Early on in Lindsay, OWN’s four part “docu-series” by Emmy-nominated filmmaker Amy Rice, we see Oprah sit down with the former Mean Girls actress and ask her what she wants to get out of her experience.
“Just to be,” Lindsay Lohan says. “Just to be honest and open and just…me.” It’s a cringe-worthy moment in a show filled with cringe-worthy moments, made all the more cringe-worthy because you know how bad you are for watching it. But what Oprah says next, to the woman who just came out of rehab and who she just paid $2 million to shoot a documentary about, is even worse.
“Okay, because that’s my intention too,” says Queen O. “My intention is to serve as a path for you to be able to do that. And so if I know that’s what you really want to do, I’m going to call you on it when I feel like you’re really not.”
You see the problem here, right? Asking a celebrity whose public train wreck has led her to a sixth stint in rehab what she wants, or hey, put ANY person on the spot and ask them what they hope to achieve by being interviewed by Oprah, and you’re going to get a lot of nonsensical, pseudo-self-help nonsense answers. No one is going to say “damage control,” or “money,” or “self-promotion.” And yet Lohan’s meaningless response–“Just be?” Aren’t we all “just being” all of the time, whether or not we are on drugs or honest or in The Canyons or have shitty, terrible parents–is immediately validated by Oprah as being exactly the right answer.
In almost every scene of Lindsay, we watch someone validate Ms. Lohan’s addled world-view by agreeing to accept events on her terms. Her drug counselor (who looks exactly like Mike White from Enlightened) lets her stay in her room at the Soho Grand instead of going to AA meetings because there are paparazzi outside. Her personal assistant lets her make iffy arrangements with “friends” who want to use her for a lingerie shoot. The “friends” tolerate Lindsay’s whiny tantrum behavior (which eventually leads to her just leaving the photo shoot, because she doesn’t want to play an intellectual or doesn’t want to have to memorize lines, it’s unclear), because they are succubi hangers-on, just like everyone else in her life.
Lindsay Lohan frequently sounds paranoid as she spouts off all the ways every life interaction makes her feel “used” and “lied to,” but she’s not wrong. Shoving a camera in an addict’s face is one way to speed up bad behavior, and unlike other Oprah endeavors, this feels like it’s angling not for a redemption story, but for a massive meltdown. It’s such a blatant kind of transaction–OWN gets the ratings, Lindsay becomes relevant for half a second–that you almost start to not feel bad about watching it. After all, we watch the Kardashians and don’t feel like we are ruining anyone’s lives, right?
The difference is, and god help me for saying this, but Kim Kardashian is a wise old soul and a savvy businesswoman, at least compared to Lindsay Lohan, who has no filter for keeping the leeches away. If Oprah wanted to let her “just be,” she would do so not by offering massive amounts of cash in exchange for frontside tickets to the drama, but by…you know, letting her be. At no point does anyone ever tell Lindsay Lohan the truth: that the public is interested in her only as far as she can fall, not for how high she can climb. That it’s not in her best interest to publicize her struggle. That Oprah and her drug counselor and her mother don’t want what’s best for her; they want what’s best for them. And that’s for her to fail.
“My family has so much love,” Lindsay Lohan says at one point. “I can’t wait till we get to the point where we don’t need to talk anymore.”
Neither can we.