I wasn’t much of a watcher of the old Amanda Show, but the new Amanda Show is riveting.
This one has everything the Internet likes: Celebrities! People whose lives are going worse than yours! Vague morality plays! Drugs! 1990’s nostalgia! There’s even a social media component. You can get live, daily updates from the person being slowly and horribly digested.
Amanda Bynes. Amanda Bynes.
What do you do?
There’s always a tragic blonde collapsing in public. Marilyn, Britney, Brittany, Lindsay (she even dyed her hair for ease and convenience of comparison), and now, Amanda. There is much to be said about the commodification of the female breakfodwn (Charlie Sheen got a whole tour out of it, and Britney didn’t even get a t-shirt) and Jill Filipovic over at the Guardian said much of it. But the strangeness of The Amanda Show is not the objectification but the subjectivity. With Twitter, we get a ringside seat. This is what it sounds like when it happens to you.
We’ve tried it from different angles. From the distance of a telescopic lens, or through the glossy window of a magazine. Amanda offers the view from inside the belly. We hear the last garbled exclamations of the star being sucked into the black hole.
“Don’t take ur issues with me to twitter. If u have an issue with me (I don’t know why you would if u don’t know me) – talk to me in person!” she tweeted on June 4.
She keeps claiming “my account was hacked” (June 4) and notes that “When everything you do gets scrutinized you lash out! I freak out on whoever calls me something I’m not!”
She’s gotten another nose since the mug shot was taken, so that’s news. She’s lashing out at Drake (“
@PerezHilton @Drake not with his ugly smile and ugly uneven teeth and fugly face! He’s gay and ugly I want a hot straight man!”)
Celebrity is a mask that eats away at the face beneath it, in these cases literally. These faces that used to be familiar do not exist any more. It is not that they have aged and altered. Michael Jackson disappeared. They are like dictators of small islands, but with no lackeys to put under a knife except themselves.
Writers of dystopic fiction like to picture television shows where people fight to the death on live TV. But actually this sort of gladiation for our entertainment is much more effective if you draw it out on Twitter for a period of months. No Hunger Games. That would be too overt and horrible. We would not be able to look at ourselves in that mirror. But we will accept this sacrifice.
It is apparently random, except that it isn’t. There are a lot of things that we permit because of the negligible possibility that it might be different this time. But it’s hard to shake a sense of irony when we see a cheery, if hyper, youngster being fed into the maze. She thinks she might make it out all right. But we know this tune by now.
There is something uncanny about the fact that people at certain extremes of trouble all start to look the same. Tolstoy said that all happy families were happy the same way, but all intensely miserable celebrities start to bear an uncanny resemblance to each other. They go prematurely blonde. Their faces swell and distort and turn into the same Plastic Surgery Face. They make the same claims about hacking. They get the same drastic haircuts. There’s a playbook. Even our tragedies are mass-produced.
Teenage Stars Who Turned Out Fine is as select a convention as the Adult Children of Normal Parents once memorably depicted by The Far Side. There are maybe two of them, and they’re not feeling so well.
You don’t expect them to make it. We’ve seen what happens to the people annually flung into the dark maze. The location of the Minotaur is not news to the Minotaur.
And we are the monster at the end of the labyrinth.
What do we do about Amanda Bynes? Am I genuinely concerned, or do I just want to hear the story? What am I concerned about? Is it a person? Is it an idea? Is there intelligent life on that planet, the one that keeps sending off transmissions as it hurtles away?
“When you are in trouble, people who call to sympathize are really looking for the particulars,” said Edgar Watson Howe.
Cannibalism is generally frowned on, but it is at least over quickly, and you get a nice lunch out of it. But this devouring of celebrities — it takes forever, and it leaves you perpetually unsatisfied.
“Why do we care about Amanda Bynes?” I asked a friend.
“We don’t,” she said.
That’s uncomfortably true. She’s one of those stars we find ourselves rooting both for and against. For, because we, deep down, do not want anything awful to happen. Against, because — well, it would certainly be exciting to watch.