5 Huge Celebrity Scandals The Entire Planet Got Wrong
The media has the amazing ability to shed light on terrible situations and stand by victims when no one else will. That or, you know, just point and laugh at them. Usually, the rest of us are too busy laughing along to notice this is happening, but if you look back, it's painfully obvious. Here are five times the media came across someone who clearly needed help and said, "Yeah, but wouldn't it be more helpful if we mocked the shit out of them?"
We Were All Obsessed With Diagnosing Charlie Sheen's Exact Mental Illness (For Some Reason)
Back in 2011, people, websites, and media outlets of all political inclinations united for what seemed like a worthy cause at the time: making fun of Charlie Sheen. It got to the point where some lowly dick joke sites had to specifically ask their writers to avoid "Charlie Sheen is insane" zingers -- it was far too easy. It all started when Sheen was canned from Two And A Half Men due to his erratic behavior, which led to a series of high-profile interviews wherein he attempted to explain that he was totally clean and sane. They, uh, didn't go that way.
Hell, there's still a weird corner of YouTube solely devoted to "Worst of Charlie Sheen" compilations. This auto-tuned one has over 60 million views:
One particularly notable line from Sheen's interview with ABC News' Andrea Canning (which is also highlighted heavily in the memes and songs) involved his mental state. Canning suggests that perhaps Sheen is bipolar, to which the star of Hot Shots! Part Deux replies that he's simply "bi-winning." And that's where this starts to fall apart.
See, there's a bad habit in the media to try to get mental health professionals to "diagnose" a famous person they've never met, which is very much against that field's entire code of ethics. In a stunning display of sticking to their guns, psychiatrists are even refusing to diagnose President Trump from afar. So why was the media so hellbent on getting a diagnosis on the guy from some crappy sitcom? Time got specialists to analyze his speech to determine whether he was crazy or merely a drug addict. To this day, Dr. Drew is remarkably hung up on Sheen:
The media made it clear that figuring out what was wrong with Sheen was way more important than encouraging him to get help, which is a very different thing. Sheen admitted to Canning that he had no idea what bipolar disorder even meant, and Canning didn't seem terribly informed herself (for future reference, it's more complicated than being "on two ends of a spectrum," as she put it). So after that whole kerfuffle, what did Sheen do? He organized a bipolar disorder awareness walk in Toronto, with funds going to a Canadian support group. Canning, meanwhile, only walked away as part of a meme.
Vanessa Hudgens Had To Apologize For Someone Else Leaking Her Nude Photos
When you're a Disney child star, you're expected to be a lot more than some kid who acts in movies and TV shows. You're supposed to be a wholesome young chap or chapette who represents the family friendly values of the company, but also cool and desirable enough to decorate the walls of millions of horned-up teenagers. The perfect Disney star is equal parts sexy and virginal. And most importantly, they should never, ever be naked.
This is what made it such a big scandal in 2007 when someone leaked nude photos of High School Musical star Vanessa Hudgens, who was 18 at the time. This was almost certainly a case of revenge porn, which is a crime most states prosecute today. But back in 2007? The media backlash centered not on the asswipe who did this, but on Hudgens herself, who had to issue an apology for ... having nipples? Not being a vampire and showing up in photos?
At least Disney proved they had her back when they released a statement saying: "We hope she's learned a valuable lesson."
It's also kind of important to note the timeframe in which this happened. In 2007, as you surely remember, we were somewhere in the middle of the second season of Hannah Montana. Miley Cyrus had yet to smoke her first bowl and take a steaming dump all over everything Disney held dear. Lindsay Lohan was two years removed from Herbie: Fully Loaded, and her own problems were only getting started. The pressure on Hudgens was pretty bad, and all those indignant articles describing "saucy snapshots" which showed her in non-"ladylike" positions didn't help.
Even stupider is that even when trying to "defend" her, the media still can't help but crack a joke. Here's HuffPo in 2013, six years later:
Nobody Took Chelsea Manning's Transition Seriously
The existence of transgender people has historically been a source of headaches and inconvenience for the media. "What pronouns do we use? Do we refer to them by the gender they were assigned at birth or how they identify? Do we treat them as people, or as monsters to be derided and mocked? It's all so complicated!"
So when Chelsea Manning was arrested in 2010, and later reports came out that she was transitioning, the media was confused, to say the least. Thing is, they shouldn't have been. Manning explicitly said that her name was Chelsea and that she wanted to be referenced using female pronouns. It's that easy. Nevertheless, practically every major newsroom in the country used masculine pronouns during much of the initial reporting -- including outlets that already had rules about respecting transgender people's wishes, like The New York Times and the Associated Press. Meanwhile, The Washington Post, in an impressive effort to avoid getting angry letters from any side, avoided pronouns altogether throughout an entire article.
There was a reason for disregarding Manning's wishes other than ignorance or bigotry: money. Or at least clicks. Essentially, it came down to using key phrases in reporting -- "Bradley Manning" was a household name, but Chelsea Manning was brand-new. Some grumpy news reader looking at CNN.com would have clicked on a new report about "Bradley," but looked at the same story about "Chelsea" and not known who the hell that was, thereby not clicking. And if they don't click, they won't share the article via an all-caps Facebook post, and then where would we be?
Monica Lewinsky Was As Vilified As Bill Clinton, Despite The Obvious Power Imbalance
Under most circumstances, going from being a fresh-faced intern to the biggest name in politics within a few years would be a good thing. For Monica Lewinsky, unfortunately, it meant that her name became synonymous with a sex act that no one else had apparently performed before or since.
As soon as the media learned of Lewinsky's affair with Bill Clinton, everybody across the political spectrum mocked her fairly harshly. Lewinsky jokes became a whole genre of comedy, especially for late-night talk show hosts like David Letterman.
Even into the Bush presidency, Letterman still found time to make fun of Lewinsky. But why exactly did the American media think it was a good idea to rail on this young woman? Don't get us wrong, making fun of Bill Clinton is totally fair, even necessary. He was the most powerful man in the world when the scandal happened, while Lewinsky was a 23-year-old intern who was barely out of college. Our military carries out orders from the president that they probably don't agree with on a daily basis; do you think a young intern is going to have the fortitude to say "Sorry, just brushed my teeth" to the president of the United States? Him even asking for sexual favors was an abuse of power, but practically nobody covered the story that way.
After the scandal, Lewinsky was criticized for using her new celebrity status to make money, but she didn't really have much of a choice there. Her career was ruined; people don't generally get into politics in the hopes of one day selling a line of handbags. As much as she wanted to stay out of the spotlight, she'd been slapped with so many legal fees that she had to keep accepting every ridiculous offer that came her way. It was also really not cool that there were people seriously having discussions over whether or not Lewinsky references were "fair game" in the 2016 election. Everyone from Rosario Dawson to some rando Republican strategist in Florida had some kind of opinion on whether or not it was OK to drag Lewinsky's name through the mud nearly 20 years after the fact when, again, it was not even Bill running for president.
The Media Pointed And Laughed At Britney Spears' Mental Breakdown (And She's Still Being Treated Poorly)
Man, 2007 was not a good time for anyone's mental health. You may remember some of these headlines from your grocery store checkout lanes that year:
To recap, in 2007, Britney Spears was only 25 years old and on top of the goddamned world -- or so we thought. After checking out of rehab, she decided that her hair extensions were too tight and asked her stylist to chop it all off. When the salon owner tried to talk her out of it, she grabbed some clippers and did the job herself. And because Spears was the type of celebrity who had paparazzi who would follow her off a bridge, the whole incident was caught on camera.
What did all of us do? We laughed. MTV, which could probably afford to serve caviar at the cafeteria thanks to her videos, let a clearly unprepared Spears lip-sync her way through an awkward, widely mocked VMAs performance. For a while there, "Britney Spears" replaced "Michael Jackson" as the punchline for every music industry joke. And inexplicably, the lone voice of reason in this whole debacle was a freaking viral video.
Vlogger Chris Crocker, better known as the "LEAVE BRITNEY ALONE!" guy, was genuinely worried about Spears' health and how everyone in the media was treating her when he recorded that video. His own mom had been struggling with some issues at the same time, and he was truly upset with the way people casually dismissed the mental health of women he looked up to in his life. So naturally, we started mocking the shit out of him, too.
Spears was eventually able to get some of the help she needed, but at the cost of having to put all of her money and future earnings into a "conservatorship" held by her father and an attorney. That's the kind of thing you only do when grandma starts trying to deposit her cash in the microwave. Today, you could say that Spears has recovered reasonably well, what with her hit Las Vegas residency and critically acclaimed latest album ... but she's still not allowed to handle her own finances. Crocker needs to make a new video called "Let Britney Have A Debit Card."
Isaac's life is falling apart, but only on the inside. Follow him on Twitter anyway.
Charlie Sheen got really into "winning" in that whole period, and he put together his Winning Recipes cookbook after it.
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