The former child star is a breed of his or her own.
You never know what you're going to get once the lights dim and the shows are canceled and the cherubic face is no longer in the public consciousness.
There's almost like a cocoon that the star lives in, in the interim period between the time the last inch of videotape or film is recorded, and when he or she re-emerges. It's during that incubation when things either go fine or terribly wrong, it seems.
Then the former child star emerges, splashing back onto the scene like a frog landing on your windshield.
Too often, the incubation wasn't kind.
The round, full face isn't so round or full anymore. The bright eyes aren't so bright.
He or she isn't 17 years old anymore.
The star is back on the scene, but with a cocktail in one hand, a cigarette dangling from the mouth, and telling the world to go screw itself.
The face is gaunt, the eyes baleful and blood shot. The frame is considerably more bony than what you remember. The mouth starts spewing obscenities.
It's happening again.
This time it's Amanda Bynes whose incubation time wasn't kind to her---at all.
Bynes, 27, who was an anchor for the Nickelodeon network back in the day with her unusual blend of fresh-faced, adolescent sketch comedy, has been on a months-long rant and bender, taking to Twitter to badmouth former colleagues and current stars alike. She's dying her hair, wearing wigs, posting strange photos of herself and generally acting like white trash.
I was suspicious of Bynes when she announced her "retirement" from acting in June 2010, simply explaining that she didn't like it anymore. That's fine, but she really didn't have anything she was retiring to.
I had a bad feeling about Bynes at that time. As rough of a world as acting and entertaining can be, at least it's a world where there are people surrounding you. There are potential interventionists.
But when Bynes "retired" (she "un-retired" not long after but still didn't really work, per se), she cast herself into space without a tether, figuratively speaking.
Needless to say, "retirement" hasn't gone so well for Bynes.
The behavior in the past nine months or so has been bizarre, to say the very least. Rumors circulated that she had been suicidal at one point.
The arrests came, fast and furious, as they always do when the young star is unable to cope with life. She had difficulty operating a motor vehicle without crashing it into things, for one.
Bynes started doing drugs, it was suspected and later confirmed. Marijuana was her flavor of choice.
Just like Robert Downey Jr. (who I wrote about recently) did in his late-20s and early-30s, Bynes is compiling an impressive arrest record and is engaging in weird, perhaps self-destructive behavior. It's only a matter of time, it seems, when Bynes' actions will become injurious, to someone.
I didn't really see this coming with Amanda Bynes---until her retirement three years ago. Just goes to show you how powerful those post-spotlight cocoons can be.
It's not that Bynes never got a job after her Nickelodeon days were over with in the early-2000s. She landed some movie roles and a few of them weren't half bad. She kept acting as recently as 2009. She was 23 at the time and appeared to making the transition from child star to young actor rather seamlessly.
Then she stopped working in 2010 and things went sideways.
Bynes has become a caricature, and now she's hinting that some of this stuff is just a girl having some fun. It's all a joke, she'd have us believe.
As usual, though, when a celebrity gets a little kooky, we have no idea what to think. Joaquin Phoenix, anyone?
Once again we are privy to a celebrity train wreck happening in front of us in slow motion.