The End of Something… But What?

It is apparently with anticipation that Western society is awaiting the forthcoming issue of Playboy (NSFW) magazine featuring new nude photos of actor, Lindsay Lohan.

You may have seen her naked form in a photo display for New York magazine from three years ago, but that was so 2008.  Playboy in a continuing campaign to reclaim some shred of relevancy have commissioned the actor to present more of her to the world.

These Marilyn Monroe-inspired set of images feature Ms. Lohan against a similar plain red-curtained backdrop so iconized by the 1960’s blonde bombshell in a photoshoot not taken or commissioned by Playboy, but nonetheless, distributed and popularized by the then upstart magazine seeking attention and creating comment.

The Marilyn motif is one oft-returned to by the magazine and it’s guiding figurehead, Hugh Hefner. Despite having been at the forefront of sexual liberation (for himself, mostly), the spectre of Marilyn Monroe and her unrealized potential is a recurrent theme in his work.  As if she is the conquest he never made or the soulmate he never found, Mr. Hefner has adorned himself and his magazine with a parade of look-alikes who vary from having a natural likeness to the screen legend to those who paint, dye and spakel  themselves into a passable version, a la, Ms. Lohan’s incarnations.  The heyday of the magazine and his empire was certainly in the 1960’s and the man and the magazine seem cemented in a worldview untroubled by the nuance or evolution.

As for this month’s latest Marilyn, Lindsay Lohan has also been the subject of gossip, public praise and scorn, review and assessment with such intensity that few of sound mind would endure with class and grace.

The degree to which she is complicit is like the woman herself, subject to debate but for a deliberate act of public relations, one wonders about the choice of setting for these pictures.  At first glance, there is an implied threat to the viewer subtextual in the history of Marilyn Monroe.  A woman who made both poor and brilliant choices, professionally and personally, but ultimately succumbed to all.

In Ms. Lohan’s look, she might well ask “Do you want the same thing to happen to me?  No?  Well, pay attention to who I really am, or leave me alone.”

Ever her forthcoming website, sees her sitting beneath a swaying precarious chandelier.  Will it, like one’s career, come crashing down?  And upon whom?

I suppose Playboy still has some currency in popular culture in that you can get naked for any magazine you like, but you aren’t properly naked until Playboy has framed you in their Jazz-era, lifestyle-approving, thinking man’s-hedonism pages.

So, despite previous nude images of Ms. Lohan available to anyone with a New York magazine subscription or an internet connection with SafeSearch Mode OFF, it is this release that will be definitive in her career.

It’s a very personal decision to expose oneself in this manner.  Depending on your viewpoint, it’s empowering, craven, exploitative, pathetic or merely a side-note.

It’s quite likely that the last of these effects is the eventual impact of Ms. Lohan’s desires.  There is no doubt that there will be “significant interest” in seeing the pictures but then what?

Will she be a better actor?  Will she be cast in better movies?  Will hangers-on be better friends?

Any of that is possible.  Many actors have had turns in Playboy and the effect can be a varied as the opinions and outcomes of a Pam Anderson or Cindy Crawford or Shari Belafonte.

I make mention of Ms. Belafonte particularly because she did her nude pictorial in 2000 and in one of my cynical moments, I saw the ubiquitous cover at a news-stand and thought, “Have they run out of famous people to be in Playboy?”

I thought it not because of any visceral response to the cover or that she was not worthy of being a subject for their pages.  But I think it’s fair to say that for whatever reason, Ms. Belafonte’s fame is marginal at best and it seemed to me that for Playboy to hail her inclusion in the magazine seemed like a stretch to get what I assume was my attention.

And I think it’s also fair to say that the 2000 issue certainly hasn’t increased her profile to such extent that we are often noting her presence in movies, magazines or on television.  I’ve no doubt and certainly wish she has a happy life, with or without my knowledge of her present fame.  According to her Wikipedia entry, she currently explores her interest in photography however her appearances on TV and in movies has been rare.

The decade before, in 1991, and again in 1993, model and TV personality, Dian Parkinson and Playboy capitalized on her fame from The Price Is Right and a mini-controversary over her romantic relationship with TRIR Host, Bob Barker, to present her long-anticipated naked form.

I remember a friend of mine saying at the time that he didn’t want to see the magazine.  “I grew up with her showing me fridges!  I can’t be looking at [her naked].”

And it seems in the 20 years since she appeared in Playboy and performed in a couple of Playmate Videos, Ms. Parkinson’s general interest has subsided.  But you probably knew who I was talking about, so in terms of an entrenchment in popular culture, again the Playboy gambit worked in that respect.

Now, one area where Playboy has tried to make in-roads for Playmate material is in the WWE, World Wrestling Entertainment.  Starting in 1999 with Rena Mero, aka Sable, and moving on to other characters like Chyna, Torrie, Candice Michelle and a host of others, Playboy and the WWE have spent much time and effort developing these women and their storylines to lead up to an appearance in Playboy.  Other characters like Trish Stratus and Stacy Kiebler seem to have resisted the call to do photo spreads.

A curious effect of the Playboy appearances by the “WWE Divas” is that without exception, their star and profile in WWE storylines quickly dissolved and whether by mutual agreement, a disinterest from fans, or the prospect of non-wrestling fame, all these women eventually found themselves doing other things.

In the cases of Trish Stratus and Stacy Kiebler, while there seemed to be interest by fans in a Playboy pictorial, up to now, they have resisted.  Neither are with WWE anymore on an active basis but both women maintained their star status in the WWE for a much longer period than their Playboy counterparts.  By leaving something to the imagination of fans, did it work in their favour?  It’s hard to argue it played a role.

So, that brings me back to Lindsay Lohan.  Once these pictures are available, they will exist forever.  They will be a bookmark in her life, the meaning of which is yet to be determined.  Is she as ill-fated as a Amy Winehouse?  Or at such a young age, still 25, can she marshall her talents and interests to create a career of personal fulfillment?

Of course one wishes for the latter.  I’ve only seen a couple of her films and she has an inherent charisma integral to the task of being a movie star.  One hopes that like a Robert Downey, Jr, she has a second and third act in her future where she entertains and enlightens the public.

And who’s to say she isn’t happy?  While appearances in court for a variety of offences suggest she is living with some stresses, I’m certainly no intimate, and precious few of us are.

Perhaps by shedding the trappings of clothes and pretence, this Playboy appearance will be the start of a whole new phase for Lindsay Lohan.  Let’s hope for her sake and for anyone who would emulate, it’s not an end.