In the four years since Amanda Bynes “broke the Internet” before Paper Magazine made that term a thing, and for very different reasons than the other breakers of browsers, the Internet has changed. Amanda’s public battle with addiction which unraveled in real time on Twitter would - I hope - be received much differently today.
In many ways, Amanda Bynes is the perfect case study for how the conversation surrounding mental health, and what is acceptable to say on social media, has evolved. Amanda’s story wasn’t unfamiliar. A child star fallen from grace. Amanda is a bit older than I am so I was in the exact demo targeted to obsess over her Nickelodeon dominance. She had her own sketch comedy show when she was 13! She was the early 2000s pre-teen Queen of comedy, a millennial Lucille Ball or Carol Burnett. She also went on to star in a string of corny teen rom-coms so you know I was all about her. Then, it all fell apart. I don’t need to recount the ways in which it fell apart. One specific Drake tweet is all you need to remember about how far Amanda Bynes fell.
In the “Break the Internet” issue of Paper Magazine, Amanda apologizes for her “drug-induced” behaviour (she admits to abusing Adderall) on the set of Hall Pass and for the tweets specifically.
“I’m really ashamed and embarrassed with the things I said. I can’t turn back time but if I could, I would. And I’m so sorry to whoever I hurt and whoever I lied about because it truly eats away at me. It makes me feel so horrible and sick to my stomach and sad. Everything I worked my whole life to achieve, I kind of ruined it all through Twitter.” But, she adds, “it’s definitely not Twitter’s fault — it’s my own fault.”
There is no point in this piece where Amanda lashes out at the public reaction to her struggle with addiction. She doesn’t call out the trolls or blame the media when in this case, she might actually have a right to. She’s owning her mistakes and taking accountability for her actions. Other celebrities in her position would go on a self-righteous diatribe about the app or the accounts that turned her breakdown into punchlines and her very clear mental health issues into memes. I remember feeling awful for Amanda during those years but I also can’t say for sure that I didn’t laugh at some of the jokes. We’re all complicit in the culture that thrived off of her undoing and if she made that point, I wouldn’t be mad at it.
Instead, Amanda comes off as courteous and contrite. She’s reflective but ambitious. She’s the Amanda Bynes I remember from my adolescence. The writer, Abby Schreiber, does a good job at portraying a star on the verge of a comeback but also a normal 30-something woman coming out of the worst years of her life. Amanda seems happy and healthy. Maybe it’s because I feel like I grew up with her, or because I cry at everything, but reading this piece was EMOTIONAL.
Amanda Bynes has been sober for “almost four years” and is now a student at FIDM, the Fashion Institute of Design and Merchandising in LA. I know the school because Lauren Conrad went there on The Hills. Amanda wanted to go there because Lauren Conrad went there on The Hills. The influence of that show on women our age is severely underrated. Amanda also loves Insecure. Teenage me would be happy to know that Amanda and I have similar impeccable taste in television. Amanda Bynes wants to use her FIDM degrees to start a fashion line but first, she is going to go back to acting.
The rom-com renaissance feels like the perfect time for an Amanda Bynes comeback. She describes the circumstances that led her to retire from acting which seems to stem from body dysmorphia and watching herself in movies like She’s The Man (a classic) and Easy A and hating what she saw. Her anecdotes about watching herself onscreen are heartbreaking, and make me a little worried for her to put out work in the era of the instant reaction. But Amanda Bynes has worked hard since she was seven. She’s at the top of her class at FIDM. I’m rooting for her and hopefully, social media commenters are too. America loves a comeback story.
You know what else America loves? Channing Tatum. We have Amanda to thank for introducing Channing to the masses in She’s The Man (there were also rumours they dated briefly).
"I totally fought for Channing [to get cast in] that movie because he wasn't famous yet. He'd just done a Mountain Dew commercial and I was like, 'This guy's a star — every girl will love him!' But [the producers] were like, 'He's so much older than all of you!' And I was like, 'It doesn't matter! Trust me!'"
Fun Kathleen fact: I had Channing Tatum’s modelling pictures up in my locker long before She’s The Man and I was obsessed with the aforementioned Mountain Dew commercial. So, technically, I too discovered Channing Tatum.
It’ll be interesting to see how the return of Amanda Bynes will be received by Hollywood. Since she’s Amanda Bynes and all eyes will be on her next project, will offers start rolling in after this Paper Magazine issue? Whatever her next step is, I’ll be watching. Maybe she should start with a mid-budget Netflix rom-com costarring Glen Powell? Amanda, please.
Finally, the only judgment we should be passing on Amanda Bynes in 2018 is that her comeback piece opens with her asking to “put Post Malone back on.” Let’s hope she has better taste in roles than in music.
Click here for more of Amanda in Paper Magazine.