Lindsay Lohan
Because celebrities are the gatekeepers of their own fame, exploitative tabloid culture is on its way out. (Illustration by Sofie Moustahfid, University of Maryland, College Park)
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Lindsay Lohan

‘Lindsay Lohan’s Beach Club’ may be the final nail in the coffin.

Lindsay Lohan wants you to know about her beach club. Her name is above the door. It’s her money — the fortunes made from early aughts blockbusters and other Hollywood smashes — that made the beach club. The Lohan riches sunk into every cabana, every bottle of Moet, every cushioned beach chair designed for the bodies of American tourists enticed by the spectacle of the fallen starlet turned Grecian seaside beach-club owner. It’s her beach club and she’s the boss.

The daily operations of the club — lorded over by Lohan — are being captured by MTV for the new reality show “Lindsay Lohan’s Beach Club.” If all goes according to plan, it should serve as a turning point in Lohan’s effort to rebrand herself from child-star-gone-wild to no-nonsense business owner/entrepreneur.

Now that the one-time paparazzi princess has publicly embedded herself in the more self-driven celebrity economy of the modern day, it seems that there’s no better time to ask the question: Is tabloid culture officially over?

A show like “Lindsay Lohan’s Beach Club” could only crop up for present-day Lohan. At one point in her life, she was hounded by paparazzi every time she left her home. The most unflattering shots — exiting a club in the early hours of the morning, passed out in a car, a mug shot — made their way onto the tabloid covers decorating grocery checkout lines across the country. These images began to eclipse the impressive filmography the actress was starting to accumulate in her still-promising career.

To contrast, the past few years of Lohan’s life has, for the most part, been a mystery to the general public. There was a bizarre incident in which she tried to abduct a Syrian child in Russia only to have the child’s mother punch her in the face, all while Lohan was on Instagram Live. But still, this was something Lohan chose, for whatever reason, to share with the world.

Indeed, in some twisted act of karma, this time it was a video that Lohan herself shared that propelled her back into headlines, making the former child star’s life once again the fodder of watercooler conversations amongst anyone with even the slightest fascination in celebrity.

These are the mechanics of fame and how they are utilized today. Celebrities are their own gatekeepers, given the agency to direct their own narratives while the public watches, captivated. It’s a culture where fame can be catapulted to unprecedented levels in one Twitter thread or Instagram post. In this world, Azealia Banks can make herself a key witness in a class-action lawsuit against Tesla, and Kim Kardashian can become one of the country’s most visible advocates for prison reform.

Then it explodes. Like Lohan with her attempted-kidnapping video, or the photo of Kardashian standing in the Oval Office that went viral following her meeting with the president to grant Alice Marie Johnson clemency, this is the type of surprising sway of celebrity that has melded pop culture into the broader culture.

Every new Ariana Grande music video release leads to approximately 10,000 think pieces dissecting every shot of it (this is a conservative estimate). A post on Taylor Swift’s Instagram encouraging her fans to vote can correspond with a massive spike in young-voter registrations.

This is not a particularly surprising trend to emerge given that the country’s president is a man who had a mid-career surge from hosting a reality show and its celebrity-centric spinoff.

Celebrities have always had the capabilities to capture the world’s attention, but now they are gatekeepers. The world can see only the most salient bits. Clogging up news feeds everywhere are the type of career-building acts of advocacy, art or absurdity that promise to extend a celebrity’s time in the public consciousness by at least another 15 minutes. When careers in present-day Hollywood can live or die within the confines of a smartphone app, what use is there for paparazzi?

The very purpose of paparazzi — as means for fans to glimpse their favorite stars in their natural habitat — is particularly antiquated in the world today. Anyone dying for a peek at what Bella Hadid has been up to the past few days can just log on to Instagram and get their fix.

Even celebrities themselves have taken note of the waning influence of the paparazzi, and have consciously flipped the dynamic. Kardashian — who, as both a figure in the old guard of celebrity as well as a pioneer in the new, has been appropriately prescient through much of this transition — and her husband, Kanye West, used paparazzi shots of her in Tokyo as a means of debuting a recent Yeezy collection. Like many re-appropriated trends in art, its original purpose must die before it can be reborn.

And so, “Lindsay Lohan’s Beach Club,” with its shots of Lohan swanning around her property in beach-appropriate caftans and talking heads where she calls herself a “boss bitch,” very well may be the end of tabloid culture as the world knows it.

In fact, for a show all about Lindsay Lohan, “Lindsay Lohan’s Beach Club” hardly features Lindsay Lohan at all. When explaining in the show’s pilot why she chose to open her club in Mykonos (the second Lohan Beach Club location in a planned worldwide chain), Lohan said, “It’s a place for everyone. It’s beautiful, it’s open-minded, and most of all, it’s safe.”

Lohan expands on this quote later, referencing an incident in which she was assaulted by her ex-fiancé on the very beach where the club now stands. Paparazzi images of the incident were later disseminated all over the internet. It was yet another painful moment for Lohan captured for public consumption in a life that never granted her very much privacy.

“Lindsay Lohan’s Beach Club” may be nothing more than a trashy television show, but it presents a new reality for Lohan: one where she remains at the helm, given the power to steer whatever narrative she pleases.

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