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.
In 2007, Britney Spears became the focus of the celebrity press - and the world - when she seemed to self-destruct before everyone's very eyes. The onetime pop princess had long been a cheery southern confection with her string of hit songs and a folksy charm. Then, seemingly overnight, she started losing her grip on reality, and we couldn't look away. She shaved her head; she took an umbrella to a paparazzo's car; she went to rehab; her mothering skills were constantly called into question. And that's just the tip of the iceberg.
Nowadays, most agree that Spears was in the throes of a legitimate mental breakdown, and despite the outrageous stories, everyone had overlooked the fact that there was a struggling, wounded human being at the center of all the drama. Also, there was likely some embellishment of all those stories of bad behavior.
"Trust me, I get it," Spears said. "I know I've been far from perfect and the media has had a lot of fun exaggerating my every move."
Vanessa Hudgens was riding high on the success of High School Musical when her nude photos were leaked to various gossip websites in 2007. The response was swift and brutal. Suddenly her picture-perfect, teenage-dream image was shattered, and Hudgens was shamed on a massive scale.
Now, however, most regard her treatment at the time as barbaric. She was, after all, a victim. She didn't release the photos, she didn't broadcast them to the world, yet she was forced to apologize. How Hudgens was treated was nothing short of sexist, unfair, and unethical.
In 1998, news of President Bill Clinton's affair with White House intern Monica Lewinsky rocked the world. It became the focus of a scandal-hungry culture, generated millions of dollars in legal investigations and trials, and ultimately led to Clinton's impeachment for lying about the affair.
But even today, the event is still largely known as the "Lewinsky Scandal." Why isn't it the "Bill Clinton Scandal"? One answer: rampant sexism. Lewinsky has never denied her role in the events that took place, yet we easily forget that she was a 22-year-old caught up in a power dynamic in which she was more or less used sexually by the president of the United States. It was an imbalance of power, and Lewinsky was a victim. The world owes her an apology.
Winona Ryder was arrested for shoplifting at a Beverly Hills Saks Fifth Avenue store in 2001. It wasn't long before the Oscar-nominated actress became a national joke, a punchline for late-night talk show hosts and stand-up comedians. But what was lost in all the coverage surrounding Ryder's shoplifting was the fact that she was on painkillers at the time, and the effects of the meds likely played a huge role in the shoplifting incident. She explained later:
Two months prior to that, I broke my arm in two places, and the doctor, a sort of quack doctor, was giving me a lot of stuff and I was taking it at first to get through the pain. And then there was this weird point when you don’t know if you are in pain but you’re taking it.