The Expert: Mischa Barton, Facebook Are Symptoms of ‘Me Generation’

We called celebrity life coach Patrick Wanis, PhD, to hear his thoughts on today’s news concerning Mischa Barton, former star of The O.C.

According to an official police report obtained by TMZ, the 21-year-old actress was arrested early this morning in West Hollywood for driving under the influence of alcohol. Police stated, in part, that Ms. Barton was picked up after she was “seen straddling two lanes of traffic and failed to signal when making a turn.” (The full L.A. County Sheriff’s press release can be found here.)

“It’s astounding,” Mr. Wanis said after we broached the topic of the actress’ arrest. “And yet it’s not astounding. The majority of people [who confront substance abuse issues] are obsessed with treating the symptoms and not the causes.” Additionally, he said, people like Ms. Barton turn to drugs and/or alcohol in order to either numb a feeling or to create a feeling.

What then of her decision to drive a car while she was loaded? Surely Ms. Barton—more readily than most—could pay for a taxi or hire a designated driver.

“It comes down to a lack of responsibility, a lack of accountability,” he said, moving on to address the apparent D.U.I. upswing among Hollywood’s young and female coterie of stars. “What you’re seeing are examples of the “Me Generation”—it’s all about taking and never about giving back. So they’re what I refer to as ‘the narcissistic people.’ Narcissism is caused by low self-esteem,” Mr. Wanis said.

“Even though they act as if they’re confident, most of them act out of arrogance and vanity,” he continued, “Deep down they have huge insecurities and self-doubt; they can’t handle criticism or judgment; they tend to be all about themselves.”

Moments later, Mr. Wanis drew an interesting connection between Ms. Barton’s drunken episode and other, seemingly harmless habits enjoyed by countless Americans her age. MySpace and Facebook, he said, are prime examples of the psyche celebrated by the Me Generation. “It’s all about ‘Look at me, look at me, look at me!’ They’re taking and not giving,” he said. “And part of that sense of entitlement is also about power—meaning, ‘I can do whatever I want and get away with it.’”

We then mentioned today’s Times Styles article, which says that 2007 was the year when many major designers shouted: “Look at me!” Is this the beginning of some nightmare trend?

“It’s been building to this point,” he said without a moment’s pause. “It began with hip-hop music. The hip-hop culture is all about overcompensation.” He went on to tell The Daily Transom to merely consider what most hip-hop songs are about. The lyrics and attending images, he said, are about the kinds of cars the artists’ own, the size of the wheels on those cars, the number of women surrounding them and the amount of gold on their bodies.

“The person who screams out loud, ‘Look at me!’ is the person who doesn’t feel subconsciously confident in themselves,” he said, adding: “They’re trying to fill something up; it’s self perpetuating. Hip-hop started it. MySpace made it possible for everyone to do it. And fashion merely perpetuates it.” The Expert: Mischa Barton, Facebook Are Symptoms of ‘Me Generation’