Living La Lida Lohan

// JJ Brewis

Nature or nurture: this debate predates all of us by a good century or so. How much of our behaviour is determined by the laws of science compared to how much of it is instilled in us as young people by those responsible for raising us?

The concept of parenting and the effects of our formative years on the rest of our life remains a great topic of conversation. At a young age, it is up to a child’s parents and family to positively influence them. In our childhood and youth, our parents or guardians are technically only legally responsible for our actions, but it's safe to say that most parents take on a personal commitment to helping shape our ideals, values, and passions. The same standard should apply to children of celebrities, and to child stars. With the resources at their whim, parenting should be slightly easier among the famous. But often, it comes up short, and the effects of a tumultuous childhood can leave a massive mark on the rest of an individual’s life.

While it may be a common public response to be apathetic or snide to the famous, the truth is that behind the scenes, these vulnerable young people really have it hard. With the advances of the internet and around-the-clock media exposure, a young life can be exposed constantly, removing any sort of childhood away from the individual. Not only are they struggling with the everyday pressures of most young people, such as identity and body issues, but certain problems, such as bullying, are put on the public scale. For most of us, a regular case of high school bullying is regular, for the young and famous, they have to take the heat from people not only in their personal life, but also from the press and public who haven’t even met them personally. The Lohan sisters are a strong example of two people at the receiving end of bullying as an activity that the public feels entitled to.

At the young age of 12, a fresh faced Lindsay Lohan made her big screen debut in Disney's The Parent Trap, impressing audiences with her acting chops. Just a few years later, Lindsay was one of Hollywood's most revered stars, with credits such as Mean Girls impressing critics and fans alike. Sadly, this whirlwind success would quickly unwind, as Lindsay's antics outside of the studio began to damage her career, reputation, and health.

Before the age of 20, Lindsay had already been in and out of Alcoholics Anonymous, and in 2007 she began her first stint at rehab. Shortly after, Lindsay was arrested for two DUIs, found with cocaine both times, and put under house arrest with a security bracelet to monitor her alcohol levels. The negative exposure following this string of behaviour saw Lindsay kicking off her thenneeded “comeback” film. This type of behaviour has continued through the years, with Lindsay's acting career a fledgling at best, and her public image a sad joke.

Lohan's father, Michael, has been constantly accused of riding on Lindsay’s coattails, but not being a strong influence in her life. Since Lindsay’s prominence in Hollywood, Michael has spent time in prison for assault and has also been the recipient of some nasty DUI charges. Just last week, Michael made press again for a domestic violence altercation with his girlfriend.

Dina, Lindsay’s mother, is hardly a portrait of upright citizenship either. Equally guilty as Michael, Dina has clung onto Lindsay’s fame, doing as much as she can to become a celebrity in her own right, going so far as wrangling her daughter Ali and son Cody into co-starring with her in a reality series, Living Lohan, in 2008. Responding to Lindsay’s troublesome law and drug streak, Dina let TV show Entertainment Tonight film an exclusive mother-daughter visit in rehab. When asked about her role in Lindsay’s life, Dina said, “She’s 21 years old. It’s not a blame game. It’s not my fault, nor her friends’ fault. It’s the personal choices you make.” Perhaps Dina should have been helping her daughter out, rather than clambering for fame herself.

When asked about her parents, Lindsay told Allure Magazine in 2007, “I feel like a second parent in the sense that I helped raise my family … I was put between my mother and father a lot. Well, I would put myself between them to try and keep the peace, and I felt good doing that.” It’s fairly evident that the struggles between Lindsay and her folks were quite a strain. She took the issue into artistic measures when she directed a music video for her own single “Daughter to Father (Confessions of a Broken Heart)”, which showed Lindsay and her real-life younger sister Ali in a broken down home, and actors portraying their arguing parents.

The effects of poor parenting can leave negative issues in many ways. One of the effects is selfesteem and body issues. This summer, Ali herself made a news splash when it was discovered that the young model had undergone major cosmetic surgery on her face. Though mother Dina denies the claims, a simple before and after comparison shows an almost entirely new face. With American laws stating that individuals under 18 are unable to sign off for themselves, this means that one of Ali's parents would have given the treatments the go ahead. Surely, this issue is nothing in comparison to sister Lindsay’s troublesome streak, but for such a young person to go through with this surgery, one has to question why her parents would be signing off on the documents instead of reassuring her that she’s beautiful the way she is.

The Lohans are not alone in their troubles, however. Hollywood has seen several similar cases before them. Looking to other Hollywood starlets who faced disastrous times in their famous youth can give breadth and hope to the Lohan sisters. Now a 36-year-old producer and star, Drew Barrymore may be the portrait of health and success in today’s celebrity world, but in the earliest times of her young career, Barrymore faced troubles that nearly ended her life before she even hit the double digits. Coming from a long line of movie stars, Barrymore became an international sensation at seven years old as the adorable child star of E.T. By nine, Drew was already a fixture at New York hot spot Studio 54, and in rehab only a few years later. As chronicled in her teen memoir Little Girl Lost, Drew was an alcoholic at age 11, and into heavy drugs such as cocaine by age 13.

Barrymore’s problems are easily linked to terrible relationships with both of her parents. “My mother [Jade] and I split ways when I was very young and have never really reconciled,” Barrymore told W Magazine in 2009. The two now have no contact, and Drew legally emancipated herself from Jade at 17, stating that her mother was a negative influence in her childhood. Drew’s father John Barrymore was never in the picture to begin with, leaving Jade before Drew’s birth.

It took Drew years to get on track, with several quickie marriages and decades of rebellion in her past. Drew may be finally on steady ground now, but it took her years to get there. Drew could be an inspiration to the young Lohan girls, who are easily on the fence of which way their careers, and lives, will go.

A parent needs to be supportive of their child. In 2009, when Michael Lohan was asked by People Magazine about Lindsay’s state, he said, “I guess Lindsay is on more drugs than I thought … No wonder why God is taking her entire career away from her.”

Without a strong foundation, it is absolutely no wonder that Lindsay is incapable of getting her life straightened out. Lindsay Lohan may be a public joke, and yes, she is a 24-year-old adult who should be making her own decisions. With such unsteady family foundations, Lindsay suffers from a lack of emotional resources. Each appearance she makes, she is more and more visually deteriorating, and time is of the essence for someone to step in and ensure that she at least lives to see tomorrow.

// JJ Brewis, Columnist
// Illustration by JJ Brewis

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