Friday, April 13, 2012

On Lindsay Lohan

David Thomson has some really interesting things to say about the video above.
The faces in the pictures are nearly always the same size, and the close-ups are frontal and direct. Still, there is a sense of seething cell life as the montage moves: A hairline shifts, a jaw juts, the brow pulses, as if bruised, the eyes change mood and hope, the hair runs through a range of colors, the smile becomes professional after infant naturalness, and then it becomes mortal, fatigued and worse. There’s something like the shudder at the end of Psycho when Norman Bates’ staring face lets his mother’s bare skull peep through for an instant.
Twenty-five is still the prime of life, and it’s not that Lindsay Lohan doesn’t look beautiful today, or pretty, or like a movie star. It’s just that a haunted soul lurks in the last faces of the series, a gaze that seems to know the camera is like an illness from which she has no escape, a look that is hard to face or admit now, but which may become banal and obvious in a few years, as well as too late.
The thing about Lindsay Lohan or any celebrity really is how little they matter to almost everybody.   It's crazily asymmetrical.  I'm sure Lohan and other super-celebrities think we care more than we do.  We act like we do.  If we saw a celebrity walk by we would have a look, we'd want to take a picture.  But these are trivial, fleeting things that really don't matter and we know it.  It's just a minor distraction in our day.  Something to waste time on while we put off the really difficult challenges that really do stand in front of us.  I wonder if Lohan had this perspective, that the cameras and the attention have no meaning.  That her self-destruction is really her business.  That really only her family and close relations really care and the rest of us care far less than she thinks.

The only reason Lohan gets so much attention from the cameras is not that she matters much to us, but that she matters just a little bit to so many people.  The reason that is significant is because  so many of us will take a second look, will click on the link, will watch the video, it allows companies to use that bit of attention to  advertise their products.  That's it.  Without that fact, there would be no cameras, no attention.  She would simply be an actress.

This is the rub really.  We spend so much time building products that matter only a little to a large number of people.  Companies go for tiny profit margins that can scale across billions of global customers which translates into many billions of dollars.  Google works this way.  Facebook.  LinkedIn.  PayPal.  Visa.  But the services they provide really don't benefit us that much.    They distract us, they waste our time, maybe the make our lives a tiny bit more efficient in some small ways, while they keep us from really important activities in more important ways.  These tiny transactions we make over and over again, though, translate into huge profits for these companies.  But the single click, the one swipe of the card doesn't matter so much.

By comparison, I just returned from New York and saw Mary Poppins on Broadway.  This was an extraordinary show with amazingly talented actors, but they were just actors.  That was their job.  I would not recognize any of them on the street afterward.  The experience I had there did not scale.  Only, maybe, 100 people witnessed it on that night.   But the event was much more important to me than most of what I consume digitally.

Even more importantly, our plumber, the person landscaping our yard, the local artist, our nurses and school teachers, our neighbors.  The work they do and the relationships we have with this is vitally important - much more important to me than anything coming from Hollywood.  Without properly working plumbing, our lives would be a lot worse than if I lost access to Google.  Without a properly functioning school system or nurses and doctors, without thoughtful neighbors who wave at us and give us grapefruit our lives would be much worse than if I had to pay with cash instead of with a credit card.  These professions and relationships require time and skill but they do not scale.   These individuals have significant meaning to me but are irrelevant to most everyone else.   It's impossible to get rich as a plumber or school teacher.  I'm assuming it's tough to make a bunch of money even as a theater actor.  These jobs don't scale like Google does, like movies do.

I'm wondering if Lohan had this perspective, this awareness that she matters a lot less than she realizes, that people care a lot less than what it seems, if this would help her deal with the attention with more maturity and perspective.


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