Crime & Punishment a la Hollywood

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These past few weeks I’ve been struck by the number of news item regarding a certain celebrity going to jail, sitting in jail, and then leaving jail. You guessed it: a once-promising young actress by the name of Lindsay Lohan.

Even one of Canada’s venerable national newspapers had a near full-page interview on page three of the court artist who sketched Lindsay Lohan during her sentencing. Said court artist happened to be the sister of a high-placed Hollywood executive. She indicated she socialized with many celebrities during evening events and then sketched them during their court appearances, a “court artist to the stars”.

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Questions were asked about Ms. Lohan’s demeanour, the reported exclamations of her kin, and the fact that the judge would not allow a photo to be taken of handcuffs being placed on her wrist.

I must admit to being unimpressed that Ms. Lohan’s sentencing garnered such illustrious newspaper coverage. Not to mention tweets. Why is it suchbig news when celebrities go to court? Is it because it is more frequent? Or is it because it is summer, and there wasn’t much to report?

Then there’s Charlie Sheen – he’s going to rehab.

Mel Gibson – he’s had some noteworthy interactions with the law.

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Roman Polanski – the long arm of the law is embracing him.

Paris Hilton – did I have to bring that up?

Now it gets tweeted in real-time across my twitter feed, a Greek chorus of how the mighty have fallen in less than 140 characters.

But Lindsay Lohan’s fall from grace seems to have garnered more than her fair share of attention. I watched Freaky Friday a few months ago, and I was struck by how well she – a young teenager at the time – played a forty-something woman. Is it because she is truly talented and people lament the loss of her promise? Is it because of her addictions? Her relationships? Her dysfunctional family? The fact that she literally is losing control of her life – as evidenced by her reckless behaviour driving under the influence. And yet, is this worthy of so much media attention? We’ve seen this a million times with young celebrities -- and yet our twitter feed still scrolls their offences across our computer screen in breathless links. Perhaps it is because you can't get more real than being hauled into court.

What do you think?

Pamela Callow is the author of the Kate Lange thriller series. DAMAGED, the first book of the series, is a Levy "Need to Read" Pick for June.


  1. Hi Pam,
    You've brought up a very interesting topic. There seems to be so many incidents of celebrities getting into trouble, so much chatter over their bad behavior.
    So are they watched because of their celebrity status, without which they'd NEVER get media coverage?
    Or do they do it for the personal attention, the buzz around their name?
    Personally, I think, at least in the Lindsay situation, she doesn't have the maturity or the life experience to know any better. As for Mel, I think he's got anger issues that need to be treated.
    As for the all those celebs, I wish they'd do their acting out off camera, but they won't. I simply choose not to read about their silly lives.

  2. They actually had an interesting conversation about this on Q not long ago. I think none of this is new, but the amount of information we have about this is, and where it comes from.

    What I find disturbing is that we have so much news coverage devoted to it at the expense of more important issues. It's cheaper to cover Lindsay Lohan than child labor in India, civil war in the Sudan, etc.

    I love my celebrity gossip as much as the next person, but when it knocks alot more important stuff out of our consciousness, then I think we need to rethink the concept of "news".

  3. Stella and Michelle,

    Thanks for dropping by! I agree - I've had too much of the celebrity misdemeanours. I hesitated to even write about it because there is so much saturation of the topic, and yet Lohan case seemed so over the top in terms of media attention, it made me wonder why.


  4. Great post Pam! Good points - I think the media loves a salacious story because those kinds of stories sell - they bring more eyeballs to the various print and visual media and as a result they generate more money than important news stories from around the globe. It's easier for the public to take in the Lohan kind of news because it doesn't really affect them or impact them - it's just another celebrity in trouble that we can all tsk tsk at - rather than an important issue that truly effects us - that's too uncomfortable for a lot of people who want their news served up with fries and a coke. I think it comes down to the public gets what the public wants - and the general public seems to want this kind of story - otherwise it wouldn't be so popular.

  5. I believe people follow these stories because they've developed a relationship of sorts with the celebrity and have something invested in how it all turns out. As an audience member, we get to 'know' a side to Charlie Sheen, for example, and can see for ourselves how talented and funny he is. Yet when we hear that he's pulled a knife on his spouse, we can't put the two together. So we try to figure it out for ourselves - unfortunately by buying the magazines/newspapers and watching the shows that cover it all.

    Generally, somewhere in everyone's life there is a friend or relative who is troubled, and by following the celebrity version of the homegrown drama, we're hoping to make some sense out of it.

    Unfortunately, when someone like Britney Spears shaves all her hair off, instead of recognizing that as a sign that maybe this woman needs some help, which might happen sooner with your neighbor down the street, there are too many Yes Men around these celebrities and they're forced to go bonkers in the middle of the Town Square of the media glare.

  6. I have no idea why we follow them so diligently - I just know I'm fascinated by it all. I watched Lindsay's court appearance LIVE on TMZ. Yes, you can laugh. I can't quite believe it myself.

    However, if I ever get charged with something, I want Charlie Sheen's lawyer. Chris Brown did basically the same thing as Charlie's been doing for years except Charlie walks away and back to is $$$$job - and it seems no real consequences. How does that happen?

  7. So true, Pam. I've become quite immune to it all but admit I did read an article about Mel Gibson all the way to the end--an then kicked myself for wasting time.

  8. Read the latest Maureen Dowd column about romantic comedies, and I think we can extrapolate to news stories too:
    (Someday I'll learn how to include an actual link!)


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