Lindsay Being Lindsay, As Marilyn

Lindsay Lohan being Lindsay Lohan, as Marilyn Monroe: This photo and several more revealing others appear in this week's New York magazine.  (Photo: Bert Stern/courtesy of New York Magazine)

By Omar P.L. Moore/The Popcorn Reel

February 21, 2008

It's a safe bet that this week's New York magazine will sell in excess of its usual amount, thanks to pictures like this one of Lindsay Lohan, who is featured recreating the poses of Marilyn Monroe, who in 1962 was photographed by Bert Stern at the Hotel Bel-Air in Hollywood.  Mr. Stern also took the photos of Miss Lohan, which appear this week.  Much has been made in some areas of the media of the similarities of the photos, as well as the fact that six weeks after Miss Monroe took her photos she died of an overdose of barbituates.  As a result, the Monroe photos have come to be known as "The Last Sitting".
Lindsay Lohan has had her fair share of problems, being in and out of rehab, and raising the ire of Jane Fonda -- who herself uttered the infamous four letter "c"-word on live television in the U.S. last week -- on the film set of "Georgia Rule" in 2006, but the alarmist cries from some in the American media are a little too much.  If Lindsay wants to pose for pics, that's up to her.  (Heck, if Matthew McConaughey wanted to pose for pics, then that would be his prerogative too.  Some would say that he poses in more than a few of his movies.)  Will the photos of Ms. Lohan rehabilitate an at best uneven movie career?  Most likely not.  But what's the big deal anyway?  Miss Lohan appeared as dual characters in her last film "I Know Who Killed Me" -- one of which was a stripper -- so why should anyone be so shocked at Miss Lohan's decision to bare almost all (including a bare bottom) for Mr. Stern and the rest of the world? 

Lindsay Lohan isn't tarnishing the memory of Marilyn Monroe.  There were numerous unsavory things said -- both true and rumor -- about Miss Monroe, her behavior and reputation, by the way -- things uttered before and after her death.  Today, Miss Lohan is simply getting lots of publicity, and on her own terms, which is exactly what she wanted.  In New York magazine, Miss Lohan stated of Miss Monroe in her photos 46 years ago that "she's taking control back".  Some may laugh at that quote, which is preceded by Miss Lohan's words, "here is a woman who is giving herself to the public . . . she's saying, 'look, you've taken a lot from me, so why don't I give it to you myself?'"  Yet Miss Lohan's comment does make sense.  Even in a male-dominated world, a sexist world, a woman, when she needs to, has always been able to use her sexual power and physicality to do what she deems necessary to shield or assert herself in other ways -- but even more so, she has used her acumen in the process. 

Lindsay Lohan's pictures are what they are -- images, a tribute to a legendary American film siren perhaps, a re-working, a re-imagining. 

For the record, there was little outcry in England when the actress then known as Joanne Whalley-Kilmer posed in the late 1980's in the famous nude-in-a-chair photos, recreating poses by another controversial figure from the 1960's, Catherine Keeler, the English prostitute who almost single-handedly brought down the British Conservative government and cabinet member Secretary of War John Profumo, who was forced to resign from the cabinet in June 1963 as a result of the scandal.  (British Prime Minister Harold Macmillan resigned that October, citing ill health.  A few weeks prior to the resignation, the results of Lord Denning's investigation into the Profumo affair riveted the British public.)  Filmmaker Michael Caton-Jones directed Ms. Kilmer as Catherine Keeler in the riveting and ribald film "Scandal" in 1989, based on the sordid sexcapades of Profumo, Keeler, fellow prostitute Mandy Rice-Davies, Stephen Ward, and Soviet naval attache (and spy) Eugene Ivanov.  The real Catherine Keeler (in her late forties at the time) posed nude again in 1989 in the chair, recreating the pose she assumed in 1963. 

(As an aside: Mandy Rice-Davies was played by Bridget Fonda in Mr. Caton-Jones' film.)

Lindsay Lohan doesn't hurt her image; if anything she merely inspires those to ask a question addressed only to women and never of men: "Why take off your clothes to rehabilitate your career?"  The scandal of the early 1980's Miss America pageant has, if you can believe it, actually helped Vanessa Williams in the long term.  Ms. Williams has gone on to have a superstar career in music, movies and the theater on Broadway -- and on her own terms.  Few people (except myself here) even refer anymore to Ms. Williams' nude photos in one notorious gentleman's magazine way back when -- photos, the revelation of which denied Ms. Williams the Miss America crown she had actually won in the early 1980's, before it was revoked.  Not to sound patronizing, but Vanessa Williams is an example of hard work, persistence and success, remaking herself triumphantly despite troubles and tough times.  (Ms. Williams' self-remaking is not mentioned nearly often enough as a model of resurrection, or perhaps more awkwardly, inspiration (?) when other movie stars or celebrities caught in scandal decide to pose nude or darn close to it, and in the process gain attention, perhaps more than they ever should.)

As said earlier, Lindsay Lohan has seen her share of tough times.  Here's one thing that also can be said of Miss Lohan: at least she doesn't appear in these photos showing the world the kind of anatomy that another troubled soul Britney Spears did in an infamous photo not so long ago.

Christine Keeler 1963, Lewis Morley (Australian, born 1925), Gelatin-silver print
Christine Keeler in 1963, in the famous pose she would recreate in 1989, as did actress Joanne Whalley-Kilmer, for the film "Scandal".  (Photo by Lewis Morley) 

(This editorial originally appeared on The Blog Reel on February 20, and you can respond to it here, or e-mail the editor here)

Copyright The Popcorn Reel.  2008.  All Rights Reserved.


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