What makes celebrity meltdowns entertainment instead of tragedy? | David Ferguson

Spurned in the Grammy nominations shortly after a hospital stay, Kanye West is just the latest celeb whose mental health is tabloid gold

When I was in my 20s, I remember my therapist patiently listening to me complain about how out-of-my-depth I often felt around other gay men. I was asking her why they always seemed so effortlessly aloof and cool, whereas I was and to some extent, still am a slobbering golden retriever of a person, quivering with eagerness to be your new best friend.

Youll waste a lot of time and spoil a lot of happiness comparing your insides to other peoples outsides, she told me.

I think about this a lot when I see famous people rock stars, celebrities, politicians going into meltdown mode. Trainwreck TV is one of our cultures most avid pleasures. In the words of Edina Monsoon from Absolutely Fabulous, Its the only blood sport they havent banned, darling.

Right now, everyone is waiting to see what the next eruption from Kanye West will be now that hes out of the hospital after months some would say years of erratic behavior, bizarre concert spectacles and public meltdowns. Its almost expected, since the Grammy nominations were announced this week and West was again shut out of the major categories.

A few years ago the spectacle du jour was Amanda Bynes, and before that, Britney Spears when she shaved her head and ended up under psychiatric care.

Weve shaken our heads and tutted over the breakdowns of Mariah Carey and Courtney Love, Amy Winehouse and Gary Busey, Katt Williams and Dave Chappelle, Lindsay Lohan and Anna Nicole Smith any celebrities who have had the misfortune to exhibit symptoms of mental illness while living in the public eye.

We take a certain sanctimonious pleasure in these peoples public disintegration and show shockingly little compassion, as though their wildly successful careers and personal fortunes make their pain more acceptable than that of mere mortals.

If a random woman we dont know starts babbling nonsense and getting hysterical while were out shopping, its tragic. We avert our eyes. We tell our families when we get home how unsettling and upsetting it was. But when Spears does it, its a Rolling Stone cover story that we consume with the eagerness of kids tearing into a bag of candy.

Its the same mentality that allows a racist troll like Milo Yiannopoulos to airily wave away the steaming, reeking mountain of harassment his followers and supporters firehosed at Saturday Night Live and Ghostbusters actress Leslie Jones, mostly on Twitter. Leslie Jones is a rich and famous actress; who cares if people say nasty things about her on the internet?

At what point do we stop valuing celebrities humanity?

Is it an income-level thing? Kanye West has got a lot of money. Hes one of the most well-known performers on the planet who isnt Beyonc or Beyonc-adjacent. He has broken paradigms and yes, over-extended his brand, as it were, in a couple of areas, but hes also a creative young person with a young family under tremendous pressure who lost his beloved mother nine years ago.

He has written openly about his love for liquor, cocaine and other intoxicants. It does not take a tremendous amount of imagination to piece together what may have happened here to a stressed-out artist in pain.

Lets pretend for a moment that it isnt Kanye West, but Keith West, who you knew in college who works for a life insurance company now. What if his mother died in surgery and he began a multi-year downward spiral?

Would you be gawking if Keith got placed on involuntary hold in a psychiatric unit? Would you be sharing links about Keith on Twitter and Facebook and marveling that someone could become such a mess?

Kanye West may be, as President Obama once said, a jackass from time to time. But hes also still a person.

Millions of dollars in the bank doesnt mean anything when you want your mom and shes gone, I suspect, any more than the significantly less princely sum in my own checking account does. You cant buy five more minutes to be with your dead mom for any amount of money, large or small.

So, maybe the next time you start to click on that Perez Hilton link about whichever celebritys mind has most recently hit the big bug-zapper, take a second. Ask yourself how youd feel if your lifes most humiliating, confused, disoriented moment was out there for public amusement.

If the person suffering at the other end of that hyperlink was Keith and not Kanye, would you still click it?

Read more: https://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2016/dec/11/what-makes-celebrity-meltdowns-entertainment-kanye-west

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