Menus Subscribe Search
amanda-bynes

(PHOTO: SHUTERSTOCK)

How Amanda Bynes Became Her On-Screen Enemies

• June 28, 2013 • 6:00 AM

(PHOTO: SHUTERSTOCK)

Amanda Bynes was once a young and promising comedic actress. Now she looks and talks like the characters she was always cast against.

A young actor’s fall from stardom to a pity inducing 20-something is often traced through clichés about substance abuse and theories on celebrity. We can’t assume insight into a person we don’t know, whose circumstances we can’t imagine. But examining Amanda Bynes’ present condition through her career reveals a strange role reversal. One in which Bynes becomes a distorted approximation of the characters she played against.

Despite the success of two hit sketch comedy shows on Nickelodeon, her transition to film was a struggle to support an upward trajectory. While undeniably pretty, Bynes was consistently billed as “the girl next door,” the anti hot girl. You know, burgers instead of salads, sneakers instead of heels, sports instead of shopping. Most of her movies include scenes that made a point of such preferences, and they all feature characters who are villains for choosing the opposite. In What a Girl Wants she tells her blonde nemesis Clarissa (played by Christina Cole), “If you take your nose out of the air for one second you’ll see you’re designer, I’m vintage. You’ve got a mansion; I’ve got a five-floor walk-up. You’re a snotty little miss cranky pants and I go with the flow.” In She’s the Man: “Sorry, Mom. I have a strict no-ruffles policy.” And in Sydney White she “throws a football like Matt Leinart.”

These roles seemed to suit Bynes. In a 2005 cover story, she told CosmoGirl, “I enjoy doing things that are scary or things that some girls might not like because it won’t let them look gorgeous … that’s when you start relying more on your sense of humor.” But it wasn’t always enough. In 2003, after What A Girl Wants, Bynes told Time, “I want longevity, I’m waiting to find something a little bit above this movie.” The waiting wasn’t fruitful; among the few roles for a female actor even fewer could showcase the pratfalls, wide-eyed charm, and glib timing of Bynes.

Far from the well-adjusted teen of her old interviews, her looks have become her fixation and constant project.

That her extensive physical comedy range didn’t earn her more varied roles makes you wonder what would’ve happened if she’d come along just a few years later. After Kristen Wiig and Melissa McCarthy ushered in Hollywood’s belated recognition of women’s comedic talent and earning potential. Would Bynes be a bigger star if she could’ve been the next Kristen Wiig instead of the first Amanda Bynes? It’s hard to say. A study from the University of Southern California’s Annenberg School for Communication & Journalism found that only 28 percent of all speaking roles in 2012 belonged to women. And the majority of female actors’ screen time centers on dressing in revealing clothing. A wholesome archetype meant to endear Bynes to us limited her and, in 2008, she left her talent agency hoping to expand her opportunities as an actor.

There weren’t many available to her. The sequel to Hairspray was canceled and Alexis Bledel replaced her as the lead in 2009’s Post Grad. A January 2009 interview in Cosmopolitan revealed an actor very much aware of her type: “I’ve never been that girl [who] was auditioning to be the hot cheerleader. I was always the quirky girl. I’m much more comfortable being goofy than being the sex kitten.” She added she’d recently been cheated on: “I’m a confident person, but it killed me.” Later that year her next boyfriend, Doug Reinhardt, broke up with her and began dating Paris Hilton. Hollywood’s preferences seemed to be shared by the men around her.

In February of 2010 a Maxim photoshoot introduced a blonder, bigger-breasted Bynes in lingerie and heels. By March, a month into filming the Farrelly brothers’ Hall Pass, she was dropped from the cast, allegedly for “paranoid and fearful” behavior. In June, four months before her next movie’s release, she announced her retirement from acting, saying, “I don’t love acting anymore so I’ve stopped doing it…. Being an actress isn’t as fun as it may seem.” By July, she declared herself unretired. That fall saw the release of Easy A, in which Bynes plays the type of shallow blonde she was typically cast against, and newcomer Emma Stone plays the “girl next door.” It’s Bynes’ last credited film.

OVER THE PAST TWO years her tweets have become increasingly bizarre and her hazardous driving a tabloid regular feature. Far from the well-adjusted teen of her old interviews, her looks have become her fixation and constant project.

Amanda Bynes was once a promising comedy talent who deservedly earned comparisons to Lucille Ball, Carol Burnett, and Gilda Radner. Now her DUIs and hit and runs in 2012—coupled with ongoing, unexpectedly confessional tweets—place her somewhere between a parody of her costars’ characters and a real Hollywood tragedy, staring out glumly from under a cheap wig in court like a sketch from The Amanda Show.

She traffics in L.A. stereotypes with her frosted lipstick pout and blonde extensions. Her insult of choice is “ugly,” volleyed at other celebrities or strangers who tweet at her, and revoked on whim. She was kicked out of an exercise class for reapplying her makeup in the middle of it. Her Twitter admission to an eating disorder uncomfortably calls to mind the flatness of her midriff poking out from tank tops in What I Like About You. She muses about her nose jobs, tweeting, “There’s a surgery for everything that’s wrong with you!” She sounds, and sometimes looks, uncannily like Monique—the character Bynes’ Viola Hastings clashed with in She’s the Man. The one who said things like “girls with asses like mine don’t talk to boys with faces like yours.” Last week, Bynes tweeted, “I don’t care what you say about me if I don’t find you physically attractive” and “If you’re not hot I don’t value your opinion.”

Ayesha A. Siddiqi
Ayesha A. Siddiqi is a writer based in the South. You can follow her on Twitter @pushinghoops.

A weekly roundup of the best of Pacific Standard and PSmag.com, delivered straight to your inbox.

Recent Posts

September 1 • 1:00 PM

Television and Overeating: What We Watch Matters

New research finds fast-moving programming leads to mindless overeating.



September 1 • 6:00 AM

Why Someone Named Monty Iceman Sold Doogie Howser’s Estate

How unusual names, under certain circumstances, can lead to success.



August 29 • 4:00 PM

The Hidden Costs of Tobacco Debt

Even when taxpayers aren’t explicitly on the hook, tobacco bonds can cost states and local governments money. Here’s how.


August 29 • 2:00 PM

Why Don’t Men and Women Wear the Same Gender-Neutral Bathing Suits?

They used to in the 1920s.


August 29 • 11:48 AM

Your Brain Decides Whether to Trust Someone in Milliseconds

We can determine trustworthiness even when we’re only subliminally aware of the other person.


August 29 • 10:00 AM

True Darwinism Is All About Chance

Though the rich sometimes forget, Darwin knew that nature frequently rolls the dice.


August 29 • 8:00 AM

Why Our Molecular Make-Up Can’t Explain Who We Are

Our genes only tell a portion of the story.


August 29 • 6:00 AM

Strange Situations: Attachment Theory and Sexual Assault on College Campuses

When college women leave home, does attachment behavior make them more vulnerable to campus rape?


August 29 • 4:00 AM

Forgive Your Philandering Partner—and Pay the Price

New research finds people who forgive an unfaithful romantic partner are considered weaker and less competent than those who ended the relationship.


August 28 • 4:00 PM

Some Natural-Looking Zoo Exhibits May Be Even Worse Than the Old Concrete Ones

They’re often designed for you, the paying visitor, and not the animals who have to inhabit them.


August 28 • 2:00 PM

What I Learned From Debating Science With Trolls

“Don’t feed the trolls” is sound advice, but occasionally ignoring it can lead to rewards.


August 28 • 12:00 PM

The Ice Bucket Challenge’s Meme Money

The ALS Association has raised nearly $100 million over the past month, 50 times what it raised in the same period last year. How will that money be spent, and how can non-profit executives make a windfall last?


August 28 • 11:56 AM

Outlawing Water Conflict: California Legislators Confront Risky Groundwater Loophole

California, where ambitious agriculture sucks up 80 percent of the state’s developed water, is no stranger to water wrangles. Now one of the worst droughts in state history is pushing legislators to reckon with its unwieldy water laws, especially one major oversight: California has been the only Western state without groundwater regulation—but now that looks set to change.


August 28 • 11:38 AM

Young, Undocumented, and Invisible

While young migrant workers struggle under poor working conditions, U.S. policy has done little to help.


August 28 • 10:00 AM

The Five Words You Never Want to Hear From Your Doctor

“Sometimes people just get pains.”


August 28 • 8:00 AM

Why I’m Not Sharing My Coke

Andy Warhol, algorithms, and a bunch of popular names printed on soda cans.


August 28 • 6:00 AM

Can Outdoor Art Revitalize Outdoor Advertising?

That art you’ve been seeing at bus stations and billboards—it’s serving a purpose beyond just promoting local museums.


August 28 • 4:00 AM

Linguistic Analysis Reveals Research Fraud

An examination of papers by the discredited Diederik Stapel finds linguistic differences between his legitimate and fraudulent studies.


August 28 • 2:00 AM

Poverty and Geography: The Myth of Racial Segregation

Migration, regardless of race, ethnicity, gender, or sexuality (not to mention class), can be a poverty-buster.


August 27 • 4:00 PM

The ‘Non-Lethal’ Flash-Bang Grenades Used in Ferguson Can Actually Be Quite Lethal

A journalist says he was singed by a flash-bang fired by St. Louis County police trying to disperse a crowd, raising questions about how to use these military-style devices safely and appropriately.


August 27 • 2:00 PM

Do Better Looking People Have Better Personalities Too?

An experiment on users of the dating site OKCupid found that members judge both looks and personality by looks alone.


August 27 • 12:00 PM

Love Can Make You Stronger

A new study links oxytocin, the hormone most commonly associated with social bonding, and the one that your body produces during an orgasm, with muscle regeneration.


August 27 • 11:05 AM

Education, Interrupted

When it comes to educational access, young Syrian refugees are becoming a “lost generation.”


Follow us


Subscribe Now

Your Brain Decides Whether to Trust Someone in Milliseconds

We can determine trustworthiness even when we’re only subliminally aware of the other person.

Young, Undocumented, and Invisible

While young migrant workers struggle under poor working conditions, U.S. policy has done little to help.

Education, Interrupted

When it comes to educational access, young Syrian refugees are becoming a “lost generation.”

No, Smartphone-Loss Anxiety Disorder Isn’t Real

But people are anxious about losing their phones, even if they don’t do much to protect them.

Being a Couch Potato: Not So Bad After All?

For those who feel guilty about watching TV, a new study provides redemption.

The Big One

One in two full-time American fast-food workers' families are enrolled in public assistance programs, at a cost of $7 billion per year. July/August 2014 fast-food-big-one

Copyright © 2014 by Pacific Standard and The Miller-McCune Center for Research, Media, and Public Policy. All Rights Reserved.