Generation Y

Slack: Lohan’s Lifetime movie proves to be cornerstone in continuous downward spiral

Lindsay Lohan got arrested on Thursday for assaulting a woman in a bar while trying to hit on some guy from The Wanted. She’ll probably hit somebody else with her car next week, or maybe set a building on fire or run through the streets screaming that she’s a Jedi a la Tracy Morgan in the “30 Rock” pilot. She’s already been to rehab, collected a small menagerie of DUIs, and had her debts paid by Charlie Sheen.

Seriously, if Charlie Sheen is the one throwing you a lifeline — yikes.

It’s a very sad story, Lohan’s sordid tabloid existence. Yet it all serves to further my staunch belief that her most recent opus, Lifetime Original Movie “Liz & Dick,” is the greatest single piece of meta art ever.

Yes, I watched it.

Expecting nothing more than another tacky, poorly made TV movie to laugh at, I instead was subjected to the epitome of a slow-motion train wreck. In Lohan’s defense, she was not the only weak link in this chain, though she was widely lambasted by critics.

The script is atrocious, the sets look cheap and flimsy (one set is clearly Lucille Bluth’s hotel suite from “Arrested Development”) and the direction has all the sophistication of a high school student’s English project video.

It’s bad, there’s no question about it and I’m reasonably certain we all saw that one coming. But there is kind of a poetic brilliance in the casting of Lohan as Elizabeth Taylor.

Don’t get me wrong, Lifetime probably saw her place in the film as a controversy to attract eyeballs and nothing more, but putting that particular actress in this particular movie serves as an interesting comment on how we view talent, and upon whom we now bestow fame and notoriety.

Taylor was a two-time Academy Award-winning actress, one of Hollywood’s greatest iconic beauties. Lohan did “The Parent Trap” and “Mean Girls,” and then spiraled out of control, probably a victim of her parents’ dysfunction and crushing need for celebrity. And though she hasn’t done anything of note for several years now, she continues to be fodder for sensationalist gossip stories and a favorite target of the paparazzi. She’s still a household name — much more so than Taylor is now.

Lohan is a cautionary tale now, subject of another E! documentary on the trials and tribulations of fame and success. She’s been crushed in the media and crushed in society, reduced to a cocktail party joke.

Taylor’s 14,000 marriages to Richard Burton, her questionable hair choices later in life and unlikely friendship with Michael Jackson all contributed to her taking on a somewhat similar status of ridicule in pop culture. Yet at least she had talent. We live now in the age of Hiltons and Kardashians, where keeping a steady income means keeping yourself in the public eye through any means necessary, without any regard for dignity or self-respect.

The irony of Lohan playing Taylor probably isn’t lost on anybody, and those responsible for “Liz & Dick” probably weren’t thinking of making a grand comment on the nature of modern society when they cast her in the role.

The aftermath strangely increases this terrible Lifetime movie’s bizarre significance: how the former child star was stunned that critics trashed her performance and how she genuinely expected this project to be the start of a comeback (seriously, doing a successful Lifetime movie doesn’t usually equal “comeback,” usually it’s more “not a career-ender”).

Improbably, this movie has taken on some cultural weight. We’ll probably look back on it as a sad cornerstone in Lohan’s somber downward spiral, a depressing mark on what we’ve become as a society, and where we’re going.

Kevin Slack is a senior television, radio and film major. His column appears weekly. He can be reached at khslack@syr.edu.

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