I’ll admit it: Like many observers of pop culture, I feel a certain shameful sense of joy when I watch privileged, spoiled princesses get their due. It’s why it’s so much fun to watch MTV’s Exiled, and why we all gobbled up every second of Paris Hilton’s jail drama following her DUI arrest in 2007. Celebrities like Hilton are known as spoon-fed adults who shamelessly bend or break the law – and think they can get away with it, purely because of their status in society and Hollywood. And as much as we would like to insist that we see the inherent sadness attached to anyone being sentenced to serve hard time, there’s a little person in most of us who gleefully stands by and witnesses the widespread tomato-hurling, saying, “Good! They deserve it.”
So even though I like to think of myself as a kind, benevolent person who would love to see Lindsay Lohan actually have a comeback, I initially tuned into the live stream of her probation hearing today expecting to, yes, enjoy (in that sick way) seeing the sentencing of an actress who had lied several times to authorities about her drug use and probation. After all, I had previously laughed about stories involving Lohan and Carvel, E-Trade, and her upcoming film, Inferno. (How production on the Linda Lovelace biopic will be affected by Lohan’s sentence remains to be seen – EW has not yet heard back from the film’s director.) And since Lohan broke the law, she certainly deserved jail time, no? Yet, what began as a thuddingly dull courtroom procedure (streaming Ambien, if you will) turned into a surprisingly sad human drama as soon as judge Marsha Revel read Lohan her 90-day jail sentence. We watched Lohan cower at the news of her future prison time, and, immediately afterward, burst into tears. It was as if she were…human.
Of course, we all know that Lindsay Lohan is made of flesh and bone, but based on the way we’ve teased and berated the actress over the past few years (for her fashion, her movies, her boyfriends, her girlfriends, her anything and everything), it’s not a reach to assert that we hardly view her as human at all – instead, she’s a punching bag that’s immune to any blow we toss her way. Need a good punchline, late-night comedians? Need a sensational cover subject, tabloids? Why not choose royal screw-up Lindsay Lohan? She can take it! And, yet, watching that live feed, seeing her cry and express real feelings that celebrities can’t fully convey via Twitter – I realized Lohan might not be able to take it. That maybe there’s such a thing as going too far, harping on someone’s troubled existence so much that their life is transformed into a circus of bad jokes and unwanted attention. Maybe today we can go a little easy on the star of a depressing future installment of E! True Hollywood Story, remember for a second that perhaps she didn’t have the greatest family foundation on which to build her acting-singing-designing-club opening empire.
No, I won’t be hypocritical and call Lohan a sacred cow from all further mockery. Heck, as one of pop culture’s goldfish-memory-plagued consumers, I’ll admit that it’ll be hard to resist my own urges to make jokes at Lohan’s expense in the future. But that live feed reminded me that empathy isn’t such a dirty word – not even when it comes to celebrities. As far as those 90 days in jail are concerned, Lohan might deserve it – heck, she might even benefit from it – but we definitely shouldn’t enjoy it.
PopWatchers, did you watch the live feed? And find it as sad as I did?