Believe it or not, celebrities are people too. I know, shocking. That means that, like everyone else, they mess up. A lot. Unfortunately for them, when they mess up they don’t get everything solved with a nice intervention involving six close loved ones followed by a quick stay in rehab that nobody else knows about. No, when they mess up the whole world is waiting with greedy teeth to devour them and then pick those same teeth with whatever bones are left over after the feeding frenzy. The age of social media has taken that feeding frenzy and turned it into something more closely resembling the gossip version of a Roman orgy, complete with the vomitoriums known as Twitter and Facebook. And in this age, the fall of the disgraced celebrity is swift and severe, and no fall has been more swift or severe than these, the nine biggest celebrity falls from grace in the social media era.
Britney is Britney and all that it entails. That means that right now you’re probably picturing Britney Spears hanging around with Cletus the Slackjawked Yokel and trying to prove to a judge that she’s capable of not eating paste like a common first grader. It’s familiar, old hat, clichéd. And that’s because the fall of Britney feels like it took place a million years ago. That’s how fast time passes in the social media era. There are just so many stories, so many ridiculous headlines and celebs making asses out of themselves, that what happened only a few short years ago feels like it belongs to another era entirely. But Britney was one of the first sacred cows to be devoured in the social media era – who can forget the pictures of her, bald head and all, terrorizing the paparazzi before being hailed off to the nuthouse, spreading like some sort of viral wildfire around the proto-social media sites? She is the patron saint of the fallen icon in the social media age. Light a candle for her. Just don’t let her near it because she’ll burn the house down.
It’s almost shocking that Chris Brown still has a career, and nearly unfathomable that the career he does have is wildly successful. And that’s because when he’s not busy whoopin’ a lady’s ass like Stone Cold Steve Austin, he’s all over social media playing the martyr and making a complete fool out of himself. Obviously, amongst most rational thinking people, he’s little more than a clown, albeit a menacing one like the clown from It or something, and so it’s safe to say that he’s suffered a pretty obvious fall from grace. But the other hallmark of the social media age is that most people are, well, to put it mildly, not so rational, and for every person who tweets or posts on their Facebook about what a deplorable shitbag Chris Brown is, ten more of his acolytes stand up to defend him. He’s a living reminder that no matter how hard the fall, if you can fool enough idiots, there will always be enough of them to lift you back up again.
This one is still relatively fresh in everyone’s hearts and minds, but… goddamn. I’m not sure if Miley Cyrus can bounce back from her VMA Twerkfest/Dear God, What Is Even Happening Right Now fiasco. Really, though, the performance and subsequent deluge of nasty comments and insane socio-political screeds from every side of the aisle of insufferability was just the breaking point for a wave that’s been building for quite some time now. She has replaced Britney as the official fallen ingénue of the social media age. People bemoan her loss of innocence – whatever that means – in one tweet, and then turn around and laugh about her hair or tattoos and Hank Hill butt in another Facebook post. Social media has deemed it open season on Miley, and good god, the carnage is just too much for anyone to overcome.
Oh, Tiger. No matter what happens to Tiger – he could win 20 more majors, marry Lindsey Vonn and have an idyllic family life, all while donating millions to charity and curing cancer – people will always be there to say “Yeah, but them whores…” And that’s because social media took an already sensational, scandalous story and turned it into a goddamn circus, complete with various porn stars and hookers posting status updates on all the times they banged Tiger on the 18th hole of the local putt-putt establishment. He might have overcome it all professionally, but in the court of public opinion – led by the millions of jurors on Facebook and Twitter – he will forever be the dude who banged the star of the award winning Shorty Iz Fuckin’ Your Momma 2.
Speaking of dudes who will be forever tied to the misadventures of their dong, we have Master Sheen here, who one-upped Tiger Woods by basically running his own whorehouse – and then he climbed up on top of that whorehouse and ran around waving a machete like a coked up maniac, screaming about winning and tiger blood. Look, the only reason he isn’t ranked higher here is because his meltdown was so insane that it actually made him some new fans. But still, the dude is about as far from grace as you can get, and that’s because social media tracked each and every wild utterance, dissected every prostitute and porn star, and made sure that no one will ever forget the wild fall from grace of the son of President Bartlet.
Lance Armstrong probably can’t even leave his house these days without someone throwing bags of flaming turds at him. Then again, people might be too worn out to throw actual bags, and that’s because after finally admitting that he was a no good, dirty cheater, everyone took to social media to metaphorically hurl poop at him. Lance Armstrong cheated, lied, and destroyed the lives of anyone who got in his way. And while that shadow would always follow him around regardless of the media environment of the times, the vicious vigilantism of social media means that it is less of a shadow and more of a permanent midnight.
Amanda Bynes is unique in that not only did her downfall occur in the social media age, but it occurred almost because of social media. After all, the meltdown of an actress who doesn’t, you know, act anymore probably wouldn’t even register with most people if it happened solely in her own home, wrapped up in the confines of her own sordid little life. But instead, Amanda Bynes’ meltdown took place in excruciating detail on Twitter – and what’s more, instead of her various pratfalls being reported by others, the whole thing was documented by Bynes herself, who’s various nonsensical ravings and selfies, along with her constant shit talking of other B-level celebrities, is what really set the whole thing on fire. It was to the point that people openly wondered whether it was all just some elaborate act, an Andy Kaufmann like performance, or a genuine breakdown. But it doesn’t really matter what is actually true. No, what matters in the social media age is perception, and the perception was – and is – that Amanda Bynes lost her goddamn mind.
The various falls of Lindsay Lohan are too numerous to recount here. She has descended into the realm of parody, much like Britney Spears, and thanks to how many times she has been raked over the social media coals, it’s hard to even remember a time when she wasn’t the clown show she is now. She’s a punch-line, plain and simple, and perhaps no celebrity alive has been as beaten up by social media. She’s basically just a wet spot in the road now, while the giant steam-roller that is social media rolls on and on and on, looking for someone else to squash.
Say what you will about everyone else on this list, but at least all of them – with the exception of Lance Armstrong, anyway – can still work. Not Mel Gibson, though, who’s various meltdowns, racist tirades, and demands for blowjobs and arson, basically annihilated his entire career. And that’s because every single time he went completely bonkers and slapped around his infant baby or got drunk and sexually harassed a cop, social media was right there to blow it up and send it around the world as fast as Wi-Fi allowed. These weren’t just stories taking place in tabloid headlines. No, they were stories everyone played a part in sharing, pictures and videos and audio recordings plastered all over Facebook and Twitter and blogs so that everyone saw them. Everyone. Even your mother, who only knows how to check her e-mail and log onto Facebook to look at pictures of her friends’ grandchildren and share recipes on Pinterest, saw them. That’s why Mel Gibson’s career as a leading man is all but finished, and that’s why his is the ultimate fall from grace of the social media era.