the enduring appeal of lindsay lohan

As she turns 30, we look into the many lives and loves of our favourite redheaded Mean Girl; a woman cleverer, funnier and more self-aware than many would give her credit.

by Philippa Snow
12 August 2016, 12:53am

On the second of July this year Lindsay Lohan beat the odds and turned 30. Bets, I've no doubt, have been lost in the process. Celebrating this milestone, Lindsay created the hash-tag #LILOIS30, aligning herself with the cute tabloid nickname that's felt inappropriate since she was 19: never having once entered a phase where the Spearsian phrase "not a girl, not yet a woman" applied, she's been either the kid from The Parent Trap or a dry, sensual broad with a smoker's tone all of her life, with the only conceivable midpoint being that famous, Lolita-ish shot in the Pucci bikini. Her thirtieth birthday party happened in Greece, and though she didn't get the sponsorship she had originally hoped for, there she was on Instagram looking tanned and happy and sequined and relatively sober, anyway. Later, she wore a neon swimsuit and a full set of false eyelashes to ride on a jet ski. She isn't kitsch according to Milan Kundera — who says that kitsch is "the absolute denial of shit" — because for the most part, she owns her worst moments; but #LiLo, her public persona, is borderline camp.

Lindsay is an outrageous, outrageously feminine talent in love with her own self-destruction. That she has more or less outlived Sylvia Plath (who died at 30, a suicide) feels significant given their biographical details: both, for instance, profess to a weakness for scary, unfaithful men. Both fear or feared their bad fathers; had or have relocated from sunnier climes in America to the grey torpor of London, then found themselves lonely. Isolation is hard for complicated women, though some of them drag themselves back from the cliff-face again and again, and La Lohan is one of them. She is half The Bell Jar's Esther Greenwood, and half a hoarse, redheaded Neely O'Hara from Valley of the Dolls. Never mind Vanity Fair calling Margot Robbie a "throwback person" — Lindsay proudly lives in 2007, her best year. There's no better, more realistic girl-next-door for America than its jaded former prom queen, meaning that Lindsay Lohan should still be working in Hollywood. That she wasn't cast as the lead in Diablo Cody's Young Adult is a mystery, though I suppose there are times when a thing is too apt to be ethical.

Because Lindsay Lohan is both a millennial and often underemployed, how we usually watch her is through social media, which means that the way that we see her is just as she'd like to be seen.

Because Lindsay Lohan is both a millennial and often underemployed, how we usually watch her is through social media, which means that the way that we see her is just as she'd like to be seen. Last year, this meant seeing her dressed as Sharon Tate on Instagram on the 12th of November, the date of Charles Manson's 80th birthday. Was that an accident? Or is LiLo the type to sit around her hotel room reading r/SerialKillers? Proving how little we really know, somebody also filmed her on their camera-phone speaking in Arabic. "In 2020," she wrote that winter, next to a picture of her in red lipstick at a dinner party. "I may run for President. Though ups and downs YESWECAN lets [sic] do this @KanyeWest."

Combining as she does the looks of a Hollywood star with a Kennedy's sexual rap sheet, it only makes sense that she'd make a good President. Clinton may have insisted that he hadn't had sex with Lewinsky, but Lindsay happily left a full list of her lovers scrawled down on a napkin right out on the bar at the Chateau Marmont. That's real honesty; never mind that she hadn't intended to leave it there, or that she couldn't spell "Joaquin." Lindsay being Lindsay, of course she got "slut-shamed" for it, which is a horrible phrase for a boring phenomenon: the Daily Mail, quite seriously, called her "randy," as if she were — well, a male, middle-aged President. "When I started working we didn't have Twitter," Lindsay sighed when US Weekly asked her about the list being leaked. "We didn't have any of this shit, it's a different world now. We didn't have Instagram, we didn't have camera phones, for God's sake! It's really different now." Like her heroines Liz and Marilyn, Lindsay's an old-style star at heart, and desires an old-style privacy, even if she occasionally over-shares. "My motto," she once deadpanned, " is 'live every day to the fullest — in moderation.'"

As with people who have great personal style, I have a theory that nobody capable of being funny is actually stupid. Lindsay is really funny — often intentionally so — and therefore she's dumb like a fox, I'm convinced. There's a scene in her 2014 reality show where she's driving through Utah for Sundance and says to her P.A. "I spent four months here, once," and he says, "for which movie?"; and Lindsay Lohan — possibly smoking, because she is always smoking — stares out of the window and says, dryly: "Not for a movie." The fact that she doesn't reveal she was staying at Cirque Lodge for rehab is, I think, less coyness and more because simply to say she was not in a movie is funnier: a person doesn't get to be Lindsay Lohan and not have a feel for the truly absurd — to not be painfully self-aware. A person doesn't get to be Lindsay Lohan, in other words, without knowing when to be and when not to be in a movie. People never call girls "a pistol" now, but Lindsay's a pistol; besides which, she recently posted on Instagram that she was dressed like "a Russian version of Sharon Stone from Casino," so I can't imagine she doesn't know just what she's doing. Lest we forget, the first tweet on her timeline is "Hello Facebook. Yes, this is actually Lindsay. Welcome to my Facebook page!" — a bait-and-switch the undertone of which is: "wouldn't it be so funny if I were as crazy as everyone says?"

Most days, it appears as though Lindsay won't get out of bed for much less than a five-star vacation, which helps to explain why her timeline is usually studded with pictures of her wearing swimsuits.

Why is it so easy to picture her looking in the mirror and saying assertively: "Yes, this is actually Lindsay"? "If history were to be folded," she asks, in the caption of a sultry photograph of she took on a hotel bed the night of the Turkish military coup, "where would we put the crease?" Good question. Another good question this summer was: "why is Lindsay Lohan live-tweeting the EU Referendum?" That a girl from Long Island should care so deeply about a British political disaster is surprising in as much as Lindsay caring about anything at all is surprising — her two poles are fury and hebetude, making her not unlike most other girls in their twenties. Also like most other girls in their twenties: all the hours she spends out of bed are marked out using Instagram selfies. Most days, it appears as though Lindsay won't get out of bed for much less than a five-star vacation, which helps to explain why her timeline is usually studded with pictures of her wearing swimsuits. Regular girls with SCRAM anklets might feel like hiding them: Lindsay, because she is Lindsay, put on a bikini and tried to charge ten thousand dollars for pictures. She is the shameless, entrepreneurial spirit of the age made flesh. At 30, I'd no longer call her an ingénue, but I might call her ingenious.

"I don't understand why people hate on Lindsay, says an Instagram user called xAmberHillsx (which sounds like it could be Lindsay Lohan's porn-name when she's in redheaded mode). "We all think of people like Amy Winehouse, Whitney Housten [sic] and other people killed by drugs and think of them as heroes but we hate on Lindsey [sic]. She has been strong enough to get through this Instead of criticising her because of what she's done in the past we should be inspired and praising her on her recovery. We all do dumb things when we're young it just so happens her dumb things were seen by the world. Like seriously imagine millions of people watching you from an early age and dissing every little wrong thing she done. Sure she's made mistakes but who hasn't!" After her "documentary drama" aired, there were accusations that she seemed spoiled, diamond-hard and unruly, which to my mind are hardly surprising discoveries when someone's training a camera on someone like Lindsay: a rich and incredibly beautiful former addict whose life has been, if not conventionally hard, at least changeable.

Checking out where exactly Lindsay was while she wasn't making a movie, I ended up reading the program description on Cirque Lodge's website. "Residents," says the section about equine therapy, "take part in the building of our horses and hence in the re-building of themselves. They are creating coping strategies as they work with an animal that has no agenda for them. It's not their parent, spouse or supervisor! If we struggle with the horse, maybe it's me!" Like I said: a feeling for the truly absurd. One wonders if Cirque Lodge's PR is aware of what the phrase "[to] struggle with the horse" might mean for some of its clients; then, you wonder if Lindsay would know, and if she would think it was funny. I'd bet that she would. Any patron saint of squandered potential is, logically, also the patron saint of millennials. Lindsay Lohan is both. In 2076, I hope — without even a trace of irony — that all the kids are out hash-tagging #LILOIS90. 


Text Philippa Snow 

Photography Matt Jones
The Wealth Issue, no. 269, September 2006