Why We Should Be Rooting for Lindsay Lohan

This poor girl needs a little more of our sympathy, and a little less of our schadenfreude

The Germans have a word for it: schadenfreude. It means taking pleasure in the misfortune of others. Schadenfreude is an epidemic in America.

With oil still spewing into the Gulf of Mexico, an escalating war in Afghanistan and a slumping economy, newspapers were splattered yesterday with pictures of Lindsay Lohan’s tearful face contorted in agony.

We love to see the rich and famous fall. The more painful the better. We especially like when they are young, attractive women.

Maybe they trigger memories of Mean Girls who wouldn’t give us the time of day in high school; but from Marilyn Monroe to Brittany Spears, we love to watch them slowly collapse.

By all accounts, Brittany Spears has been able to get her life and her career back. And so the media coverage and the fascination with her have ended. I would argue that it is now that she has become fascinating. It is now that she could serve as an example of someone who went through a bad time in her life and has come out on top.

But that is not the narrative our schadenfreude society craves. We are much more fascinated with Marilyn Monroe, who has become a legend with her death. It would seem that someone stepped in and helped Brittany Spears. No one was there for Marilyn Monroe.

This brings us back to Lindsay Lohan, who hit the lowest point of her young life this week when she was sentenced to 90 days in jail for a long list of bad behavior. She deserved the sentence after being lucky to go free after two DUIs and flagrantly ignoring court orders and probation requirements.

Aside from the jail sentence, Lohan is required to spend another 90 days at a rehabilitation facility. She will probably serve a few weeks of her jail sentence, because of overcrowding. She will do the full 90 days in rehab.

Judge Marsha Revel may be the first person in Lohan’s 24 years of life to care enough to help. From the time she was three years old, Lindsay Lohan has been in front of the camera, pushed there by her mother Dina. Lindsay did 100 commercials by the time she was 10. And when she became a movie star in her teens, Lindsay and Dina Lohan would party together in celebration. It seems Dina was a wonderful agent and manager, but an awful mom.

And now we enter the third act of this tragedy.

We should be hoping that this young woman is able to get her life and career back, like Brittany Spears did. But there are no signs that there is anyone cheering for her at all. On MSNBC, Mika Brzezinski laughs as she repeatedly calls Lindsay Lohan a “skank.” Newspaper reports mock her tears in court. No one seems to see Lindsay Lohan as a young woman who needs help, but as a villain on the world stage of fame.

If this story is to have a happy ending, it will happen in rehab where Lohan will be separated from the bad influences in her life, including her family. In truth, a happy ending is not the ending that the public or press really wants. There is no sympathy, only schadenfreude.

Maybe we need a little rehab, too—to deal with our own addiction.