(Another) Open Letter to Lindsay Lohan

Dear Ms. Lohan,

This morning I returned from the peaceful, idyllic woods of Kentucky to the following headlines:

Lindsay Lohan Considered Lost Cause by Friends,” “Lindsay Lohan is Let Go From Film; Perez Hilton Lets it Fly on Twitter” and “Lindsay Lohan: Debt and What To Do From Dr. Drew.

On most days, I’d simply ignore such content, feeling nothing but indifference for your troubles or the troubles of your starlet contemporaries. This morning was different.

Ignoring a pile of work on my desk, I searched the Internet to see if anyone had said anything positive about you in the last several years, perhaps lending you some degree of dignity instead of applauding your very public personal and professional falls from grace. I wondered if anyone had written a genuine, heartfelt “open letter” to you expressing a societal concern for your health and the health of every young woman in America who craves Hollywood’s caress. Surprisingly, I found several overtures to you, each with its own blend of sarcasmhate and inane absurdity. Between the lines, these “writers” are implicitly basking in your turmoil, awaiting an opportunity to claim they were the first to predict what they hope will be your “inevitable” fatal collapse.

You’re smart and world-weary enough to realize this truth: The gossip media wants you to die. No, let’s be real: They want you to kill yourself. To the heartless, shallow editors at the magazines, blogs, TV shows and paparazzi posts in our increasingly myopic nation, your pain is a commodity, your very breath a faltering precious resource that, when exhausted for the last time, will make many people inordinately rich. You think they hate you, right? No, they love you, every inch of you.

I want to be abundantly clear: You are not a victim and these powerful foes aren’t at fault for your misfortunes. They’re simply capitalizing on them, pillaging your tumult for gold, circling like vultures with hopes that some backstabbing friend or greedy passerby will find you blue in the face next to a vial of pills or an open syringe, void of life at some “tragic” young age. 

No, though I can’t imagine the pain you feel over your family, friends or fledgling career, your salvation must come from within. Your mistakes don’t make themselves: You, like every human being in our world’s history, experience the lie that you aren’t loved or lovable; that you aren’t worthy of a good life complete with honest people and work; that you must medicate with drugs and lovers to relinquish life’s inevitable pains and phantoms; that you must act out to silence the roar of your critics; or worse, that you wish you’d never been born.

In your rare solitude, you are probably paralyzed by fear or remorse over your circumstances. Though healthier states-of-mind abound, this is a good thing for now. It means you’re still alive and well, experiencing the bittersweet nature of the human condition. Pain, fear, hate, jealousy: these things are necessary and fleeting byproducts of human interaction and ambition. What’s most important is that you reclaim the beautiful life that is your own, becoming unwilling to allow the liars in the gossip media and the dark corners of Hollywood, Paris and ‘Rome’ (however defined) to make you believe you’re only worth noticing if you’re struggling or dead.

If you read this note and take away nothing else, I hope you’ll remember the following: You are more than a body, you are more than a headline and you are, despite what they’ve probably made you believe, loved.

Your friend,

Ryan Burleson

Parting-thought for any passersby: I don’t make a habit of making excuses for celebrities and I certainly don’t aim to start now. From where I sit, though, we’re far too quick to dispense our judgment, far too reticent to dispense our love. We’ve become completely callous, treating stars with a disturbingly schizophrenic spite and adoration, forgetting that a death (literally or figuratively) is still a death, no matter the name on the obituary. For once, let’s honor a culture of empathetic positivity over vicious voyeurism and hate. Turn the tables. Honor the truth over phantoms.    

“Gossip is the opiate of the oppressed.” — Erica Jong