Is Oprah Winfrey Exploiting Lindsay Lohan?

Is Oprah Winfrey Exploiting Lindsay Lohan?


Lohan's approach to sobriety flies in the face of AA traditions, but here's hoping it works

“My truth is that I really do want you to win. I really do,” Oprah Winfrey tells Lindsay Lohan in a trailer for OWN's new “docu-series” about the troubled star. “If that isn't what you want, I'm okay with that. I will tell these guys to pack up and leave today.”

“No, it's not that I'm not ready to do that. I do want to,” Lohan insists.

“You need to cut the bulls—. You really do,” Winfrey replies.

Also read: Oprah Winfrey Tells Lindsay Lohan to ‘Cut the Bulls–t’ in First Look at OWN Series (Video)

It's a very strange exchange, because in it, Winfrey packages Lohan's recovery with the reality show, as if the two are inextricably linked. “These guys” are the film crew Winfrey is paying to follow Lohan around.

But the idea of a public recovery goes against the fundamental idea of Alcoholic Anonymous: It's right there in the name. The idea is that people work through their addiction to alcohol privately, with a support network of people with similar goals. They're free to be honest and open about their struggle, because, well, they don't have cameras following them around.

Lohan talks in the trailer about attending the group's meetings. Whenever I report on a celebrity going to AA, someone in the program writes to tell me not to do that. And this person always tells me that making the recovery process public, it hurts the celebrity's chances of recovery.

Worse, if the celebrity relapses, it leads people to foolishly generalize that the program must not work for anyone.

Also read: Lindsay Lohan's ‘Mean Girls’ Reunion: Cady and ‘Too Gay to Function’ Damian's Instagram Moment (Photo)

With “Celebrity Rehab,” Dr. Drew suggested that recovery need not to go hand-in-hand with anonymity. But he was widely accused of jeopardizing his patients’ recovery for the sake of making himself more famous.

“Lindsay” seems to go further than “Celebrity Rehab.” The show doesn't just document the recovery; it presents itself as part of the recovery. Lohan is putting her attempts to beat alcoholism on public display, leaving her open to another barrage of late-night jokes if she fails. It's a public shaming approach to recovery.

An aside: People who make fun of Lindsay Lohan for having a disease are despicable. If you ever have a friend or relative dealing with the disease of drug or alcohol addiction, you won't think it's funny at all.

It's up to Lohan to manage her life. No one, including Oprah, can force her to change. But other people can hurt her attempt. In a post today on Salon, Dan D'Addario says Winfrey may be doing that.

Also read: OWN to Launch Second ‘Oprah's Lifeclass’ Course With Brené Brown (Exclusive)

Oprah Winfrey is just the latest media figure to capitalize on the travails of the Lohan family, and the trailer for ‘Lindsay’ would seem to make it clear that she's really going for it,” D'Addario writes. “She's finally merged the two strands of Oprahism — celebrity culture and frank, prurient interest in people at their low points — in her new relationship with Lohan, and has, as usual, framed the whole thing as a pursuit of higher truth.”

But Lohan has also merged two strands: Her pursuit of sobriety, and her pursuit of a comeback.

Lohan's career problems stem from a mix of unfortunate roles (she was widely mocked for “Liz & Dick,” a movie that was far from her only her fault) and a reputation for flakiness. How much those problems are related to alcohol only she really knows.

The flakiness was painstakingly detailed in a January 2013 New York Times Magazine piece about the filming of “The Canyons.” The trailer for “Lindsay” show suggests that Lohan's breakdowns and delays have imperiled the OWN series, too: “This is exactly what everybody said was going to happen, and I believe differently,” says Winfrey.

Also read: ‘Lindsay’ First Look: Lohan Struggles With Money, Recovery in OWN Reality Series Trailer

The show's trailer rather shamelessly teases whether Lohan is drinking again.

Her “sober coach” is asked if she's still sober.

“You know -” he says, pauses, and the trailer cuts away.

But Lohan is exploiting Winfrey, too — using the show as a comeback vehicle. And in doing so, she's also exploiting herself. She's using her battle for sobriety as a commodity, a thing to be watched for entertainment, instead of a battle she has to win before she can return to the business of entertaining.

Who knows? Maybe she's found a process that will work for her — and might work only for her. She was a child model at 3, a Disney star at 11, a Mean Girl by 18. Maybe she needs the sense that millions of people are watching her, on guard, ready to pounce if she takes a drink. Maybe she needs an audience to commit to something.

But how terrible that would be, because the people watching aren't necessarily her friends. Some of them are voyeurs, and some want someone to look down on and judge. Lohan seems to badly need people in her life who don't want anything from her: Even her parents have long seemed bent on catching some of her refracted spotlight.

Also read: Lindsay Lohan Admits to Oprah She Lied: I Actually Tried Cocaine '10 to 15 Times’

Lohan may not even have the option of recovering in anonymity: She complains in the trailer that she doesn't want “them” – presumably more people with cameras — following her to an AA meeting. The other people at the meeting probably don't want that, either.

So understand this: Lindsay Lohan is not following the traditional approach. I hope that her public approach works.

But if it doesn't, here's hoping she can take the anonymous path — reality show and comeback be damned.

  • Jim

    Is Oprah Winfrey Exploiting Lindsay Lohan?



    Funny? Huh?

  • alice

    Yes, even saint Oprah is being explotive of Lohan and I am sure it is a mutual thing, in one of the trailers Oprah talks about what a risking with Lohan is or she has been told. She knew this walking in they both did, it is a freaking reality show… and we all know they are NEVER scripted.

  • BobbieFisher

    All Lohan had to say was “no”. She could have pursued her sobriety solo sans cameras at any time. Oprah is not the only part of Lindsay's sober equation. Lindsay Lohan is responsible for her own recovery. But your article misses one important contingent – that Lindsay Lohan actually wanted to get sober in the first place. And the answer to that is obvious. Whether it's Lohan doing drugs with a bunch of teenagers in a hotel, or at a party in Miami having her henchmen beat up other party-goers, or berating karaoke house workers over vodka bills, or running off to London and partying until 5am (sober? really? 5am?) – Ms. Lohan has never voluntarily went into rehab on her own without a jail sentence hanging over her head. She thrives and lives for the nasty caste system of the nightclubs that inflate her self-worth falsely and make her believe she's still an A-list movie star – and has zero self-awareness that no one, besides her Venezuelan teen fans, want to pay money to see her monotonous, COPD-sounding line readings. Her choices as an actor are atrocious and I think the Oscars last Sunday proved that the Film Industry is doing just fine without her. She is 27 years old – her sobriety is her business – her sobriety is her choice. She cashed the two million dollar check with an opportunity to show she was serious about her comeback – another opportunity wasted for her. I hope that 2 million lasts a long time (but with her materialistic spending, it will be gone soon) because no one's going to hire her for that much ever again. And Oprah will definitely get her money's worth. But she also gave Lohan every tool she could to help her nurture her sobriety – from a wonderful apartment in NYC to a sober coach. It was Lohan's opportunity to lose. Too bad she lost that – along with the $25 million she made in her career due to drugs and narcissism.

  • Iamexpert

    Yawn. They're both exploiting each other for mutual benefit, and the benefit of the audience. They're two smart business women and that's what makes America great. Get off your high horse and just enjoy it for the great entertainment and education that it is. Life's too short to be so sanctimonious and holier than thou.

    • tim.molloy

      Cheer up.

  • juns

    Oh please, like this is different from any reality TV show. The whole purpose is to exploit!!! Everyone is trying to exploit everyone for better ratings. The media is exploiting the hell out of Justin beiber!!

  • jhs39

    Lohan doesn't consider herself an alcoholic and has only gone to rehab (repeatedly) because judges ordered her to. At some point she decided she was more interested in being a celebrity than an actor–this reality show is not going to help restart her acting career–it's just another attempt to stay in the public eye and be part of pop culture conversation. If she were interested in repairing her acting career she would actually show up for jobs on time and be professional–something she did not do with her one day shoot for Scary Movie 5 or her guest star episode of Anger Management or the micro-budget indie The Canyons. Every time she gets a part she shows up late if she shows up at all and she's difficult to work with. That's not how you jump start your acting career.

  • Debbie Richerson

    I don't believe Oprah is expoliting Lindsey Lohan at all! No one really wants to work with her any more because of her bad attitude and addictions, so Oprah decided to work with her in hopes that producers will watch to see if she has really changed. If she has indeed changed, Oprah is hoping they will decide to give her another shot at stardom. Come on now…if she REALLY thought she was being exploited, do you REALLY think she would go for it? She talks alot of smack to people, but if you'll notice, she's not doing that to Oprah.

  • Carrie Fischer

    Oprah Winfrey IS NOT exploiting Lindsay Lohan. Oprah is a very kind, generous, caring and giving person who has shown countless times she tries to help people from a genuine place in her heart. She has given millions of dollars to people from that caring place in her heart to help others. Here are the facts:

    1) Lindsay Lohan is on the verge of being broke because of her OWN reckless behavior and not being responsible
    2) She owes the IRS A LOT OF MONEY for unpaid taxes she should have been responsible for paying and didn't
    3) She uses substances to escape dealing with reality. THAT NEVER WORKS. We all have to grow up at some point and TAKE ACCOUNTABILITY for our actions. That includes the ramifications that go with it, being jail time, probation, court fees, etc.
    4) Her parents need to teach this young woman to grow up and act like an adult.
    5) Countless people are fed up with her not showing up on time and doing what she's supposed to do. People lose a lot of money when she doesn't follow through on her end and be responsible.

    I don't blame Oprah's producers from holding back the check for her apartment until they get more airtime out of her. Her past behavior makes them very hesitant to trust her and rightfully so. She has to carry her weight on this end of the deal. None of us get paid until AFTER we do the job we're supposed to do at work for our employers. Lindsay should be no different. More people like Oprah are needed in Lindsay's life to teach her TO GROW UP. Too many people have catered to this young lady causing her meltdown.