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a new era of lindsay lohan

With a very honest new docu-series tracing her life post-rehab, everybody’s wondering if Lindsay Lohan will win back the movie star status she once enjoyed. But as Anders Christian Madsen argues, LiLo’s superstardom lies just as much in her relatability.

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The other day I was having a conversation with a PR about whether or not inviting Lindsay Lohan to a party would hypothetically constitute good or bad PR for a brand. In my mind there was no question about it. I see Lohan as one of the voices of my generation, and for that reason she will always be a superstar, no matter how many times she’s been to rehab. (More importantly, I also think she’s a phenomenal actress.) The PR, however, wasn’t as quick to make up his mind. It would, he diplomatically explained, depend on the brand, the nature of the event, and what sort of coverage you would be angling to get.

As I watched the second episode of Lindsay, the docu-series Lohan has been filming for the Oprah Winfrey Network since getting out of rehab last summer, all I could think was how anyone could not see this girl for what she is. Abused by show business and left to her own fragility, the 27-year-old had little choice in the string of events that led her astray. It’s the age-old story: her youth taken and sold for gold, Lohan is the teenager who never got to grow up, and never had a chance to make grown-up decisions for herself in the very grown-up world she was thrown into at way too early an age.

I’m not saying Lohan’s lack of a childhood and proper guidance excuses the at times questionable choices she’s made in life, but public opinion could often do with a little understanding. Add to that the fact that her crimes have been self-inflicting – I mean, it’s not like she’s killed anyone – and it would be unsympathetic not to give the girl a chance to redeem herself professionally and in the eyes of the public. With her new docu-series this is exactly what Lohan is doing. With honest, unbiased editing by Amy Rice – who’s previously only directed political documentaries – Lindsay offers a glimpse into the life and personality of the actress, which allows viewers to form their own opinions.

While her motifs for doing it may have been primarily financial, Lohan’s commitment to the series means that she’s kept largely occupied – something she constantly expresses a desire for on screen – and that her formidable fame is somehow kept under control. Sadly, the optimistic picture that the documentary’s premiere offered of a troubled young actress trying to get back on the horse was already disturbed shortly after by the release of a list of famous sexual conquests that Lohan supposedly left in a bar. It’s the contrast between these two simultaneous streams of press for the actress that make people like my PR friend hesitant when it comes to her image.

But Lohan’s duality is also what makes her more interesting than other celebrities. Her early and critically acclaimed peak – and I don’t just mean her Disney success, but rather films like Bobby and A Prairie Home Companion – is descriptive of an entire generation that couldn’t get to work early enough in life, and constantly had to top themselves later in their careers as a result. There is no one like Lohan who embodies our generation’s inner fight between our self-competitive ambition and the temptations of our surroundings constantly luring us away from our goals.

In that sense, Lohan isn’t just a superstar because she’s a pop cultural phenomenon, but because she’s an honest voice of today’s youth. And she’s actually doing a better and more honest job at that than any other young celebrity. I hope Lohan’s docu-series will gain her more support from the public, because while her troubled years have been significant in the creation of her as an icon, the time has come for Lohan to experience the success her prodigious acting talent was always meant for. She should be a given on any guest list.

@anderscmadsen

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