Why We Can’t Look Away From Amanda Bynes

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At the core of recent public fascination with the travails of Amanda Bynes is uncertainty. Is her year of erratic behavior evidence of young-adult rebellion? Mental illness? Drug use? Performance art? Bynes’s Hairspray co-star Nikki Blonsky recently claimed that Amanda is having “not a breakdown, but a breakthrough,” underlining the paradox at the center of the modern American young adult experience: The rumspringa we expect, roughly, between the ages of 18 and 25, bears enough similarity to a manic episode or deranged art project that sometimes we cannot tell which one is happening.

When the breakdown/breakthrough plays out in public, we also face confusion over what, if anything, we should do about it. Look away? What if we can’t?

Last night, after Bynes tweeted two topless pictures, Jenny McCarthy tweeted, “Police are at @amandabynes house. I hope they get her help. Enough of this circus. She needs help.”

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