November 28, 2007

In Praise of Lindsay Lohan...

...or at least the popular press' infatuation with her. (Full disclosure: I don't know too much about Ms. Lohan, but the two movies I have seen her in, both on basic cable -- Mean Girls and Freaky Friday -- I was pleasantly surprised at how much verve she had.)

I mention this because of Steven King's interview, in which he says,

You know, I just filmed a segment for Nightline, about [the movie version of his novella] The Mist, and one of the things I said to them was, you know, "You guys are just covering what do they call it the scream of the peacock, and you're missing the whole fox hunt." Like waterboarding [or] where all the money went that we poured into Iraq. It just seems to disappear. And yet you get this coverage of who's gonna get custody of Britney's kids? Whether or not Lindsay drank at her twenty-first birthday party, and all this other shit. You know, this morning, the two big stories on CNN are Kanye West's mother, who died, apparently, after having some plastic surgery. The other big thing that's going on is whether or not this cop [Drew Peterson] killed his... wife. And meanwhile, you've got Pakistan in the midst of a real crisis, where these people have nuclear weapons that we helped them develop. ...

By all means, read the whole interview (we helped Pakistan develop nuclear arms? How? By not cracking down on BCCI quickly enough??). Still, I have a theory of why Lindsay and Britney (I don't and never have liked her at all) preoccupy us. Stories about their antics get the public's attention because they're easy to frame as basic right/wrong issues (Lindsay Lohan is a drunk, Paris Hilton is a slut, Britney is a terrible mom, etc; also--Barry Bonds is a drug abuser, Michael Vick is dog-abusing monster). When the media report on, say, a thug like Chavez (who deserves a Lohan-esque "call the slut a slut" approach), they lose the public. Because so much coverage needlessly avoids calling a spade a spade in the name of "balance," stories that don't shy away from negative portrayals of bad actors draw readers (and viewers, of course). The public eats up stories that can draw clear moral distinctions and say, "Here's the bad guy." It doesn't seem to matter (Duke Lacrosse, Bonds, Lohan, even Paris Hilton) whether the bad guy is really a bad guy or not.

Obviously, such lack of seriousness has costs. If our present media culture existed in the 1930s and 1940s, it would denigrate the brave and lovely Josephine Baker as a slut while refusing to call Hitler a fascist.

Josephine Baker.jpg
Posted by Ideofact at November 28, 2007 02:22 AM

Very good. I think you said it better than I did, but I agree that people's hate for these girls is completely beyond what's appropriate. It could be some kind of catharsis.

Posted by: Nelson Guirado at December 3, 2007 07:19 PM