With a nonstop, 24/7 news cycle and constant access to media, modern society is able to somewhat satiate its collective obsession with celebrity scandals. But there have been some celebrity scandals in the past that everyone got wrong, only realizing the mistake with either the passage of time or the revelation of new information. Unfortunately, rushes to judgment have had a profound, often devastating impact on those at the center of so many Hollywood scandals.
Despite the leaps and bounds society has made, humans are, in some ways, still a surprisingly puritanical and judgmental culture. The abundance of misunderstood celebrity scandals just shows how quick the world is to latch onto a salacious story and do everything possible to amplify and broadcast it - sometimes at the risk of not having all the facts, and often at the expense of the people involved.
Read on for a rundown of the biggest star scandals everyone misunderstood.
Extremist political factions always love a punching bag. This has become increasingly problematic in the US following a tenuous political season, and there's been an uptick of destructive groups that rely on demonizing others as a way to be heard. Chelsea Manning became a primary target for such slander when the famous whistleblower announced she was transgender and about to start her transition from male to female. After her 2013 sentencing, Manning said she always identified as female, wanted to be known as Chelsea, and planned to start on hormone therapy. The political right, not surprisingly, dragged her through the mud, as did much of the mainstream media.
The world has learned a lot about transgender issues in the years since, and one thing is clear: Chelsea deserved our support then, and she deserves it now. Regardless of how you feel about her "crimes," she has every right to a happy, authentic life.
The plastic surgery. The perpetually-lightening skin tone. Bubbles the Chimp. The hyperbaric sleep chamber. There was never a shortage of stories swirling around Michael Jackson, but all of these scandalous tales had one thing in common. They made Jackson into "Wacko Jacko," a tabloid darling with a flair for the bizarre and outrageous. But just how "wacko" was Jacko? Leaving the child abuse allegations out of the equation, did Jackson really do things that were particularly scandal-worthy? Eccentric, sure. But it's likely that a hungry press and an eager public wanted to see Jackson's oddities as some sort of moral failing.
Sinead O'Connor Was Ripped Apart After The Pope Incident; Only Later Were Her Struggles With Mental Illness Revealed
In 1992, Sinead O'Connor sent shockwaves around the world when she tore up a picture of the pope during a performance on SNL, shouting, "Fight the real enemy!" as she did so. In the few seconds it took for that scene to play out, O'Connor effectively killed her mainstream career. But that was the least of her worries. Everyone from Madonna to Frank Sinatra - not to mention every vociferous Catholic and television pundit - proceeded to tear O'Connor to shreds.
In the years since, we've learned that O'Connor has had a lifelong battle with mental illness, a battle that has, at times, seemed to get the best of her. But let's not forget what she was really saying in that infamous SNL appearance: she was trying to draw attention to the Church's rampant sexual abuse of children and its subsequent coverups. You may have disagreed with how she went about it, but she was right all along.
Amanda Bynes was seen by many as a squeaky-clean young actress on the verge of superstardom when she apparently went off the rails in the early 2010s. There was a drunk driving arrest as well as multiple hit-and-runs; she set a fire in someone's driveway; and, of course, there is that now-legendary tweet where she proclaimed, "I want @drake to murder my vagina." But Bynes wasn't being shocking for the sake of being shocking: she was ill. In addition to substance abuse issues, she was diagnosed as bipolar and schizophrenic. She was having a psychotic break before the public's very eyes. Then, as now, she didn't deserve scorn, but support.