What Is Lindsay Lohan’s Place in 2019?

09-01-2019
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Lindsay Lohan is making a comeback, whether you want her to or not. 
In a cultural landscape rich in personalities and personas, this move makes sense—even more so when you consider the abundance of comebacks we’re already being treated to. TV shows and film franchises are being resurrected, Mariah Carey just released one of her best albums (ever), reunions are no longer out of the question. So technically, there is more than enough space for an actor like Lindsay Lohan to reinvent herself as a grown-ass woman who’s learned from her tumultuous past. Or, at the very least, to begin rebuilding her professional life so we can remind ourselves (and everybody else) why she was so mesmerizing in The Parent Trap and Freaky Friday

The thing is, she’s chosen to mount her resurrection atop the mountain of reality television. And while I’ll never diminish the sanctimony of The BachelorVanderpump Rules or any other MTV vehicle, the choice for Lindsay Lohan to return via Lindsay Lohan’s Beach Club feels fundamentally unfair. 

In its pilot, we learn a lot about what we already know: Lindsay Lohan loves a nightclub. So, after vacationing with an abusive boyfriend in Mykonos a few years ago, she promises herself that one day, she’ll own the beach they’re staying on—and now she does. Which is where Lindsay Lohan’s Beach Club exists, and where she’s assembled “the best of the best” (see: American “ambassadors” fluent in club-speak, and VIP flown in) to keep it shipshape. Or at least, well, functioning.

The thing is, we know this premise has clout. Vanderpump Rules wouldn’t exist without loosely examining the ins and outs of club and bar life, while Keeping Up With the Kardashians and Real Housewives have given us a million front-row glimpses into events and self-importance. But the longevity of these franchises exists not because of talking heads complaining about bottle service—they exist because they’ve adhered us to their characters. These series weren’t sold with the promise of peeling back the curtain on the life of a former Disney darling. Instead, their subjects became celebrities unto themselves as a result of TV shows that made them seem interesting. 

And nothing, in 2019, is less interesting than something we’ve seen so many times before; than looking deep into the souls of people we’ve all come up against at some point in our younger lives before mentally cursing forever. Bars are not a mystery. Clubs are not a mystery. And neither are people who seem like the absolute worst. To watch human adults brag about bottle service, how many people they’ve slept with or their incredible experience rubbing shoulders with celebrities isn’t entertaining—it’s a buzzkill. Particularly because we don’t know who any of Lindsay’s staffers are—they haven’t earned our attention or our patience to wade through their self-mythologizing. The world is on fire. Do they still think celebrity nightclubs is a cultural currency? 

We know now that the garbage fire of our day-to-day lives calls for more than just white noise-as-entertainment, even in terms of comfort television.

I mean, I guess. And three-ish years ago, there may have been some merit to it. But we know now that the garbage fire of our day-to-day lives calls for more than just white noise-as-entertainment, even in terms of comfort television. (Like, hello: Even the Housewives used Twitter to get political in the wake of the 2016 election.) We understand that for a small sect of the population, going to nightclubs and beaches and on vacations is a viable way of spending time. And we also know that Lindsay Lohan is a complicated (and problematic) figure whose choice to share her story could be compelling and interesting. But neither of those is enough to fuel a TV series because the stories of the very privileged and the erasure of one’s past choices do not add up to authenticity. And currently, that’s what dictates so much of celebrity culture. So many of us are desperate to feel less alone as things get scarier and scarier. And guess what hearing a bartender from Las Vegas brag about professional conquests fails to do. 

The thing is, Lindsay Lohan can still make her comeback. She can still deliver the version of herself she wants us to meet, and she can still assert herself as someone to root for amidst the 15 years of, well, everything that’s happened over the past 15 years. But relevance does not mean dipping into a premise that’s been worn down by those who’ve done it better and longer. Resurrection does not mean trying to adhere us to personalities tethered to the worst possible traits. And reality television doesn’t mean being a caricature. Just like being a celebrity doesn’t have to be someone’s only claim to fame. 

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