There are three types of child stars:
1) The Unscathed
– This rare breed miraculously makes it through the turmoil of school on set, ridiculous amounts of access, and a world waiting for them to fail without falling apart at the seams. Famous examples would include Leonardo DiCaprio, Christian Bale, and of course, Jodie Foster.
2) I’ve Made It Through the Fire (or Died Trying)
– The most common category for those who hit their stride early – the drug addled, desperate, no one says no, don’t you know I am ________! – has various degrees of success and/or turmoil. There is the prime example of Drew Barrymore, the wild child who went on to make an extremely successful, sober career for herself and has lived up to her lineage (see her performance in Grey Gardens for a visual aid). Or those former train wrecks – people like Courtney Love, Keith Richards, and Robert Downey, Jr. – who are miraculously alive. Then, there is the almost never ending list of stars who succumbed to the pressures of stardom and the allure of drugs: Judy Garland, Amy Winehouse, Whitney Houston, etc. And of course the Cory Feldmans, the Edward Furlongs who survived their shenanigans, but proving that just because you were talented as a kid, just because you were attractive as a teenager, doesn’t mean you will be talented and cute as an adult. Britney Spears fits somewhere in this last grouping; still looks decent, still makes music, still performs, but nowhere near the splendor of “I’m a Slave For You” at the VMAs or her 2003 masterpiece, In the Zone.
3) The Desperate Hot Mess
– Danny Bonaducci. This needs no elaboration.
Lindsay Lohan started as #1, as all child stars do, but quickly moved into #2 territory, getting arrested, showing up on set exhausted, and running around with waste of space Paris Hilton.
The frustrating thing about LiLo was that she had real talent, talent that I want to believe could return if given some good direction and a guiding hand. Watch her comedic work in Freaky Friday, going head to head with the immaculate Jamie Lee Curtis. Or Mean Girls. Or her solid trifecta of dramatic work (A Prairie Home Companion, acting against La Streep; Bobby, sharing the screen with the drastically underrated Sharon Stone; and her award worthy performance in Georgia Rule, making Jane Fucking Fonda stand up and take notice) before the legal battles and the bad decisions began (I Know Who Killed Me being one of her worst). She also is a very good singer and takes a mean photograph. And watch any interview. Forget Charlie Sheen! Lohan is Winning.
And then she got arrested for beating some girl up in a bar and made Liz and Dick.
Who is to blame? Of course, Lindsay. She is 26 years old. The time to take responsibility for her own life is now. But there are four other forces that are failing her.
1) Her family.
– Her father, Michael, has been in trouble with the law for insider trading, back child support, drugs, and spousal abuse; Dina, her train wreck of a mother, is a failed star in her own right, shamelessly latching onto her children for attention, even co-producing the awful Living Lohan, and going on Dr. Phil, drunk and obnoxious.
2) The legal system.
– We all know that there are two levels of justice: civilian and celebrity. Famous people are awarded almost a free pass to break any law (including murder, O.J.) with slap on the wrist consequences. Driving drunk is a serious offense. People can die. But does that matter to celebrities and their overpriced lawyers? No. Nicole Ritchie served 82 minutes of her four day sentence; Paris Hilton served no time of her forty-five day punishment, bitching and moaning the whole way; Nick Nolte got probation as did Mel Gibson.
Lindsay is no stranger to run-ins with the law. She has had a series of car accidents over the years, some alcohol related, some for which the paparazzi were to blame. For her theft of a necklace, she was initially given 120 days in jail, but due to the “overcrowding” excuse, served her sentence on house arrest for 35 days. Even with this leniency, she still broke her parole and was sentenced to a further 30 days, but only served five hours. She has been in and out of rehab programs and is currently on probation, awaiting trial for her assault charges and lying to the police.
The only way for people to learn is to actually punish them; by making them serve the time they are given. Lindsay is not a stupid person. She clearly has a problem with drugs and alcohol. And she most definitely knows what her limits are as evidenced in her spurts of sobriety, but needs some sort of guidance in not surpassing them. Perhaps more rehab. Perhaps more hands-on TLC from people who can help her. Perhaps more people who will check her shit and not be Yes men. Or perhaps just some lonely days in a jail cell, making her truly evaluate her life choices.
3) The media.
– We hear all the time that celebrities should not behave in a certain way because they are our “role models.” LiLo, Brit, Miley, Michael Phelps, and an endless army of others have been castigated for engaging in “lewd” or “inappropriate” behavior such as driving drunk, smoking weed, snorting coke, getting naked, shaving their head, or going batshit crazy. They are setting a “bad example,” we hear, because they are supposed to be super human, not “transgress,” and fit the image that the public wants instead of unveiling the many layers it takes to be a human being.
This is bullshit. Being famous does not make someone magical no matter what we want to believe. Yet, we see them make all of their mistakes, learn all of their lessons, on a grand, ever-vigilant stage, particularly those people who grew up in front of the cameras for our enjoyment. And because drama sells magazines and airtime – magazines that we want to buy, TV specials that we need to see – every possible slip-up, every foible, every bad relationship blinds through the neon obsession, whether it is 100% true or not. Take a second to imagine if every misstep you made at work and in life, in your marriage, was analyzed on the 6 o’clock news. It would drive you insane. Has Lindsay had problems? Yes. But is she dangerously spiraling out of control? Probably not. But we want to believe this so we have something to sell. This is our own version of cocaine called vicarious living.
– People don’t sign up to be role models; we make them so. Athletes, actors, pop stars, and other creative types happen to perform a skill better than the average bear and are rewarded for it with money and adoration by people who wish they could do it themselves. They owe us absolutely nothing. Yet, we become angry when these gifted people “fuck up” the chances they have been given because we would never do such things if afforded the opportunity. Which may or may not be true. The point is when our role models “misbehave” we are really angry at ourselves for our own failings and allow the bitterness to be projected outwardly instead of inwardly.
Celebrities are not politicians (although they are citizens; therefore, have a right to a political opinion if they choose to espouse it). Their personal lives should have no bearing on what we feel about the work. Yet we need to know it to fill in the gaps of our own miserable existences. Julia Roberts is not our friend. She will never be our friend. She is a seemingly nice lady who plays seemingly nice characters. But I guarantee if we suddenly discovered that she was some child molester, we would boycott her movies, when what we should be doing is congratulating her for being the world’s greatest actress, fooling millions of people into her rouse.
Lindsay is sick of rumors starting and so am I. When will we finally divorce ourselves from the sick sideshow of building stars up only to see them fail? When will we realize the emptiness in our own lives that we try to fill with TMZ? I hope it is soon. Until then, I will be wishing Lindsay well.