Shakespeare destroyed his characters.
In his tragedies, Shakespeare brought heroes to a pinnacle of brilliance before allowing a moral flaw to get the best of them (spoiler: Everyone dies at the end). For example, before the events of Shakespeare’s play, Hamlet was doing pretty well for himself. He had a lovely girlfriend, decent sword fighting skills and enjoyed his position in upper-class society.
Which made it more climactic for the audience to watch his downfall.
As a media-consuming society, we act like Shakespeare. And the play is celebrity culture. The flaws of famous people—moral or otherwise—are exacerbated for us by the spotlight constantly shining on them. They’re seen as god-like, immortal. Celebrities are fair game for praise and ridicule, for idolization and torment. Sometimes their problems don’t seem real, either—the gods on Mount Olympus hardly experienced the same issues as their mortal counterparts. Gods don’t have true dilemmas.
Not like the rest of us.
Amanda Bynes is well-known for her roles in The Amanda Show, What a Girl Wants, Hairspray and Easy A. More recently, however, her choice of medium has been Twitter. Favoring a blue wig and piercing-encrusted dimples, Amanda swept followers into a maelstrom.
Her love of plastic surgery was instant fodder for celebrity analysts. She tweeted things like “I Need To Have Surgery To Look Beautiful For The Man I’m In Love With So I Feel Comfortable With The Way I Look When We Get Married.”
Her followers’ responses were swift.
“Please go back to the way you were…..AMANDA PLEASE”
“You don’t need anymore fucking surgeries! Just stop it before you end up like the damn cat lady! WTF is wrong with you?”
Others called her a lot of terrible names.
Amanda talked about weight loss. At 5’7” and 135lbs, her goal weight was 100lbs. Her body mass index at this target would be a startling and incredibly underweight 15.7 (a normal weight ranges between 18.5 and 24.9). She documented her progress with pictures of a scale noting 107.2lbs.
While Amanda’s been ridiculed for her tweets about unnecessary weight loss and obsessive plastic surgery, she also posts statements like this:
“On April 16, 2013 everyone who self-harms, is suicidal, depressed, has anxiety, is unhappy, going through a broken heart, just lost a loved one, etc. draw a semicolon on your wrist. A semicolon represents a sentence the author could’ve ended, but chose not to. The author is you and the sentence is your life. Repost and tag to #semicolonproject416.”
Headlines reacting to Amanda’s situation have been scathing. At TMZ they read, “10 Hours of Sanity…1 Hour of Crazy.” Even Miley Cyrus has made light of the situation. She tweeted, “before Amanda Bynes…. There was….” and afterwards displayed a string of old Sinead O’Connor posts, in which she begged for help from followers.
Amanda has been formally diagnosed with schizophrenia and bipolar disorder. She is reportedly being treated in a special facility outside of Los Angeles, and is responding well.
It’s easy to dismiss Amanda’s story as another fluff piece of celebrity entertainment. She is, after all, one of the gods. Or at least she used to be.
According to the Canadian Mental Health Association, 20% of people will personally experience mental illness. 8% will be seriously depressed. 1% will have bipolar disorder.
Celebrities aren’t immortal. There is no such thing as Mount Olympus. It’s not up to us to mock the flaws of those who are, in reality, as human as we are. We’re not Shakespeare. It’s not our place to raise people up, only to rip them back down when we feel like it. Instead of revealing in the display of Amanda’s symptoms—provided for our analysis in 140 characters or less—that maybe we should recognize this for what it is: A case study of mental illness.
This is something that affects people more than we might think.
Let’s talk about the prevalent issues of mental illness and how we should look at Amanda Bynes as a person rather than entertainment to laugh at on Twitter.