Photo: Courtesy of Lindsay Lohan.
I don't have cable. It has nothing to do with television snobbery, but for the last few years, I simply haven't watched enough live television to warrant the cost. I could just get a Roku and be entertained with an endless stream of 30 Rock reruns, which is what live television would be if I ran the world. I'd never even watched a reality show — until Lindsay.
Since Lindsay Lohan first began to fall, stumbling out of the success of Mean Girls and into a whole new spotlight, we've watched every mishap with glee and eventually, boredom. It was sad, after all. It was sad because she was, in fact, talented and she'd made good choices with how to employ that talent. (How many people can say they worked with Robert Altman before age 20?) She was funny and shiny and exciting to watch. And, then one day, she wasn't. Mostly, it was sad simply because she'd been a kid one day, and a casualty the next.
After that, we watched her for other reasons. Oh holy hell, what's she done now? The shock factor petered out after six-ish rehab stints and a few too many drunk-in-the-street shots of Lohan, forever spilling the contents of her purse or lurching sloppily out of an Escalade. Remember the time she fell into a cactus? If not, there about 3,000 photos of the incident ready for Googling. There were the film flops, too — Just My Luck, Herbie Fully Loaded, and more recently, The Canyons, Lohan's own personal Showgirls — minus the huge cult fandom. While she'd once been the most marketable starlet on the scene, it took a matter of months for Lindsay to become a cautionary tale, the punchline to an easy, obvious joke.
"You're gonna Lohan out!" became the constant refrain among my friends, summoned when one of us was burning the candle at both ends, working and hustling and socializing just a little too hard. We'd convince the offender to have a night in, hang out on the couch and watch The Parent Trap. I owned both the original and the 1998 remake that first launched Lindsay's career. I felt no guilt in enjoying that version, because it's great. It's sunny and smart and lead by the kind of 11-year-old who can actually carry a movie on her back.
When Lindsay debuted on OWN last month, I immediately bulldozed my way into my friend's house to abuse her cable. Even I didn't know why I was so excited. Surely, it would be great if only for the shit show factor. After all, she must've really hit bottom if she signed on for a reality show. On the other hand, it was Oprah's show. Maybe Oprah really could fix her?
Here's the shameful truth — the "like" side of this hate-like: I do want Lindsay Lohan to get back on her feet. For real. I'm not talking about the whole sobriety-in-the-nightclub scenario she may or may not be pulling off. Even if she is still clean, Lohan's clearly still stuck in her old life, and there's nothing more dangerous than a dry drunk. I don't expect anyone could white-knuckle their way through a booze-free life if that life is still spent perched on a banquette at some misbegotten after-party. If she's going to find a new path for herself, Lindsay's going to have to make some real, badass, meaningful change and that's going to be a lot uglier than anything suitable for reality television. But, I still have my fingers crossed for her.
On the other hand, why do I care? She seems to be (on camera, at least) a spoiled, selfish, slightly abusive character who treats the entire world like her second assistant. "I'm a bit of a narcissist" she tossed off casually during last Sunday's finale. Uh, no shit, Linds. You kept an entire production crew waiting for hours in the street only to be sent away because you needed "me time" during a regularly scheduled shooting day.
To be clear: I'm not referring to the day she missed due to the miscarriage referenced in the finale, but to every other day she declined to fulfill her contractual obligation of living her life on camera for three or four hours. Watching Oprah sit her down for a time-out after one too many skipped days was a sweet relief — thank God, someone's calling out her out on this crap. But, that miscarriage revelation is just another way this show was so jarring and so different from the other, carefully scripted Lohan reality series on television. For all her attempts at manufacturing a false, fresh-faced facade ("I DID meditate!") the dark, icky soft spots sneak through. She admits to breaking sobriety. She reveals the chaotic nest of her home. She cries humiliated tears whenever someone so much as uses a less-than-friendly tone with her. This really isn't the kind of falsified drama that all those other shows lean on. She doesn't need ominous music cues or chopped up, moody editing to hint at tension. The tension is there in every moment, and when she's prodded or poked, she bursts.
I don't know if there's a real coming-back after something like this. In her attempt to show a brave face and make us all believe everything's good, sober, meditate-y, she's revealed her true self in a kind of accidental honesty. Maybe this is the real bottom, after all. Maybe she'll look back on this one day, after doing the real work, fighting that nasty, heart-changing, guts-out battle that getting clean is all about. Maybe she'll be grateful for what it really gave her. Because, if there's one thing every addict needs, it's a bottom.