It is odd how someone so sly online can be so shy in real life. That the former must compensate for the latter is something many of us may relate to. As Amanda Bynes slowly goes insane, we have a new disaster to follow, eyeing the eye of the hurricane from the safe distance of a meteorologist in front of a green screen. I hadn’t even heard of her until some of her witty, curious, but ultimately desperate tweets (wanting Drake to “murder [her] vagina”; calling other female celebrities “ugly”; posting increasingly explicit selfies). I imagine a small stake through her cheek piercings, like shish-kebab, disrupting the flow of her tongue. As standard news outlets address this as “bizarre behavior” and “cries for help,” we enjoy the heightened narrative of non-fiction, though Bynes is as much a masterful creation as Madame Bovary herself. In what has now become #bynesing, Amanda shields her face in modesty, or horror, an eerie nod to the Islamic Burqa (or Niqāb, with a slit) featuring a little window through which women, in public and/or in front of adult males, can navigate their world with truncated periphery. This requirement, called “Hijab,” unsurprisingly stems from the Qur’an, a place of deep sexual paranoia, or subverted fantasies, regarding incest. It’s a mess, but basically, the hood somehow keeps slutty daughters from fucking their fathers or brothers. As one-fourth of the world’s population prays at five appointed times a day towards Mecca, it’s hard not to see such circadian devotion as a kind of ultimate militia come the apocalypse, whose semi-finals will likely be between Allah, Jesus, China, and Walmart.
On July 6, 2010, Lindsay Lohan was sentenced to 90 days in jail for consistently bailing on “alcohol education” classes as part of her 2007 DUI plea bargain. Lohan, who had assumed a precedence of leniency, sobbed it’s my life in a way that seemed profound, but was merely redundant. It was indeed her life, and we loved watching it. I particularly appreciate the tiny “fuck u” written on her fingernail in another court appearance. The electromagnetic radius to which her ankle is tethered emits ripples like a stone’s entry into a still pond. Lindsay Lohan is no more “crazy” than Starbucks, taxes, Van Gogh, Geico ads, or other things upon which our well-functioning society is built. Part of Democracy, I guess, is being able to psychiatrically diagnose strangers we see on TV, each new channel another turned cheek, directing our attention away from our own curiously populated medicine cabinets. We are complicit in our judgmental patronage of the very things we consume. As greater recession loomed, now in the late ’30s, Picasso does a handful of “Weeping Women,” featuring one Dora Maar, whose lovelorn facial tribulations found grotesque repositions in the mind of the artist, through whom we shall always unfairly see her.
Both animals behind the “sacrificial lamb” and “scapegoat” take residence in the bible, and in the case of Jesus, was used mutually by two differing parties. “Behold the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world,” goes John in 1:29, referring to Jesus as ultimate “scapegoat,” whose etymological roots stem from the translation of “goat that departs” in Hebrew (ez ozel), the symbol for demon in Jewish mythology. A goat is sent into the wilderness on the Day of Atonement to bear the sins of the people while a lamb is slayed for the common good in order to galvanize the people into a greater myth (Lee Harvey Oswald, Kurt Cobain, and JonBenét Ramsey may be seen as contemporary examples). In cop movies, this is usually the protagonist’s partner (often African-american) who dies horribly early on. Of fictional examples: “Bubba” in Forrest Gump, Gwyneth Paltrow’s character in Se7en, and Laura Palmer in Twin Peaks. That we slay what we adore (cf. “Adoration of the Mystic Lamb,” Jan Van Eyck c. 1430) may find explanation in our very selves. A recent study suggests that wanting to squeeze, bite, or even eat “cute” things (e.g. kittens, hamsters, babies) stems from a dark predatory impulse — that the supposedly affectionate nibbling has bloodier roots. Bynes, Lohan and Spears are far from cute at this juncture, but before their premature sexualization by Disney and Nickelodeon, dynasties from which their spinning careers spawned, they were marketed as such. However empowered their dizzying manic flights are, a juicy hickey may be but a plugged scab over a carotid incision from long ago.
No one would called the umbrella Britney Spears used to assault a photographer’s car a “parasol,” though the camera’s flash is a kind of sun, a cold one in the night that finds blunt contours in its rapid path. The pre-modern world of night, once unseen save for a candle’s flame, has been granted the explicitness of day. Spears had earlier¹ lost custody of her son and was committed to a psychiatric ward. While the shaving of her head was far from Buddhist, we may find in her a parallel act of self-abnegation, the spiritual “fuck it” that saves on the shampoo. “Woman with a Parasol” (1875) shows the artist’s wife Camille with their 8-year-old son Jean slightly above Claude atop a hill, which acts as a kind of familial pedestal. As Jean (who will eventually marry his step-sister from his father’s second marriage after his mom dies) looks on with diminishing innocence, Camille shields her face from the rays, wisps of clouds the sky’s dress, the unblinking flash of God’s camera known as day itself.
Her green parasol now wilted, collapsed, Britney stares into sun of a camera’s flash, whose random discovery of shapes that evening has been carved into our psyches. As someone so attuned to intricate choreography, each limb in their most efficient path towards the pantomime of pop, she attacked the car rather awkwardly, perhaps her ultimate act of unrehearsed conviction. However inadvertent her remake, short of gracing the walls of the National Gallery of Art where its sunnier ancestor is housed, Britney’s “Woman with a Parasol” finds its own crinkly walls in back issues of People, US, and OK! magazine, where we find our commercial livestock being led to slaughter. A year prior, Rihanna is to release “Umbrella” — under which the second-person implied beau is invited to stand — originally written with Britney Spears in mind, though her label, with a glint of prophecy, rejected it. Pop songs are an ever changing anthem feigning slightly different melodies, whose falsettos we destroy in our own earnest renditions. Everything made, was made for us. Soon, Rihanna’s face is beaten to a pulp, her gaze less averted than simply sealed shut, a kind of puffy veil into which we ecstatically will try, but fail, to look. The blind do not lead the blind, but tell awful stories about them. Things are better know, as true love waits, waits for the news.