Friday, 2 April 2010

Lindsay Lohan Is Human(itarian). Wowz.

Lindsay Lohan’s Indian Journey wasn’t highbrow, not enough experts were consulted, and, at some points, our presenter seemed very ignorant. For the Guardian’s comment section, the fantastic Marina Hyde's review missed the point in this article: Lindsay Lohan's child trafficking film: DVD extras.

I responded:

Didn't anyone realise the juxtaposition that BBC3 were trying to employ by having Lindsay Lohan as a presenter?

It seems as if the biggest challenge in the process of the evaporation of child trafficking is changing social expectations. Lindsay spent a lot of her time in the documentary frustratedly wondering why the practice seems to be culturally acceptable. Those who use child labour directly obviously don't care, the police turn a blind eye, parents willingly send their children away to work, and the children themselves are conditioned into complicity.

In a very similar way, Lindsay's been working in the public eye, and under much scrutiny since she was three years old. Her career, according to us onlookers, has been undoubtedly more glamorous, rewarding and creative than those of the trafficked children. But she's been poked and prodded by millions of strangers, held up as a scapegoat, a mess, and simultaneously a sex object for fantasies to be projected onto. She’s rich, she’s famous, but tt would be ridiculous to suggest that she hasn't been exploited.

During the programme, a girl who'd been trafficked into prostitution told how she arrived at a brothel. She only realised where she was when she saw girls wearing short skirts, smoking and drinking. That hit a nerve with Lindsay, who we know does all three. And surely it hit a nerve with many women watching at home, who, as well, do all three? It was clear that presenter, subject and audience were all meant to align, despite their different social standings: "Kids have this innocence – when it's taken away, it's so hard to get back" - hands up who disagrees?

Just as child-trafficking is socially acceptable, the western media's persistent humiliation of and titillation at the expense of a young woman with too much money and not enough sense is socially acceptable. It's therefore not entirely facetious to compare these two culturally-sanctioned problems.

If this juxtaposition was the BBC's intention, then hats off to them. Firstly, they proved that exploitation can and will happen anywhere. Secondly, it proves that we, as humans, will trouble ourselves by falling into patterns that we do not question. Thirdly, it proves that the BBC, for all its institutional failings, does have some clever people within its ranks.

They could've picked many people to present this programme, but they picked someone who would give the cause attention. Running with their theme of fronting programmes about young women with young women, they picked a young woman. They also picked someone who is such a grade A flake who would bawl. And when she did? It was human. If it's any consolation for those who feel she should've remained stone-faced listening to tales of child slavery and abuse, she was embarrassed when she cried. Cut her some slack, because she wasn't only empathising, she was remembering; she herself suffered years abuse at the hands of her father.

Her uncontrolled, emotional response worked for a BBC3 audience - 16-34 year olds, many of whom would literally only notice a documentary if it stood up in their eye-line and shouted 'GIRL WITH TWO HEADS. SRSLY!' Her initial ignorance to the subject also worked. The audience would align with her easily, as she knows no more than your average 23-year-old who loves to shop. In this type of documentary, an exploratory one, I’d much prefer a genuine broadcaster than one who dumbs down to seem likeable, or one who is too wrapped up within the subject matter to relate to.

And for those who are a scrape older than the intended demographic, or perhaps more sophisticated for a programme fronted by a former child star, (I may mean you, Marina), maybe you could've noticed this comparison. Hopefully, outside of columns which simultaneously nit-pick yet thrive upon celebrity nonsense, this documentary will have attracted some serious debate about the horrors of child-trafficking, and furthermore, a consideration that no culture should justify the exploitation of previously innocent people.


I find Lindsay Lohan infinitely attractive and hilarious. This may help me to defend her, but, more positively, this is an exercise in defending someone who is almost impossible to defend. Scraping the barrel, if you will. Proving that I could argue my way out of a 30foot hole rapidly filling with ammonia.

1 comment:

  1. Really interesting response. I haven't watched the documentary but I have heard/read a lot about it and this is the most worthwhile critique of it. All of the other articles seemed completely wrapped up in what it said about Lindsay Lohan "the person", which I suppose is a reflection of the celebrity-obsessed culture in which we live.
    I wonder if that juxtaposition was intentional...will look out for it.