Why We Love Watching Lindsay Lohan Fall

> doyle_jul21_lindsaylohan_post.jpg

Mark Ralston/Getty Images


This Tuesday, TMZ hosted a live video feedhref> of Lindsay Lohan making her way to Lynnwood's Century Regional Detention Center. There wasn't much, apparently, that the video feed could show: The live blog for the event is full of information phoned in or gleaned from elsewhere. Lindsay was driving to the courthouse; Lindsay was in the courthouse; Lindsay was being cuffed, but TMZ couldn't film it; Lindsay was being driven to jail. Still, the brief, customary shuffle had the feeling of an entertainment event. Fans held signs; photographers tried to catch the definitive "last look" at the prisoner; someone threw confetti. Later that night, blogs would report Lohan's jailhouse Tweets, and various experts on the Lohan case, including Lohan's estranged and very publicity-friendly father, would opine about the matter on Larry King. For years now, Lindsay Lohan's movies have done poorly with critics and audiences alike. Her name is no incitement to buy tickets. But this—well, this was a show.

Watching Lindsay Lohan's downfall—which was not so much a quick, decisive loss of grace as it was a long, excruciating series of bad calls and public humiliations—has been popular for a very long time. The pull of the Lohan narrative isn't confined to any one group: It pays the bills of unashamed muckrakers and serious commentators alike, with the only difference being whether the tone of the coverage is gleeful or faux-concerned. Do you want to see a picture of a young woman's vagina, taken without her permission? Or do you want to see a picture of a woman's vagina, taken without her permission, attached to an article about how terrible it is that young women are doing this to themselves these days? It's the same dish, with two different sauces. The good news is, our appetite for it never seems to diminish.

And Lohan is part of a long line of tragic women. Celebrities who fall apart, humiliate themselves, or come to nasty ends take on a special kind of glow; they become icons, often for reasons having little or nothing to do with their careers. This is especially true if they're girls. We like sex bombs with dirty secrets and ugly deaths: Marilyn Monroe, Jayne Mansfield, Anna Nicole Smith. We like child stars who lose their innocence and their minds: Judy Garland, Britney Spears. We like messy relationships, sexual humiliations, some assurance that the beautiful, rich, and female are, in fact, in a great deal of pain. Lohan's coverage has been especially graphic and brutal—"Lesbian Prison Gangs Waiting to Get Hands on Lindsay Lohan,"href> ran the headline of a FOX News article; the "lesbian prison gangs" were either going to gang-rape her, beat her up, or just yell at her from their cells, according to the one source interviewed for the piece. But the narrative, and the desires it panders to, have been around at least since Jacqueline Susann's Valley of the Dolls. Illicit sex, crumbling marriages, catfights, addictions, poor Neely O'Hara stumbling through TV performances in a drugged-out haze: We want to see the bad girls punished. We also want to see how bad they can get.

Presented by

Sady Doyle is a freelance writer based in New York City. She blogs at Tiger Beatdown. More

Sady Doyle is a writer living in New York. She has contributed to Salon's Broadsheet, the American Prospect, the Guardian's Comment is Free, and Feministe. She blogs at Tigerbeatdown.com.

How to Cook Spaghetti Squash (and Why)

Cooking for yourself is one of the surest ways to eat well. Bestselling author Mark Bittman teaches James Hamblin the recipe that everyone is Googling.

Join the Discussion

After you comment, click Post. If you’re not already logged in you will be asked to log in or register.

blog comments powered by Disqus

Video

How to Cook Spaghetti Squash (and Why)

Cooking for yourself is one of the surest ways to eat well.

Video

Before Tinder, a Tree

Looking for your soulmate? Write a letter to the "Bridegroom's Oak" in Germany.

Video

The Health Benefits of Going Outside

People spend too much time indoors. One solution: ecotherapy.

Video

Where High Tech Meets the 1950s

Why did Green Bank, West Virginia, ban wireless signals? For science.

Video

Yes, Quidditch Is Real

How J.K. Rowling's magical sport spread from Hogwarts to college campuses

Video

Would You Live in a Treehouse?

A treehouse can be an ideal office space, vacation rental, and way of reconnecting with your youth.

More in Entertainment

Just In