britney Spears gives us hope that everything works out in the end.

One can hope the same for Amanda Bynes, another “fallen star.” I’d just like to hope that next time (because really, it is a matter of time before someone else gets zeroed in on like Lohan/Spears/Bynes), we skip the “wow this chick is crazy” stage. Instead, I’m hoping that we treat famous women something like we treat famous men: the same way Justin Bieber gets instantaneous PR rehab with a former president, we should ensure female celebrities get access and support from the same resources.

As for what happens otherwise? Well, all we’ll have to do is just wait and see.

–Noah Kulwin, Contributer

All images from GoogleImages

(1) The paparazzi that Bynes began to reference more and more on her Twitter feed also started to appear more often as Bynes grew progressively prolific on Twitter. If you also take a look at a Google trends graph, you’ll notice a huge spike toward the end of March 2013/around the time Bynes tweeted “I want @drake to murder my vagina,” among other things.

(2) What really made the July 9 court appearance though, was not the story involving the bong (which itself is pretty bizarre). At the arraignment, Bynes’ platinum-blonde wig flew a bit about her face and made for some nasty headlines, with Tina Brown’s Daily Beast probably taking home the gold – ”Amanda Bynes Wigs Out,” because mentally unstable women are now “funny” meme humor.

(3) And I want to mention here that everyone should refuse to call that section by the name they’ve given it, because it’s obnoxious and is such a hackneyed Tina Brown play for page views.

(4) “Media” here is a complicated term; on the one hand there are outlets like TMZ with photographers and the like, and then on the other is a community of Twitter users and others attentive to Bynes’ social media presence and have monitored/influenced her behavior

(5) Especially mental health issues of people in their twenties

(6) Someone email me when BuzzFeed makes a listicle of Justin Bieber’s or Chris Brown’s “purest moments”

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