Talking About Amanda Bynes Is OK, But We Need to Be More Aware of Why & How We’re Doing It
Amanda Bynes has only just been released from her psychiatric hold on Thursday, and already the Internet is going buckwild about the news. TMZ reported that on Friday morning Bynes wrote a series of tweets detailing the allegations she has made against her parents for supposedly stealing money from her. Bynes went on to dispel rumors about her time at FIDM and the claims that she is homeless right now. And when I say that TMZ "reported," I mean that they said that "It didn't take Amanda Bynes long [after she was released] to launch a new rambling rant." Bynes' situation makes me wonder: what makes her struggle with mental illness so intriguing to discuss?
I've written previously about dangerous language used by media outlets across the board in reporting about Bynes. The last time she took to Twitter to accuse her stepfather of sexual abuse, the headlines read that she "veered off the rails" and "wrecked it again." When even news outlets are using such ableist language, it's no wonder that the general public feels justified in passing their own pedestrian judgments about Bynes' mental health.
Even Bustle, to some extent, is complicit in what has become a free and open forum about what Amanda Bynes "needs" or how she should get help. And I myself am not absolved or removing myself from the conversation, but I do think it's a dangerous one. There's a fine line between genuine concern for Bynes' well-being and a feigned concern that allows people to feel superior. To look at someone and imply that they are insane also implies that you are not insane.
I am particularly cagey about mental illness because I have long suffered from it. I lament the idea that since Bynes posts about her struggles on her Twitter, it's somehow justifiable to pick apart her every action and statement and reduce them to "crazy ramblings" or call her insane. Purely speaking from personal experience, the idea of a bevy of anonymous strangers dissecting the state or level of my insanity is horrifying. And beyond that, I still cannot believe that the semantics of mental illness is still convoluted with "insanity."
What's so appealing, I think, about saying that Bynes' situation is "soooo sad," is there is an underlying sense of gratefulness and condescension. We could never "veer off the rails." We would never exhibit such behavior. And for those lucky enough not to suffer from mental illness, perhaps that may be true. But where is the real compassion from Bynes? It's a dangerous discussion because it's impossible to discern where the genuine concern lies and what is colored with meanness. And for both camps: how much do they really care about Amanda Bynes as a human being, rather than a symbol of "celebrity insanity?"
If we are going to have an ongoing conversation about Amanda Bynes — at this point, that's just a foregone conclusion — I would hope that it would be a productive one. Rather than scrutinize every one of her "crazy" actions or "rambling" tweets, I wish the discussion would expand beyond Bynes and become one that reflects on the stigma that still clings to mental illness. Otherwise, she just becomes a puppet for our feelings of superiority.
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