Wednesday, May 16, 2012

The problem with Girls is really a problem with HBO

There has been a lot written lately about Lena Dunham's new show "Girls" on HBO. The main topic of concern, aside from the fact that the characters are "whiny" and "narcissistic", is that the show is very white. Like pretty much all white.

Dunham addressed the criticism for NPR:
"I take that criticism very seriously. ... This show isn't supposed to feel exclusionary. It's supposed to feel honest, and it's supposed to feel true to many aspects of my experience. But for me to ignore that criticism and not to take it in would really go against my beliefs and my education in so many things. And I think the liberal-arts student in me really wants to engage in a dialogue about it, but as I learn about engaging with the media, I realize it's not the same as sitting in a seminar talking things through at Oberlin. Every quote is sort of used and misused and placed and misplaced, and I really wanted to make sure I spoke sensitively to this issue.
"I wrote the first season primarily by myself, and I co-wrote a few episodes. But I am a half-Jew, half-WASP, and I wrote two Jews and two WASPs. Something I wanted to avoid was tokenism in casting. If I had one of the four girls, if, for example, she was African-American, I feel like — not that the experience of an African-American girl and a white girl are drastically different, but there has to be specificity to that experience [that] I wasn't able to speak to. I really wrote the show from a gut-level place, and each character was a piece of me or based on someone close to me. And only later did I realize that it was four white girls. As much as I can say it was an accident, it was only later as the criticism came out, I thought, 'I hear this and I want to respond to it.' And this is a hard issue to speak to because all I want to do is sound sensitive and not say anything that will horrify anyone or make them feel more isolated, but I did write something that was super-specific to my experience, and I always want to avoid rendering an experience I can't speak to accurately."
A lot of people have made the claim that this isn't a good enough excuse and while that's valid, there's something about Dunham's explanation that rings true to me. "Girls" is a show that I don't want to relate to (or admit that I relate to) but I can't help it. So I have trouble faulting her completely for the lack of diversity on the show, because I can understand where the four characters she has written came from.

Dunham and I have a lot in common - I am also a white woman, who grew up outside of NYC and went to a liberal arts college. I didn't have the most diverse group of friends growing up, not necessarily by choice, mostly due to the circumstances of where I lived, what schools I went to, etc. If I was to write something authentic and honest and raw based on myself and my closest/oldest friends, it might look a lot like "Girls" (perhaps with fewer tattoos, but unfortunately almost just as white). 

So while I definitely see and acknowledge the problems with the show's lack of diversity, it's easy for me to sympathize with Dunham and understand how she ended up with the four main characters that she did. Now, just because I can relate to her or sympathize with her, doesn't mean I feel there's no issue here. There definitely is. But it's a much larger issue that Dunham shouldn't be entirely blamed for.

I agree that it's better to have more inclusive and diverse representation on TV, but I just have a hard time faulting Dunham alone for the lack thereof. I think that her experience, her voice, her story is worthy of being told... (As Alyssa Rosenberg put it, at Think Progress: "People are different when they’re in homogeneous settings, and there are interesting stories to be told there"). The real problem is that there are plenty of other stories that are also worth being told, even more so perhaps, but for whatever reason aren't being told. At least not on HBO. 

Consider some of HBO's other shows and you'll notice a pattern... "Veep" (our actual White House is a lot more diverse than the cast of this show); "Life's Too Short" (although the show focuses on another type of "minority" - a dwarf - the cast is pretty white); "Enlightened" (this show is the epitome of  #whitepeopleproblems); "Boardwalk Empire" (mostly white, although that can be explained by the time period); "The Ricky Gervais Show" (animated white people); "True Blood" (has a diverse cast but is often problematic in the way it handles race) and "Treme" (one of these things is not like the others...).  Most of the networks show a similar pattern, but since "Girls" is on HBO, for the sake of my sanity, let's just focus on them for now.

It's not just that her show is so white; it's the fact that her show is one of many shows that is so white. "Keeping the show authentic means reflecting one woman’s white, privileged, sexually awkward reality," wrote Nona Willis Aronowitz, for Good, "This is only a problem because there are so few shows starring complicated, authentic young female characters. Girls ends up having to stand in for everybody." If there was more diversity on television in general, there might be more room for a show based on Dunham's uber-specific perspective. But there just isn't enough diversity on TV right now, which puts "Girls" in the category of just another show about white people. But that's a problem that goes way beyond Dunham. 

There's the question of why HBO chose to air this show - and, more importantly - not air some other shows. HBO cancelled the much more diverse "How to Make it in America" this past December, after only two seasons. Now, that show wasn't perfect. Although it was much more racially diverse, it was also more focused on the male characters. But it showed a completely different view of struggling 20-somethings living in New York and a completely different New York, at that - one that was less monochromatic.

The guys of "How to Make it in America"

The girls of "Girls"  

Rosenberg wrote at Think Progress, "I’d suggest that we need two broad categories of diversity on television: broad shows that include broadly diverse casts, and shows that take deep dives into necessarily narrow settings. While we’ve made some progress on making the former kind of show diverse, we’ve done worse at making sure that those deep dives don’t just explore white settings and the perspectives of white auteurs who have created them." It's not necessarily that Dunhman's perspective isn't worth exploring; it's that her perspective shouldn't be given more importance on TV than most others - but for some reason it is. 

I wonder what would have happened if Dunham had written one of the four main characters a black woman. Would the character have been criticized as being a token or a stereotype or a caricature? It's possible, because when you're writing from what you know - and all you really know is white people - you run the risk of falling into stereotypical portrayals when you try to write something (or someone) else. The fact that she doesn't seem to have enough experience with people of color to include them in her story, is problematic, but it's a different problem altogether. (Salamishah Tillet addresses this over at The Nation.)

And oddly enough, in that way, the self-segregation of the show's characters almost works because it rings so true. As annoying as it may be to watch "Girls" and see the vast whiteness of the characters, it makes sense to me that these characters would have self-segregated themselves in this way. I don't find it admirable (because it certainly isn't) but I do find it wholly believable. 

I think Todd VanDerWerff of AV Club explained this really well:
Honestly, I don’t buy the “the show should be more diverse” critiques of the series, even as I think they are completely valid. Let me explain. The thing is, I don’t find it that hard to believe that Hannah Horvath and her friends mostly hang out with white people. I can totally see their social circle consisting of mostly their own race. So when there’s hue and cry for the show to add characters of different races, simply because they’re of different races, it edges uncomfortably close to tokenism for me. (If there was an actress of a different race on the show, but she never had any lines and was written with less alacrity than the other characters, would that somehow be a huge step up?) Where I think the criticism makes sense—kind of—is in the idea that the world these women live in should be filled with people of all races, religions, and sexualities, and in the first few episodes, it just wasn’t. Brooklyn’s a big, diverse place; the show should be, too. [...] Yet already tonight, we’re seeing the series expand the scope of its diversity. Hannah’s workplace has people of other races in it, and that makes sense. Our workplaces are often where we encounter the most diversity, simply because they ostensibly don’t care about race, religion, gender, or sexuality, so long as the job gets done. (Sometimes they do care, but that’s another show, most likely.)

Honestly, I find it hard to see what any of the four main characters have in common with each other, other than their past shared experiences. I think the fact that they're even still hanging out together and living together - says a lot about the characters. If these four women met each other later in life, they probably wouldn't be friends at all. But it's hard to let go of old friends, even when you've seemingly outgrown each other, especially when you're afraid of being on your own. (I've certainly been there.) And that's really the central theme of the series - they want to be independent and successful adults, yet they're still mooching off their parents and clinging to past relationships. (To paraphrase one of the characters, you can't really consider yourself an independent adult if your parents are still paying for your Blackberry). They've each led such privileged and sheltered lives, that it's believable that they haven't really stepped out of their little "bubbles" yet to fully experience the diverse melting pot that is NYC.

None of the characters seem intended to be "role models"; they are each unlikeable and flawed in their own ways. This is part of what makes my ability to relate with them so unnerving. I want to believe I'm better than they are, but yet, I've made a lot of the same mistakes that they've made, I've grown up with a lot of the same privileges they have, and I have been guilty of a lot of the same narcissism and irresponsibility and self-destructive behavior. So many of the scenes are so cringe-worthy, in completely genuine, real ways. (Note: I'm not saying I relate to them in every way. Definitely not. But in enough ways that I feel embarrassed when I watch.)

Even though Dunham claims it was an "accident" that she wrote and cast four white women, she can potentially use (and remedy) this accident in future storylines. Not only should she gradually add people of color to the cast (not just as stereotypical nannies in the park, but fully-formed supporting characters) but the characters can start to break away from their comfortable but sheltered lives and branch out and grow up. 
She may have written the basis of the show by herself, but she does have a staff of co-writers. (Including, Lesley Arfin, whose response to the criticism was not as respectful as Dunham's, to put it lightly.) Maybe she should add some more people of color to that staff and then she can add more minority characters without feeling that she's being inauthentic in their portrayal. Because let's face it, a big part of why there's not enough diversity on TV is because there's not enough diversity behind the scenes. 

Dodai Stewart made this argument on Jezebel, "The biggest problem is that some people seem to think that we live in two worlds. Separate but equal. That Girls is fine the way it is because Tyler Perry movies and shows exist."
Tyler Perry is one man, a droplet of water in an ocean of filmmakers, who are predominately white. I am a black woman, but I find more in common with characters in Seinfeld than I do with the ones in House of Payne. My world is neither all black nor all white, but a mix — whether it be race, gender, socio-economics, weight or age. And for those who say, well, create your own show, then: If it were only that easy! Being black puts you at a huge disadvantage in the industry.
I won't pretend I have all the answers, because I don't. (And I have to acknowledge my own privilege here, obviously.) I'm really disappointed that "Girls" isn't better, because I want there to be more women on television that aren't merely props or sex objects or supporting characters on the arms of the male leads. I want to see real women on TV - not caricatures, not stereotypes, not idealizations - and so I really wanted "Girls" to succeed. Even though it makes sense to me that Dunham's lead character would only associate herself with other white women (at least for now),  it's not okay that it's one of the only decent stories about young women being told right now. So I applaud Dunham for writing something that's arguably "better" than a lot of the shows out there (even if it's not as good as it should've been), I appreciate her desire to address and respond to the criticisms presented to her, and I hope that she actually does learn from it and do something about it. 

But what I really want, is for the criticism to extend beyond Dunham to the execs at HBO (and every other channel for that matter) because they're the ones with the real power here so they're the ones who really need to get the message if we want to see more diversity on TV.

    Monday, May 14, 2012

    The 10 Most Slut-Shamed Former Disney Stars?

    Hey Complex, fuck you. That's how we feel about your idiotic pop culture piece "The 10 Most Corrupted Former Disney Stars"... (Yes, this piece is from February, but we just found it - via ONTD - and we couldn't let it go without saying something.)
    No matter how many movies Vanessa Hudgens puts out, including this weekend's Journey 2: The Mysterious Island, they still won't erase the memory of her nude photo scandals. To be fair, she isn't the only former Disney star who has the problem of a tarnished image. From Miley Cyrus' salvia video to Britney Spears' mental breakdown, Minnie Mouseketeers often make a grand exit from the House of Mouse.

    There's just so much wrong with their "top 10 list" that we don't even know where to begin... 

    Why are Disney stars expected to remain squeaky clean teenagers, well into adulthood? Teen stars - as most non-famous teenagers - grow up and become adults. It happens! Shocking! They drink alcohol. They have sex. They make mistakes. Just like most human beings. So why do we hold them to a higher standard? Why do we act like they have to be children forever and then shame them when they aren't?

    Or how about the fact that every person on this list is female? Because apparently when male stars do something wrong, it doesn't fucking matter. But if a young woman does anything at all, she's "tarnished". Why are female stars held to a higher standard than their male counterparts? 

    Shia LeBeouf, who starred on Disney's Even Stevens, didn't make this Top 10 list. Why not? He's certainly "tarnished" his image as much as some of the women on they selected... His past "fails" include: criminal trespassing (2007), unlawful smoking (2008), failing to make a court appearance (2008), drunk driving (2008), multiple bar fights (2011), and has admitted to dating certain  female celebrities while they were in relationships with others (or at least he claims to have done this; some of the women have denied his allegations). 

    How about Orlando Brown (That's So Raven) who was arrested for marijuana possession (2007) and DUI (2011)? Or Mitchell Musso, who wasn't even 21 yet when he was arrested for a DUI? Joe Jonas took racist photographs, allegedly smoked marijuana at a club and broke up with Taylor Swift over the phone (not a crime, but pretty douchey). Zac Efron dropped a condom on the red carpet of a children's movie premiere and Corbin Bleu posed practically nude for ads promoting his (now cancelled) racy series The Beautiful Life. [We don't see anything wrong with those last two, but they're certainly "as bad" for their squeaky Disney images as being the subject of a false pregnancy rumor, see below.]

    So why didn't any of them make the list? Why? Because we apparently don't give a shit with male celebs do. It's extra fucked-up that this list was compiled by a female "writer" (Tara Aquino) because the only thing more annoying than men slut-shaming women for their choices, is women doing it to each other!

    We went down the entire list and very few of these women's offenses are actually that bad (or bad at all). Most of them have to do with drinking alcohol (over the age of 21) or being sexual in any way. To be clear, we're not condoning doing drugs, drinking and driving, or any other illegal activity. But one mistake does not mean you are "tarnished" and it certainly isn't fair to hold women to a higher standard than men; former child or teen stars to a higher standard than stars who peaked as adults; or Disney stars to a higher standard than, well, everyone else.

    So here's their fucked up, idiotic, sexist, slut-shaming list... with our commentary:

    Fail: Arrested for public intoxication (2011)
    The Mickey Mouse Club veteran was booked after cops pulled over her boyfriend on suspicion of driving under the influence. While the L.A. Sheriff's Department spokesperson made sure to state that Aguilera wasn't belligerent, he mentioned that she was incapacitated enough to cuff her. She was placed in a cell, where she was held until she made bail the same night.

    They started off with the perfect example of how stupid this list is. Public intoxication? Seriously? That's the best they can pin on Aguilera. She wasn't roaming the streets drunk and picking fights and vandalizing property. She was in a car and her boyfriend was driving. According to the LA County police department, her boyfriend was pulled over and found to have BCA of 0.09% (the legal limit is 0.08%). She was never prosecuted because she had "no criminal intent". Aguilera was taken in because she was too drunk to care for herself and had no driver to take her home once her boyfriend was arrested. According to Deputy Bill McSweeney: "You're sitting in a car drunk. You have every legal right to be there, but when we come across you we say you can't drive and we're not going to put you on the sidewalk." []

    So basically, the only thing she did wrong was she had a little too much to drink. Who hasn't done that at least once? She was of legal drinking age and she made the right decision not to drive. Her boyfriend allegedly broke the law, but she did not.


    Fail: Arrested for a DUI (2007)

    Regardless of her low profile as Raven's sidekick, Chelsea, on That's So Raven, Van der Pol found herself under arrest for a drunk driving accident in 2007. The actress pleaded no contest to the charge of driving with a blood alcohol level of .19, well over the legal limit of .08. The L.A. Superior Court gave her 36 months probation, required her to pay the requisite fines and attend an alcohol education program.
    This one is condescending from the start. Her "low profile"? "That's So Raven" was on the air for four years and was really popular at the time. (Just sayin'.) Yes, drunk driving is bad and it's a crime. We won't condone it. But it also doesn't mean you're "corrupted" or "tarnished". And there are tons of male stars that have been guilty of the same crime and we barely bat an eye. The arrest happened in 2006 (not 2007, as they claim)... so it's been a good 7 years since she made this one mistake and nothing much has happened since. Yeah she's totally corrupted.


    Fail: Engaged to Trace Cyrus after a surprise pregnancy (2011)

    The former Suite Life of Zack and Cody star surprised us when she announced that she was pregnant with the baby of singer, Trace Cyrus, also known as Miley Cyrus' older brother. Cyrus was also linked to another Disney star, Demi Lovato. The baby news is beside the point, though. The fact that the up-and-coming actress, who starred as Eduardo Saverin's pyromaniac girlfriend in The Social Network, is about to marry into the Cyrus clan disturbs us.

    This one might be the most annoying. The rumors that Song was pregnant started in August 2011. But there's still no baby... there isn't even a baby "bump" yet! So how long do they think pregnancies last? The pregnancy rumors were disproved a long time ago and in case you still weren't sure, here's a photo of Song from her 24th birthday last month:

    She doesn't look very pregnant to us (nor does she look like she just gave birth). It's one thing to hide a pregnancy for a while, but it would be near impossible to hide an infant. So they're basically calling Song "corrupted" because someone else started a stupid rumor about her... and because she's engaged to someone that they don't like. There's nothing wrong with Trace Cyrus, but apparently his being related to Miley Cyrus is enough for Song to be #8 on this list. Okay.


    Fails: Took racy photos of herself that leaked and got into a fight with a back-up dancer (2010)

    Pictures of Demi getting close with a number of her female back-up dancers became the subject of public criticism. Gossip mongers speculated whether she was a lesbian, while others said how "trashy" and "attention-seeking" she was. In reality, Lovato was simply troubled. Later that year, after a fist fight with one of her dancers, Lovato voluntarily checked herself into rehab. The former Sonny with a Chance star had been struggling with bulimia, bipolar disorder and self-mutilation.

    It is annoying enough that they're still blaming women for photos that other people leaked (last time we checked, taking "racy" photos isn't a crime) but it's offensive that they're holding her medical issues against her in this way. (We've defended her before and we'll do it again.) Bipolar disorder isn't a choice and it isn't a "corruption" and she certainly can't be blamed for strugging with mental illness (especially not before she was diagnosed). As for her eating disorder and self-injury problems, neither are issues that are exactly choices either. She was overworked, overstressed, and has dealt with body issues for a long time (including being bullied and called "fat and ugly" as a teen). She was self-medicating to numb her pain (not to "party") and she got help when she needed it - she went to rehab voluntarily. Since leaving rehab she has spoken out about her eating disorder, both calling out commenters on Twitter who said she had gained weight and Disney themselves, for making jokes about eating disorders on their shows. [HuffPo]

    We think that's awesome and we're proud of her for working towards her recovery, so she's not "corrupted" at all in our opinion. 


    Fail: Staged her own nude photo scandal (2008)

    The former Cheetah Girl got caught in a naked photo scandal and initially claimed that the pictures were taken from her stolen laptop. Bailon and her "legal spokesperson" Jonathan Jaxson even said that they'd pursue legal action against the perpertrator. While we were already willing to believe it was another hacker's foolery, Jaxson, actually Bailon's publicist, confirmed that the photo leak was actually a scheme devised to sex up her image. And yes, Bailon was in on it, too.
    Again, another "naked photo scandal". Ugh, fuck society for even making this a common phrase that we have to say "another" about! Why do we care what adult women are doing in their sex lives? (Bailon is 28!) But the actual jackass in this scenario is Bailon's publicist Jaxson. He didn't just confirm that the photos were purposely leaked, it was his idea! He advised her to sex up her image by leaking the photos. And then he threw her under the bus and admitted it publicly.


    Fail: Arrested for possession of crystal meth (2007)

    Yup, the girl better known as Miranda from Lizzie McGuire was caught with meth. Later that year, she failed to show up at her first court date and a warrant was issued for her arrest. The warrant was withdrawn when she showed up to her next hearing. After pleading guilty to the charge, Lalaine was required to finish drug treatment with the Asian-American Drug Abuse Program, after which her record would be wiped clean.
    Yeah okay, crystal meth is not good. And skipping your court date isn't great either. But again, it's her only offense ever. And since there was never any news about this since 2008, it's safe to assume that she finished her treatment and was never arrested again. We're not going to defend what she did... but let's take a moment to think about how many men have been in and out of jail and/or rehab repeatedly and yet no one seems to give a shit.


    Fails: Married friend Jason Alexander in Las Vegas, annuled it the next day, then married Kevin Federline (2004), Caught driving with her son on her lap (2005), Shaved her head after a night in rehab (2007), Rushed to the hospital for an alleged mental breakdown (2008)

    The former Mouseketeer first began acting out of her girl-next-door image in 2004. There was the quickie-marriage to a childhood friend followed by a failed marriage to back-up dancer Kevin Federline. Reports of her reckless behavior with her children and late night partying with Paris Hilton and Lindsay Lohan would eventually seem like nothing compared to her two mental breakdowns. During the first incident, she shaved her head and attacked a paparazzi SUV with an umbrella. In the second episode, she was rushed to the hospital for allegedly being under the influence of drugs and refusing to give up her kids to their father, Federline, after her visitation rights were over.
    It's kind of funny that they're listing marrying Kevin Federline as one of her "fails". Yeah, okay, we won't pretend that Spears hasn't gone through a hell of a lot over the years. But there's still the question of whether any of this is fair to hold against as evidence that she her image is "tarnished". We may never forget all of Spears' mishaps, but it's not as though her career is hurting at the moment. Her 2011 single "Hold It Against Me" debuted at #1 and her album Femme Fatale was very successful. Celebrities are human beings and their images are always changing. There's no reason to think that a few setbacks can ruin a person's career for good.

    Fails: Took racy photos of herself that leaked (2008), Caught smoking salvia (2010), Photographed licking a penis cake (2012)

    The bad girl streak began when a underwear-clad photos leaked before the former Hannah Montana star was even legal. Once Miley was free from the Disney Channel, her adventures really began taking center stage. In 2010, she was caught on video smoking salvia out of a bong, rambling gibberish and giggling like a maniac. She later referenced that incident at her 19th birthday, during which she referred to herself as a stoner. Most recently, Miley was photographed wielding a knife and licking a penis-shaped cake for her boyfriend's birthday.
    Those photos weren't that racy and yet again, why are we blaming her for pics that someone else leaked!? Basically, what we're really blaming her for, is daring to be at all sexual. The fact that she was "caught" (in a photograph) smoking salvia might not be her proudest moment, but really, who cares? It's not illegal.

    The most ridiculous "fail" on the list is the birthday photograph. She was "wielding a knife" and licking a penis-cake. It's just too funny to think of people getting their panties in a bunch over something so innocent. They make it seem like she was caught on film licking a real penis! And she wasn't "wielding" a knife in any vicious way - she was going to cut the fucking cake! I mean, seriously, get a grip people!

    Well, it is a pretty creepy looking cake.


    Fails: Took nude photos of herself that leaked (2007, 2009, 2011)

    At the peak of Vanessa's career, the High School Musical star was the subject of a number of cell phone photo leaks, with images ranging from her in lingerie to her standing clothes-less in front of her bedroom mirror. If that wasn't scathing enough, another batch of photos popped up in 2009 and 2011, with the latter being the most graphic of all. The photos not only display a naked Vanessa touching herself, but they also show her kissing Zoey 101 star Alexa Nikolas.
    We've already bitched about the "leaked photos" issue a few times on this list, but the Vanessa Hudgens "scandal" was perhaps the most annoying. We blogged about this back in 2009 when the second batch of photos were released. Not only do we not give a shit whether she takes naked photos or not, but the person we should be calling "corrupted" is the asshole who keeps leaking her photos every few years. A lot of people wrongly called Hudgens "stupid" for letting this happen "again", but the pictures that were leaked were all from the same general time period. (Some are older than others, but none are "new". That is, none were taken after the initial photo leak.)

    What likely happened is that this one person (an ex, a former friend, or someone who may have hacked into her computer/phone) is choosing to leak a few photos at a time at two-year intervals. For all we know there may be another leak in 2013. This is beyond shitty on their part, but there is no reason for this to tarnish Hudgens' reputation or image because she hasn't done anything wrong. All she has done is take some photos for personal use and perhaps, trusted the wrong person.

    And then... for the #1 "corrupted former Disney Star", of course, it's Lindsay Lohan!


    Fails: Publicly ridiculed by a Georgia Rule producer (2007), Arrested twice for a DUI and possession of cocaine and sentenced to jail for the first time (2007), Set off her alcohol-monitoring bracelet and sentenced to jail twice for violating her probation (2010), Arrested for theft and ordered back to jail for violating probation (2011)

    At this point, Lindsay Lohan's reputation precedes her more than any of her films do, including Disney's The Parent Trap (1998), Get A Clue (2002) and Herbie Fully Loaded (2005). News of her hard partying began popping up in tabloids in 2006, prompting the eventual open letter from Georgia Rule producer James G. Robinson calling her "irresponsible and unprofessional." In addition, Lohan has been arrested five times and has served court-ordered jail time for four incidents. Her past criminal charges include numerous DUIs, drug possession, theft, and violations of her probation, whether it was missing a court date, failing to complete community service or setting off her alcohol-monitoring bracelet. Now she's taking nude photo shoots for everyone from Terry Richardson to Playboy on the reg. What a wild ride.
    Oh Lindsay Lohan. The media is obsessed with her and her past troubles. Now, we're not going to defend some of her behavior. DUIs, drug use, theft, and violating parole are not things we want to condone. But addiction is pretty much a disease and we have to yet again think about how many male actors have been in and out of rehab and/or prison as many times as Lohan, but haven't exactly been disparaged or given the title "tarnished". How about Chris Brown, Charlie Sheen, Mel Gibson, Robert Downey Jr., Shia LeBeouf, etc.? (Okay, you can say that some of their images are tarnished, but it hasn't exactly ruined their careers and we just keep "forgiving" them.)

    The annoying part of Lohan's list of "fails" though, is that although she's supposed to be clean and sober right now and trying to rebuild her career (she recently hosted SNL and will appear in an upcoming episode of Glee) they've basically written her off. It ends by criticizing her for taking nude photos for Playboy and other publications. Why? Playboy has been around for years and so many female celebrities have graced its cover and pages. It's not the right choice for every person, but it should hardly be listed along her legal problems as yet another bad mark on her image.

    There's been a lot of talk about what lessons these stars' behavior is sending to their young fans... well how about, for one, that celebrities aren't role models? Or that teenagers grow up to be adults? Or how about, people make mistakes? But all this obsession over pregnancy rumors and naked photos is definitely sending the wrong message. It sends the message that your body is something to be ashamed of and that it's wrong to express your sexuality (even if you're legally old enough to consent to sex, even if you're in private, even in the context of a relationship, even if you choose to do it because you want to.)
    But the real question is why is taking nude (or semi-nude) photos, either for personal use or to advance your career, a "fail"? Why is daring to be sexual as an adult, a "scandal"?