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Tuesday, July 27, 2010

About Lindsay Lohan

The Internet has enabled a new medium that depends on a constant, real-time feed of salacious items to attract and maintain an audience. Consider TMZ.com. Over 2 million people reportedly watched the live streaming video feed of Lindsay Lohan’s court hearing from TMZ.com. That’s an astounding figure. More people were watching TMZ.com at that moment than CNN and FoxNews combined.

Lindsay Lohan is just the most recent badly-behaving star – although now that she’s in jail and unavailable to cameras, the media have moved on to Mel Gibson. Before Lohan there were Paris Hilton and Britney Spears. Toss in the tragic figures like Michael Jackson and Anna Nicole Smith, and Hollywood becomes better than NASCAR: fans don’t have to wait long between crashes.

Why do so many of these stars run into such trouble? And why do we watch so carefully? I don’t know enough about psychology to say. Clearly there is a high risk that teen stars develop or display behavioral problems when they enter their 20s and get the freedoms of adulthood. But the more important question is, who is doing something about it? Like professional athletes whom society tosses aside after they’re too old and injured to perform, we collectively exploit troubled Hollywood celebrities for vicarious purposes; when their lives are so shattered that they cease to provide an ongoing sense of excitement or fascination, we move on to the next.

“Celebrity Rehab with Dr. Drew” is about to produce its fourth season with Rachel Uchitel (former lover of Tiger Woods), supermodel Janice Dickinson, former teen throb Leif Garrett, and actor Eric Roberts among others. By all accounts, Dr. Drew Pinsky is an effective physician who sincerely cares for his patients, whether famous or not. The irony is that even during treatment these badly-behaving celebrities remain on screen – and then the media like TMZ have reason to track them post rehab.

As my French teacher used to say, très bizarre.