The Media Portrayal of Mental Health Between Men & Women

So this week Amanda Bynes finally sought after some medical help in the form of Rehab. Now for anyone who follows her on Twitter or even owns a computer for that matter is fully aware that Bynes has been behaving quite erratically in the last few months.

It all began when Bynes tweeted Drake with the following;

Amanda Bynes Crying For Help
Amanda Bynes Crying For Help

I won’t bore you with the details of what else she has been doing to warrant great concern for her mental wellbeing as I’m sure most of you are pretty clued up on the matter.  But what I have noticed is the way in which the media have reported her current mental state to us the general public. A lot of media outlets have accused Bynes of attention seeking or realising her career is dead and is trying to revive it with wacky antics. Clearly this is a woman in need of help and lots of it. I don’t claim to know a lot about mental health but I know a cry for help when I see one.

Now for the sake of this blog entry lets cast our minds back to 2007 where Britney Spears suffered one of the most prolific and recorded mental breakdowns the entertainment industry has ever seen. The lasting image of her whole breakdown was the moment she shaved her head and just like that the photo became a part of pop culture forever and still holds the record for the highest selling paparazzi photo of all time ($500,000). (Side note: even at her worst, the demand and interest in this woman’s life was clearly evident in the price people were willing to pay for the defining image of her breakdown. How could you deal with that kind of scrutiny? You wouldn’t.)

Britney Spears at rock bottom
Britney Spears at rock bottom

What do both Spears and Bynes have in common aside from belonging to the entertainment industry? They’re women. What I have come to realise is that the way women’s mental health among celebrities is reported is appallingly against them with little or no sympathy at all. If anything its reported in a way that suggests its the woman’s fault entirely. Whereas if the same story was run but instead it involved a man the media representation would be completely different.

Not quite sold yet? Ok then lets remember earlier this year when Justin Bieber came to the UK as a part of his ‘Believe’ World Tour. Instead of the papers being full of reviews of his four day stint at the London 02 as a part of his ‘Believe Tour’, the main buzz surrounding Bieber is regarding his seemingly erratic behaviour which saw him lash out at Paparazzi and show up 2 hours late to his own concert where many have concluded that Justin Bieber is finally succumbing to the pressure of being the world’s biggest teen pop-star and the cracks are beginning to show.

Though public opinion of Bieber has never been in his favour many media outlets and blogs  reported Justin Bieber’s recent behaviour with a ‘Go on my son!’ type mentality where his actions were being congratulated and celebrated. Liam Gallagher spoke out regarding the incident where Bieber verbally and almost physically attacked a paparazzo tweeting ‘Wow Yeah Justin Bieber Rules ! LG x’ .

Justin Bieber
Justin Bieber

Despite the ambiguity surrounding the tweet (for all we know Gallagher could have been mocking Bieber) fact of the matter is that Justin’s actions were being received with great praise by those within the industry. And that is enough to sway many indifferent members of the public to think likewise.

Furthermore, remember  in 2011 when Charlie Sheen famously cracked and went on a tirade of abusing his bosses at ‘Two and A Half Men’, revealing his sexual antics with porn stars and a history of substance abuse? Sheen was clearly mentality unstable and what did the media do? They celebrated it.  He wasn’t savaged by the media and made to be some sort of tragic public figure that got publicly picked upon at every given chance.

Now compare this with Britney Spears. During her breakdown Britney was continuously attacked by the media with many calling her a ‘Crack whore’ and ‘un fit Mother’ as she was seen out partying with Paris Hilton and Lindsay Lohan. And her mental state was something many comedians used for laughs with their distasteful jokes. A lot of the public believed Britney brought this upon herself and she was getting her just desserts and took joy in seeing a woman who once had the world at her feet brought down to her knees.

Fast forward to 2013 and even though Britney is in a far better place mentality, the media still choose to belittle and bash her at every turn with prefixes like ‘The troubled star.. ‘ or ‘the former pop star who shaved her heard in 2007 after a very public breakdown…’ And what for? What is there to gain from this? What agenda are they pushing? Are the same prefixes used for Charlie Sheen? Course not.

Britney in 2013
Britney in 2013

And while I am on the topic can someone answer me this? Given his clearly violent past and the numerous occasions where he has physically and verbally lashed out at reporters etal, why hasn’t Chris Brown’s mental health ever been questioned? Why instead has the mental health of Lindsay Lohan been a hot topic of conversation for the last 4 years instead?

From my own personal stance, mental health is not something which should be reported on differently according to your gender. If anything the mental health or wellbeing of celebrities shouldn’t be news. We become interested in these people for their music and art. If a famous person is going through a rough stage in their life, if they look like they need help then the last thing we should be doing is kicking them while they are down. At the end of the day celebrities are human just like the rest of us. They give up certain liberties like privacy in being a celebrity yes but there draws a line when what we know about our favourite singer becomes less about the music or movies and more about the mental instability, the custody battles and the drug addiction that engulfs them.

If after reading this article you’re thinking ‘Oh Yusuf, you don’t know what you’re talking about! You’re just a die-hard fan of Britney’ (which is true).  Then fine, so be it. But let me ask you this; during both Lindsay Lohan’s and Charlie Sheen’s public breakdowns please tell me who was being celebrated with catch phrases like ‘Tiger Blood’ becoming a part of pop culture and TV shows vying for them to appear in their show and who was the one being berated by the media and constantly attacked by online bloggers such as Perez Hilton with claims of cocaine addiction and constant reminders of their flagging career? I rest my case.

2 thoughts on “The Media Portrayal of Mental Health Between Men & Women

  1. Interesting article, definitely true and sadly not too surprising though.

    1. Thanks for checking it out 🙂 It really irked me when I realised the blatant sexism.. some things never chnage eh!

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