Published at deafnews.net on August 1, 2013
Whatever Happened to Amanda Bynes?
Hollywood’s dark side claims another victim, and the need for a crackdown
It is a tale as old as time, that of the young, innocent child thrown to the wolves in a reckless push for wealth and fame and corrupted beyond redemption and beyond recovery. And it is that exact same tale that has just claimed another victim in Amanda Bynes, who was involuntarily admitted to an undisclosed mental health ward last week out of concern for her mental and physical well-being after having been discovered late at night attempting to set a fire in a stranger’s driveway. Bynes’ case is only the latest installment in a long string of publicized meltdowns involving young Hollywood stars, the most prominent among them being Britney Spears and Lindsay Lohan.
Many reasons, and some excuses, have often been bandied about for their shocking and confusing behavior. Some will ascribe it to stress; others will pin it on their parents and their heavy involvement in their child’s career and life. And, conversely, there’s also the failure of their parents to be involved at all. And then you have the issue of peer pressure coming from their fellow young stars; the constant pull of Hollywood’s decadent social life is often too difficult for them to resist. Or sometimes it’s really just a case of a distinct lack of self-control, or an inability to recognize their limits when out in public. The reasons are sometimes understandable, sometimes not.
And then there is the real reason that’s gone explicitly unspoken all these years, covering all these cases and incidents: Hollywood’s dark underside. This is a story that we’ve barely heard of, and it’s a story that Hollywood and the entertainment media have every incentive to prevent from coming out in full. And the details behind the story would strongly suggest a definitive and overall reason for the public self-immolation of young child stars like Corey Haim, Shannon Doherty, Britney Spears and so on. It would be more than fair to assume that most of the self-destructive and bizarre incidents involving young celebrities are connected to what they all experienced as a child star growing up in Hollywood.
This story has been hinted at, however, in various films and shows. In 1972, Francis Ford Coppola and Mario Puzo collaborated on a cinematic gamble that would make their careers – if they could pull it off successfully. That cinematic gamble is now known to history as The Godfather, widely regarded as one of the greatest films of all time. The story is simple: it is a tale of an aged mobster handing over control of his empire to his innocent, law-abiding son. Much of the story does not bear a direct connection to Amanda Bynes and Hollywood – except for the plotline involving Johnny Fontane and the Hollywood studio mogul Jack Woltz.
The film opens with a wedding – Vito Corleone’s daughter is getting married. On that day, according to an age-old Sicilian ritual, no father can refuse a request. And so Johnny Fontane makes a request of his patrone: can he help convince Jack Woltz to cast Fontane for a role that perfectly suits him? Vito assents, and sends his right-hand man Tom Hagen to Los Angeles. Hagen arrives, and is ushered into a sitting room. In the same sitting room, he sees a prim, arrogant mother and a scared girl, no older than 11, sitting on the opposite side. Tom does not make a complete connection about the girl, but it is clear that he has an inkling of what is causing her to act that way in public.
Hagen’s first attempt with Woltz fails. He, however, learns more about Woltz and the nature of the business, and ties it to the girl in the sitting room: Woltz is a drug user who molests young girls. As Hagen is about to depart for the airport, an urgent summons comes from Woltz – it is an invitation to dinner at his mansion. Hagen comes to Woltz’s residence, where Woltz tells him he knows about Hagen’s connection to Corleone and is willing to grant any favor – except for anything involving Fontane. Hagen asks for the favor once again, and is told off by Woltz, who refers to another young girl previously groomed by Woltz’s studio and then supposedly ruined by Fontane as “the greatest piece of ass I’ve ever had.” The following morning, Woltz wakes up in bed with the bloody head of his prized horse next to him, placed there overnight as a threat by the Corleone family.
This subplot is just one of the multiple plots that make the film, but it is a telling plot point nonetheless: it gently touches on a very taboo subject in Hollywood – the sexual abuse of its young stars. There has always been an undercurrent of suspicion regarding the seamy underbelly of the city and its celebrity-oriented culture, and it has been around for as long as the very concept of Hollywood itself, and it’s always been the one thing the powerful and the wealthy have managed to keep under lock and key. And it is exactly what caused the very public and sordid meltdowns of young stars like Corey Haim and Amanda Bynes.
Right around the same time Bynes’ slow-motion meltdown began a blog post started circulating on the less-trafficked parts of the entertainment section of the internet, in which it discussed the probable reasons for Bynes’ apparent breakdown. It detailed her strange antics on her old show What I Like About You, and tied them to potential sexual abuse by one of Nickleodeon’s more powerful producers from back when she was a star for the popular children’s TV network. The same article also suggested that the problem was widespread in Hollywood, and Bynes was only the latest victim of Hollywood’s dark subculture of pedophilia, sexual abuse, drug use, and corruption.
Several years ago, Corey Feldman, a former co-star of Haim’s, discussed their past together in frank terms, openly stating that they had been abused and passed around by major players in Hollywood and that a great deal of drugs had been involved in the transactions. It was most likely the past that eventually drove Haim to kill himself, unable to deal with the emotional and mental fallout from his torturous early years as a child star. Yet the admission barely drew much in the way of attention and was quickly shoved aside by the entertainment media. The admission still resonated in some ways, anyway, by corroborating other reports and rumors, including Bynes’ own.
And so where there is smoke, there is fire. There’s plenty of smoke to warrant a full-scale investigation into Hollywood’s dark side, and even a crackdown on moguls and celebrities alike. All of this has probably been going on since the 1930s, and there’s certainly been more than enough evidence of their heinous behavior over the decades to convict the perpetuators and put them away for long stretches of time, maybe even for the rest of their lives. For every significant B-list or higher young celebrity who falls apart in the public arena, there are a dozen C- or D-list young celebrities whose names will go unnoticed everywhere in the world. They all deserve to be avenged, and a major investigation and/or crackdown would do the job.
But we’re not really going to see any of that happen any time soon, are we? Not with the way Hollywood’s been able to buy protection, in exchange for political support, from Washington for their sins over the last couple of decades. The horror of Hollywood’s dark world is just going to continue indefinitely, and young broken stars like Amanda Bynes and Corey Haim will continue to put themselves into institutions and caskets, having been driven mad by their slow descent into the heart of darkness that lies beneath the blue skies, green valleys, and whitewashed studios of Los Angeles.