The first instance that I was told that a celebrity is insane was the meltdown of Britney Spears in 2007. Bald headed, rage-infused, and off the deep end- Britney Spears was the highlight of every tabloid and news media. As years went on, more celebrities were called out by the media for their mental breakdowns and presumably senile ways. From Charlie Sheen to Amanda Bynes, we have been the captured audience to their manic ways and “hilarious” insane tweets or sayings.
This is media gold. Content can be created through all platforms to profit off of the breakdowns of celebrities. Take for example Pocket God, the app that allows users to be the *God* of a small group of island people. An update included the ability for the characters to say popular catchphrases of Charlie Sheen, including “I got tiger blood running through my veins.” These catchphrases were meant to draw in consumers by using the outrageous interviews by Charlie Sheen, who had been dealing with major mental illnesses and drug abuse.
Besides making money, celebrity breakdowns have been used to collect currency in a new way, memes. Public forums such as Twitter, 4Chan, Reddit, and Tumblr offer variations of tweets and photos by mentally ill celebrities which are twisted to make them part of a communal joke, or meme. Those who are the most creative in their use of these celebrities will be awarded with likes, shares, and upvotes. Possibly, these users might transcend a single website and become internet famous, receiving the mark of approval for their content. A popular meme to come out of celebrity breakdowns recently was the “I’m not famous anymore.” A stunt pulled by Shia Labeouf on the Red Carpet, the phrase was written on a paper bag that the star wore to the event. Immediately, the picture went viral. An example below highlights the way this picture turned into a meme.
Did anyone ask Shia why he did it? Was anyone concerned that this stunt happened out of nowhere? Was their any discussion on if he was doing ok or were we all busy making fun of him and creating content to enhance our social media presence? Lou Mitchell in his article entitled “Hey Social Media, Celebrities Can Be Mentally Ill Too,” many of the same sentiments are expressed. Below is a quote from the article, which articulates how these memes and attacks on mentally ill celebrities can affect their career and health.
“Beyonce has spoken about depression, Jennifer Lawrence has panic attacks, Demi Lovato has shared her story of bipolar disorder. These people are put on a pedestal and praised for their advocacy and mentor status. However, if someone is struggling with mental illness during their career, it’s a different story.”
We, as the public consumers, must recognize the effect of our obsession with outrageous stunts and “crazy” celebrities. We would not want our child or loved one to become the center of attention and gossip for their mental illness, so why is it ok to do so to celebrities? I certainly have not completely shied away from joining this destructive practice on social media, but I will be making a conscious effort to stop this destructive practice. Celebrities aren’t memes, they are people. You can not upvote mental illness away, only help to heal and support those who are struggling.