She tried to be in a public lesbian relationship at the same time that Hollywood was claiming her as a heterosexual sex goddess. Nobody has ever done that before. And she pulled off one of the most remarkable portrayals of an incest victim ever seen on screen.
She was trashed and ridiculed for the lesbian relationship. Her girlfriend was given insulting nicknames by gossip columnists. Her father expressed his homophobia openly to the press. And while she was going through all this, she was struggling very publicly with drug and alcohol addiction. The gossip-mongers reveled in every careless crotch shot, every drunken stumble. She was called “Lindsanity” and “Fire Crotch” and “LOLhan.” Her girlfriend’s admirable loyalty to her, even after the breakup, through DUI's, rehab, and up to the current jail sentence has been treated as a joke.
Georgia Rule was the film, and it featured Jane Fonda as the grandmother, Felicity Huffman as the mother, and Lohan as the teenaged daughter. In the film, Lohan’s unruly, sexually promiscuous character has been sent to live with her grandmother, a woman with old-fashioned values and methods of discipline. Turns out the girl is a handful because her stepfather has been raping her, and her mother does not believe her. As many child victims do, the daughter has recanted her accusations, because her mother’s denial of the abuse is more painful than her rejection of her daughter for lying … and, of course, after retraction, the acting out began. The victimized daughter tells the story, as so many of us have done, in ways that make up in drama for what they lack in directness.
Her mother doesn’t know whom to believe, but Georgia, the grandmother, does. The relationships between the three women are complicated, and honest. And that’ the problem. They're too honest. The critics didn’t know what to make of them. This is about incest, right? How dare it have any humor? How dare it have elements of domestic comedy? Incest… heavy, tragic, filled with monsters and helpless and terrified girls.
No. Incest. American as apple pie. Mundane as mowing the lawn. Incest. Something woven into the fabric of Thanksgiving dinner, family roadtrips, mother-daughter feuds. The critics trashed this film because they could not handle the level of commitment on the part of three seasoned and brilliant women, taking incest in stride and making the audience deal with the banality of it. The critics would have us believe that incest is so tragic, so searing, such a perversion of the dynamics of the nuclear family that anything less than Oedipus Rex is disrespectful to the victim. They take incest so seriously-- or so they would have us believe--they cannot abide a dramedy on the subject.
The truth of the matter is, they cannot handle the truth in women’s lives.
And there is a third thing that I learned the hard way. It takes a lot of recovery and a lot of community support to portray an incest survivor, and especially one who is unrecovered. An actor needs to have evolved just a little beyond her character. It can be very dangerous to play self-destructive confusion from a point of self-destructive confusion. Electrifying for the audience, but too risky for the actor. It can be fatal to play a character who is more evolved than oneself. Lohan’s character in Georgia Rule is, finally, believed. The perpetrator is busted and kicked out. A powerful matriarch steps in and order is restored. The child is protected.
How painful must that have been for Lohan, when her perpetrators continue to be enabled and protected by an industry that is hell-bent on prostituting her? Where is the powerful Lohan matriarch who can stop enabling the behaviors and set the healthy boundaries around a raging addiction? Where is the feminist studio head who has Lohan’s back and who can wash out the mouths of the paparazzi and drive off the cultural pimps who keep offering more and more money for pornographic photo spreads?
It must have been painful to deliver the character to a reunited family of supportive and protective matriarchs, while she, the actor, had to wend her way back her trailer, where her alcohol and her pills were waiting… with her parents whose public feuding over her had become a nightmare.
So now she’s in jail. That means involuntary detox. I wish her well with that. And I understand she has signed to make a film about the late captive and torture survivor Linda Boreman (aka “Linda Lovelace”). Personally, I think that’s a dangerous choice. Boreman escaped. She understood her porn “stardom” to have been a violent ordeal. She understood her first husband to have been a captor and abuser. She became an anti-pornography activist.
If this film follows Boreman’s life through her liberation, Lohan will have two choices: arrive at an understanding of how pornography and a pornographized culture exploit women, or self-destruct.
There is a third option, but it’s one that Lohan would never do: Turn in a bad performance.