Celebrity Meltdowns: Mindless Entertainment? Subverted Envy? Perverse Voyeurism? Either Way, We Revel in the Spectacle du Jour of their Rise and Fall

‘The Biggest Celebrity Meltdowns: Shia LaBeouf to Christian Bale’ – Variety
‘Biggest Celebrity Meltdowns Ever’ – US Weekly
‘Top Ten Celebrity Meltdowns of All Time’ – YouTube
’18 truly spectacular celebrity meltdowns’ – NME

From Buzzfeed and YouTube to OK! and The Sun, for years celebrities ‘going mad’ or struggling with issues has been instantly accessible to us via the papers, magazines, websites, and increasingly, social media and memes. From Britney 07’, Lindsey Lohan post 07’, Scarlet Moffatt’s weight loss and gain and Amy Winehouse’s tragic descent into drug addiction, many celebrities have made it onto the above lists.

I try not to gawk and engage with these actually quite disturbing headlines about how celebrities have gone ‘schizo’ and ‘lost it’, but I cannot help but partially consume the occasional titbit of the latest drama.

Thing is, some of the infamous contenders in these articles have ended up being treated for severe mental health and substance abuse issues. A grown woman shaving her own head in the middle of a salon in LA has perversely become entertainment and adorns the covers of Rolling Stone.

In an article for The Guardian, David Ferguson debated about Kanye West’s recent spell and stint in psychiatric care and posited the situation,

‘Let’s pretend for a moment that it isn’t Kanye West, but Keith West, who you knew in college who works for a life insurance company now. What if his mother died in surgery and he began a multi-year downward spiral?

Would you be gawking if Keith got placed on involuntary hold in a psychiatric unit? Would you be sharing links about Keith on Twitter and Facebook and marvelling that someone could become such a mess?

Kanye West may be, as President Obama once said, “a jackass” from time to time. But he’s also still a person.’

We show very little empathy for those in the public eye; we laugh, we share, we tut. It’s almost like we believe that because they’re extremely rich and famous, their issues can’t really be that bad. Or it makes us feel secure that even they struggle like us.

It can be argued that the situation is improving, progressively people are speaking up against inappropriate and vicious coverage and promoting platforms which are fair. Maybe one day trashy tabloids will cease to pollute our brains. The media is also changing its attitude, and those with influence are speaking out more to raise awareness and break stigma. For instance, Stephen Fry, Adele, Lady Gaga and even the royal family with their Heads Together organisation.

‘22 Celebs Who Got Real About Mental Health in 2017’ – The Mighty (https://themighty.com/2017/12/celebrities-with-mental-illness/)

’39 Celebrities Who Have Opened Up About Mental Health’ – Harper’s Bazaar (https://www.harpersbazaar.com/celebrity/latest/g15159447/celebrities-depression-anxiety-mental-health/)

I’m not saying celebrities have it any harder, or easier, than us, and yes there’s the argument ‘they’re in the public eye, it’s how it is’, but they are just people. I could not think of anything worse than idiots with a camera and a smartphone posting and joking about me at my lowest points. People kill themselves over trolling and internet bullying, famous or ‘normal.’

So maybe next time you see a meme about Britney Spears and the razor, or an article about a celeb’s public disintegration; imagine that was you or someone close to you, and the impact it would have on them.

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