What happens to a kid who's allergic to the word "no"? Early Tuesday morning, when Lindsay Lohan was arrested (again) for felony drug possession, driving under the influence (again), and driving with a suspended license (again), the world got an answer. Now there's sure to be another flurry of "Girls Gone Wild Effect" covers on Newsweek featuring faux-nuanced reporting that demonstrates how both liberals and conservatives are concerned with riotous behavior (as though liberals had heretofore been encouraging their daughters to tart it up and drink a forty before tossing them the car keys and sending them off to Cancun).
But it's certainly true that parents who can't say no and the children who run rough-shod all over them hold a cherished place in tabloid culture. In fact, there seem to be more and more of them and their cracked-out offspring on television. MTV and VH1 are happy to take you cradle-to-grave in the whirlwind lifestyle of a bad girl or boy. You can start innocently enough with, say, the insanely decadent and materialistic "My Super Sweet 16," which features $100,000 debutante bashes complete with new Audis, performances by rap stars, and hired hunks to preen for the belle of the ball; then you can graduate to the "The Real World," where a bottomless hot tub, tons of hooch, and at least one brush with the law are just par for the course; and, finally, you might end up with your very own TV show, like "Breaking Bonaduce" or "Shooting Sizemore," in which washed-up B-listers are filmed as they try and fail to stay sober, employed, and bipedal.
Ever precocious, Lohan seems to be heading for that kind of reality show faster than most. (Or maybe she already has one, considering TMZ.com's incessant video coverage.) Sent to rehab twice before turning 21, Lohan never even had time to shed her tween fans--the family-friendly Herbie Fully Loaded premiered a mere two summers ago. The pop permissiveness that starts with orgiastic shopping sprees and culminates with a trip to a palatial rehabilitation facility (read: spa) is pretty hopeless stuff. On one episode of "My Super Sweet 16," a teen threw a tantrum that bordered on something like abject grief when her mother bought her the wrong color sports car for her birthday. But don't worry, that mother put her foot down and told her daughter she would have no car and sent it back. Until the next day, that is, when a car arrived in the proper color, newly outfitted in a custom leather interior.
It would seem that rehab--what with its strict no drinking, no doping policies--would be a particularly nasty place for a gal who has never been denied. But the Promises Residential Treatment Center, from which Lohan was released on July 13, along with most posh Malibu rehab facilities like Wonderland and Passages, does not use a twelve-step program and does not say "no." As a spokeswoman for the Domus Retreat in Anaheim told The New York Times in June, "You can't tell Lindsay Lohan she can never have a beer again or she's failed. She will fail." She added: ''For business reasons, most of these rehabs are trying to adapt to the new starlets and their needs, allowing them to go to work and come back, go shopping, use their cell phones." Adapting to their needs? People like Lohan need to get sober. They need to be told they can't drink. They need to be told that sobriety is more important than career. They need to be told they can't hang out with the same friends and go to the same places. Of course all of that just smacks of "no," and wouldn't work for "business reasons."
Which is exactly why some facilities, like Passages, claim that addiction is not a disease. Not only is this patently false; it's dangerous. The National Institute on Drug Abuse has done brain imaging that proves the addicted brain is diseased to the point where an addict can no longer win a battle with reason; the disease literally blocks an addict's access to rational thought. The disease is there even if the drug is not: That's why addicts have to refrain from "just one sip," but also have to stay away from other stimuli, like nightclubs and certain friends. The recklessness that allows someone like Lohan the same lifestyle she led prior to treatment, combined with a celebrity culture that makes an arrest just another opportunity to get in front of the cameras, is deadly. Sadly, while Lindsay's parents whore themselves out to every TV station that will have them (I'm talking to you again, Larry King), no one is getting her the hell out of Dodge.
It seems that the only "no" heard in relation to celebrity rehab these days is crooner Amy Winehouse's chart-topping anthem, "Rehab": "They tried to make me go to rehab, I said no, no, no." (Not surprisingly, perhaps, Winehouse herself seems to cancel more appearances than she attends lately.) The starlets can't be told no, but they sure will do a lot of denying themselves. Even Lindsay has come out with a denial to "Access Hollywood": "Yes. I am innocent ... did not do drugs they're not mine." That's right, she just holds drugs in her pockets for friends, and the dog ate her homework, and that same dog didn't die, her parents sent it to a nice farm in the country.
So as pop culture gives permission to every kid in the nation to live without boundaries, we may be in for more public star-imploding debacles. Just one thing has been nagging at me, though: After Britney drove with a baby on her lap and Nicole, Paris, and Lindsay each received DUIs, why on earth don't these gals at least get drivers?
By Sacha Zimmerman