Celebrity Breakdowns

By Lucy Mapstone

FOLLOWING the recent public demise of actor Charlie Sheen, one has to wonder: is it ever OK to treat a person’s breakdown as entertainment? His fall from grace has been watched across the world with many taking delight in “the bitchin’ rockstar from Mars” crazy antics. This has included drinking ‘tiger blood’, brandishing a machete from a rooftop and boasting about the drugs he has consumed while, coining the now-famous phrase: “I’m not bi-polar, I’m bi-winning!” Sure it’s entertaining. If this were a TV show or a movie it would be quite funny, but it’s not – he’s a real person and this is his life. Sheen isn’t the only celebrity to have had a public breakdown. Remember Britney Spears shaving her hair off in a fit of rage in 2007? She was the talk of the showbiz world and many online parodies were created trivialising her obvious mental health issues. Like Sheen and Spears, many stars have burned themselves out and had their issues chronicled for all to see. But should we really be regaling in their mental turmoil? >>

 

1. Celebrities choose to live in the spotlight

WHEN a person decides to become a celebrity, whether it be an actor, a singer, a sportsperson, a TV presenter or just a party-going D-lister, they give us the right to follow every aspect of their lives. Celebs such as Beyonce Knowles and Jay-Z are incredibly talented and incredibly famous, yet we don’t know every little detail of their lives because they choose to keep it private. Other stars can too. If a star doesn’t want to be papped while out shopping, then they don’t have to be. And if a star wants to have a breakdown behind closed doors, then they can. Many celebrity downfalls are free game and up for discussion, solely because whomever it’s happening to has decided not to keep it a secret. If Beyonce were to have a breakdown, we wouldn’t know about it, that’s for sure. The likes of Charlie Sheen and Britney Spears pretty much offered up their downfalls on a plate.

2. Stars, like Charlie Sheen, talk openly about issues

CHARLIE SHEEN is embarking on a tour, entitled ‘My Violent Torpedo of Truth/Defeat is Not An Option’, a venture that has come about as a result of his apparent breakdown. He is giving people the right to be entertained by his ramblings. He joined Twitter and broke the record as the fastest person to reach 1 million followers on the social networking site. He talks openly to various media outlets and broadcasts his own web show. He wants the attention and by us paying attention to his every whim and outburst, we’re keeping him in check. Sure he looks a little crazy, but it could be a lot worse if we left him alone and let him spiral out of control even further. Giving him a voice, and giving him the attention he so obviously desires is helping him to not cross a line.

3. We can learn from their breakdowns

OVER the years we’ve watched many celebrities seemingly break down, from the likes of Britney Spears to Amy Winehouse and, most recently, Charlie Sheen. We all know that drinking heavily, taking drugs and burning the candle at both ends is bad for us, and many of us don’t do it for that reason. However, in those moments of weakness, we can take stock and maybe even make an example of those stars who have shown us what can happen if you do work and play too hard. They give us a reason to normalise our own lives, because well…look at what can happen to you. Do you really want to end up like Winehouse, running through the streets in the middle of the night with bleeding feet? And let’s not forget model Kate Moss’ downfall a few years ago after she was caught taking cocaine – she lost a lot of work thanks to her actions.

4. Celebs crave public attention

IF ONE chooses to be famous, then they have to be prepared for the public to take a front seat in the ‘play’ of their life. A whole industry depends on celebs and their foibles. There are magazines, newspapers, websites and TV channels dedicated to the ins and outs of celebrity lives. Consider how many jobs exist just because we are so fascinated by the rich and famous. Thousands of man-hours are spent chronicling the goings-on of these stars, and the more interesting they are the more people want to know about them. This media frenzy, in turn, draws advertisers which brings in money that ends up paying someone’s wage. It’s a very modern way of looking at the circle of life: a celeb does something crazy, journalist writes about said crazy activity, thousands read article; advertisers are happy. It’s all about business.

5. Following showbiz lives is escapism 

REAL life is boring and incredibly dull. It’s a routine of work, eat, and sleep for many people, with the occasional bit of fun thrown in for good measure. Celebrities have the kind of lives we can only dream of and gazing at them with rose-tinted showbiz glasses just acts as a distraction from our own inane existences. Sure, this does mean watching the occasional celebrity breakdown but they are few and far between. Sheen’s current unravelling is not a common occurrence and we must remember this. Most showbiz gossip is based around less serious topics, such as the hook-ups and break-ups of celeb couples, weight losses and gains and silly pictures posted on Twitter. On the whole, indulging in celebrity news is fun, light and pure leisure.

 

1. Their private lives should remain private

WE SHOULD respect the privacy of celebrities, as we would ‘normal’ people. Their mental frailties are no different to our own, they just happen to earn a living working in the entertainment industry. For example, when Britney Spears ‘lost it’ four years ago, shaving off her hair and using an umbrella as a weapon against intrusive paparazzi, you can bet she didn’t want the world focusing on it. Unfortunately though, as is the nature of her job, she is followed night and day and her every move is subjected to scrutiny and ridicule. She later spoke of her issues after a stint in rehab, claiming she had “hit rock bottom”. Hitting rock bottom is never something that should be turned into something public or funny. She had issues and she sought help, yet they should have remained confidential in the first place so she didn’t feel the need to ‘defend’ herself post-recovery.

2. Charlie Sheen is not of a ‘sound mind’

IT’S impossible to ignore the fact that Sheen is suffering from some internal demons and they need to be addressed by a professional and not used as tabloid fodder for our own amusement. Imagine he is a member of your family, someone who is spiralling out of control. You’d want him to seek help and if others were gossiping about him, gleaning pleasure from his issues, it’d enrage you. Let’s not forget that Sheen also had his twin boys taken away from him during his fall from grace. An article published on Now Public questions whether ‘celebrities who battle mental illness are making crazy the new black’, and this is something we should be asking ourselves every time we think it’s funny to watch someone in the public eye deteriorate. Breakdowns (and their causes) should not be seen as fashionable or turned into entertainment.

3. Celebrities are role models

BREAKDOWNS of people who are regarded as role models could have negative connotations on the young and impressionable. Those who break down in the public eye are often suffering from depression, exhaustion, bi-polar disorder or addiction to drink or drugs. Sheen is the perfect example of a celebrity we would not want to be heralded as a hero or, in his own words, a “winner”. It is unclear whether he is actually suffering from mental problems, although when his children were taken away from him recently, his ex-wife cited that she was “very concerned that he is currently insane.” During Sheen’s plight, we have also seen him living with two women – his “goddesses” – one of whom is a porn star. He also verbally attacked the boss of Two And A Half Men and got sacked from a job that made him the highest-earning TV star in history. This self-destructive behaviour is not something young people and children should be witnessing as it may lead them to think that this is acceptable.

4. We are encouraging personalities to self-destruct

OBSESSING about whether these celebrities are of a sound mind or not only fuels the fire of their self-destruction. In reality, we wouldn’t encourage bad behaviour of people we know by lauding them for their errors – we would try to help them. We must remember that through Sheen’s out of control actions he has lost his job on TV sitcom Two And A Half Men, the job that made him the highest paid TV actor in history. That’s a long way to fall. The people who are paying to go and watch his tour are only aiding his unfortunate predicament. And those who simply read about him and keep the celebrity news and gossip industry afloat are contributing too.

5. ‘Soap opera drama’ is not news

REAL life happens too. Instead of seeing the headline ‘David Beckham has a new haircut’ on the front cover of a newspaper, shouldn’t we be reading about medical breakthroughs or learning of the latest uprising in the Middle-East? Of course celebrities are real people too, but the world in which they live is so far-removed from reality, it’s not the same as ingesting real, broadsheet-style news. And pretending these breakdowns are real news is detrimental to our minds, as well as our sanity. Instead of working our brains and learning real facts about the world, we are filling them with tat. Let’s stop wasting our time reading about self-indulgent celebrities and their mental health issues and focus on more serious world issues.

 

 

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