Lindsay Lohan reality series a recipe for harm

Oprah Winfrey recently gave Lindsay Lohan a reality show – or “documentary series,” as Oprah euphemistically calls it – on her OWN network. As if constant tabloid attention wasn’t enough, viewers can now tune in to weekly hour-long episodes following the daily ups and downs of life as Lindsay. Producers promote “Lindsay”: “In this honest, no-holds-barred account, viewers will see an intimate, unflinching look into the life of one of the world’s most sought-after celebrities. Cameras follow Lindsay as she returns to New York, reunites with friends and family and attempts to build a new life.”

Lindsay Lohan was once a sweet, aspiring actress who won viewers’ hearts in “The Parent Trap” and made them laugh ’til their sides hurt in “Mean Girls.” Her future looked bright, but tabloids and celebrity magazines told a different story. Lohan has struggled with drugs, bulimia and breaking the law. According to CNN, she has spent time in five different rehab centers and has appeared in court over 20 times since 2007. The public watched all of these episodes play out on TV and read about them in magazines and newspapers. Lohan’s acting career suffered greatly, forcing her to take mostly short-term cameo roles.

What is with our obsession with celebrity gossip? Is it the element of comparison, the comfort in knowing that even if we aren’t as beautiful or successful as the Hollywood actors, at least we don’t have all the problems that they do? Or is it merely entertainment, watching the plots of their lives unfold like soap operas? No matter why people buy into it, the problems caused by selling the personal lives of celebrities cannot be ignored.

Reality shows rarely have positive outcomes. More often than not, they magnify the drama in the subject’s life, increase public criticism of them and result in emotional frustration and more problems for whoever they are following.

One example of such a reality show is “Jon & Kate Plus Eight.” When the TV cameras first found Jon and Kate, they were a big, relatively happy family. The end of the fifth season of the show featured their divorce and the legal issues that ensued as a result. The pressure of the show took a toll on the family and prevented them from living out their “normal” lives.

It makes sense that when someone is filmed for millions of viewers to see, they rethink their actions and do things that they would not otherwise do. And it is true, then, that reality shows change lives, just not in the ways people may expect.

A scary cycle has emerged in popular culture between destructive behavior and the attention it receives from the media. Perhaps if the media and consumers focused less on these details, the incidents would be less likely to recur. Contrarily, Judge Sautner told Lohan in 2012: “I know it’s hard when people are following you all over the place, but that’s the life you chose. Live your life in a more mature way, stop the nightclubbing and focus on your work.” He placed the blame completely on Lohan.

This is the attitude that many Americans take toward celebrities’ actions. While Lohan is ultimately responsible for her behavior, it is completely incorrect to say that publishers and consumers as a whole don’t have a responsibility to give celebrities their privacy.

For Lohan, a reality show can only lead to more issues, which is the last thing she needs. In order to work through her issues, she will need personal space, not cameras constantly in her face. Oprah giving her a reality show only encourages and rewards her negative behavior. Hopefully one day soon the media will realize that “entertainment” comes with a price.

Cathrine Meeder ’17 is from Shoreview, Minn. She majors in English with concentrations in media studies and women’s and gender studies.