The Public Spectacle of Celebrity Breakdowns

Why do we root for some celebrities to succeed while revelling in the miserable failures of some others? A few short weeks after I wrote about the operatic drama of celebs feuding online, Amanda Bynes is in the news again more for her quirky antics than for any possible infraction of the law, as she engaged in another war of the tweets with Chrissy Tiegen (who drew first blood by criticizing the fans who continue to support Bynes). Even though this is all "bread and circuses," superficial trivia that distracts us from more important issues around us, it's interesting to reflect on the social behavior of audiences -- not just the entertainment factor of the shenanigans of the rich and famous, but how the public reacts to it all. This is more than just TMZ gossip, as even more respectable journalists have jumped into the fray, analyzing the bizarre events from society's perception of gender roles and other seemingly "more serious" angles.

I find myself sympathetic to some celebrities and critical of others. I root for the comeback of Lyndsay Lohan, but hope the Kardashians fade away into oblivion. Some cheer every time they hear about Justin Bieber getting into trouble, but others feel as if a friend has been hurt when they read about other famous figures falling on the wrong side of the law or caught in embarrassing circumstances due to their own shortcomings.

I can't explain why I was quick to "forgive" Charlie Sheen for his "temporary-but-epic" implosion, but refuse to support any project associated with Chris Brown after his violent outbursts.  I feel defensive about some stars who have accusations hurled against them, yet I'm quick to jump to unfounded conclusions about others, vilifying them in my own mind.

Maybe it's because I saw Amanda Bynes grow up as an adorable child star into a seemingly upright young lady before the current tabloid headlines that I'm more willing to attribute her recent behavior to something other than a dangerous collapse. I don't want to see her end up like Michael Jackson or Gary Coleman. I want to believe this is all some weird Andy Kaufman stunt and not a substance-abuse downward spiral that destroyed Whitney Houston and others.

Whatever the case, we are transfixed when one-time idols such as Mel Gibson or Alec Baldwin show their feet of clay. We either hate them or go on believing that they are innocent, as some still do for O.J. Simpson or Robert Blake. Through it all, the real life mayhem seems to draw us more than the fiction, but often times the endings are far more tragic. 

For the record, I'm on Team Amanda, rooting for her to rise above the craziness and emerge from the darkness stronger than ever before.