When I started my blog, Deus Ex Malcontent, seven years ago, it was basically as a means to keep my mind sharp following the surgery I'd undergone to remove a brain tumor. For most of the site's existence, DXM has been a place where I've been able to thrust out there into the ether not only my admittedly worthless opinions on pop culture, politics and the media, but also a good number of personal stories of love, loss, tragedy, redemption, success, failure, more loss, more redemption, marriage, divorce, recovery from addition, and so on -- in other words, stories about my life as I was either living it or trying to put it behind me. I used to take time to think carefully about and meticulously craft what I wrote because it was important to me. I shared a lot, but obviously I didn't share everything -- only a fool would do something like that.
I'm not exactly breaking news by saying that the spontaneity that Twitter not only allows for but thrives on has changed the way we share personal information. I joked to my girlfriend recently that in much the same way that some really clever guy created an app that can block certain numbers on your phone to stop you from drunk dialing, someone needed to come up with one that could prevent pundits or comedians from tweeting less than 24-hours after a major disaster. It would save a lot of careers. The point being that we put everything out there these days, often without thinking. I always thought it was incredible -- or incredibly self-indulgent -- that I could go to my own website and post my thoughts at any time of the day or night, but Twitter really seems to bring out the mental diarrhea in people. And unlike Facebook, just about anybody can read what you've sometimes ill-advisedly decided to crap out into the ether.
A couple of years ago a lot of us watched with either giddiness or a sense of morbid fascination as Britney Spears had what appeared to be a complete nervous breakdown. She dropped her child; she got into fights with her doofus husband; she drank and partied; she tried and failed at rehab; the shaved her head and attacked the paparazzi with an umbrella. It was all wonderfully entertaining. We watched the same kind of thing happen with Lindsay Lohan: the partying, the drugs, the car crashes, the apparent kleptomania, the time in jail and in and out of rehab, and so on; that's still going on, in fact. And now we're doing it once again with former Disney princess-turned-nobody Amanda Bynes. But what separates Bynes from those who came before her is the gleeful abandon with which she herself is broadcasting her antics. Lohan tweets plenty, but it's mostly to lie her ass off in the hope of doing damage control in the wake of one public disaster or another, and in the end she's really just a narcissistic fuck-up with a lousy family.
Bynes may really be going insane -- and we're all getting to watch.
Now don't get me wrong: I'm firmly of the belief that you can't save everybody and I have far more important things to worry about in my life than whether Amanda Bynes is going to freak-out and toss herself off the top of a building wearing a muppet wig and if one of Harvey Levin's cameras will follow her on the way down. But there's something more than a little disturbing about the fact that even as she sinks deeper and deeper into the realm of sheer delusion, the one seemingly involuntary function that remains intact is her need to make everything she's doing public. It's as if the fact that her day-to-day activities are batshit crazy don't really matter; what matters is that they're her day-to-day activities and, as you know, it's essential that she keep everyone informed of them at all times. True, the paparazzi stalk her and catch her at moments she may not be expecting -- like when she recently decided to spend an afternoon jumping on a trampoline in Buffalo, despite believing that she wasn't jumping on a trampoline and wasn't in Buffalo -- but for the most part she's happy to do the heavy lifting for the guys at TMZ.
And again, we're happy to watch.
I have no idea whether Bynes is issuing a very clear cry for help or what's really going on with her and frankly I barely care; I love a good freakshow as much as the next borderline sociopath. But it does say something about our culture not only that so many of us seem to be enjoying the downward spiral of another human being but that even more are able to tune it out completely as just a lot of background noise. We've become so used to this kind of thing, no matter how profound a case like Bynes's may be, that we chalk it up to just another Young Hollywood casualty and go about our business. Certainly, it's tough to get too worked up about it precisely because of that: If I were going to give a damn about somebody truly down on his or her luck, that would begin around the corner from me, at a local shelter, helping out people who never had a thing to squander away and who aren't in a position to fire off a tweet about what unfortunate thing they're up to at any given moment. If I wanted to help somebody sick or in pain it'd begin, as they say, at home.
So maybe with that I just answered my own question.
Does Amanda Bynes matter? Not, not really. No matter how much she feels like sharing with us.