Today is Winona Ryder’s 50th birthday, which doesn’t seem possible, as she is one of the Forever Young who doesn’t seem to age. I don’t always remember birthdays, celebrity or otherwise, but Winona Ryder’s is seared in my brain because it’s so close to Halloween, and Beetlejuice is my annual Halloween movie. Lydia Deetz was one of my icons growing up, and no spooky season is complete without her. It’s fitting that her resurgence in the 2010s came with Stranger Things, which brought her back to the world of horror and spooky things, the world in which she first broke out. It’s possible to program a mini-film festival just focused on Winona’s genre work, from Beetlejuice, Edward Scissorhands, and Dracula to Black Swan, Frankenweenie, and Stranger Things.
We don’t usually think of Winona as scream queen, and she isn’t one, not like Jamie Lee Curtis or Jennifer Tilly are. Most of us probably think of her as one of Tim Burton’s early muses, or maybe as Jo March, or as a fixture in Nineties gossip alongside fellow It Girls Angelina Jolie and Gwyneth Paltrow, with whom she supposedly had a falling out. Early in goop days, Paltrow blogged about a “frenemy” that many believe is Winona. The schadenfreude Paltrow felt for her frenemy’s fall from grace is presumed to be Winona’s 2001 shoplifting arrest. I wonder, as we reexamine the celebrity and gossip of the early 2000s, when will we revisit Winona’s arrest? I remember a lot of sneering coverage of the “poor little rich girl” nicking designer duds from a high-end department store, but I don’t remember anyone really talking about mental health or the opioid crisis, which was then in its first wave.
Twenty years later, we understand a lot better the forces at play back then, both in Winona’s personal life—she had broken her arm and was prescribed painkillers by a doctor she called a “quack”, who did later lose his medical license—and in the media, especially in the way famous women were covered in crisis. Winona has rarely talked about that incident, and I doubt she’d be interested in a Framing Britney Spears-style documentary about it, but it is interesting to go back and look how her arrest was covered and to consider how differently we would talk about it today. Anyway, happy birthday to the immortal Winona Ryder, long may Lydia Deetz reign as our Goth queen of Halloween.
Live long and gossip,