Why Oprah Just Couldn’t Resist Interviewing Lindsay Lohan

Slate's Culture Blog
Aug. 19 2013 11:18 AM

Why Oprah Just Couldn’t Resist Interviewing Lindsay Lohan

lohan_oprah
Lindsay Lohan listens to Oprah Winfrey

OWN

Last night’s interview between Lindsay Lohan and Oprah Winfrey, filmed four days after Lohan’s latest stint in rehab, was a battle of celebrity storylines: our pre-eminent emotional fixer facing off with one of our pre-eminent emotional messes. Lohan was being asked the questions, but the big question hanging over the special—one Oprah herself drew attention to—was: Why was Oprah Winfrey giving Lohan yet another opportunity to try and explain herself?

As Oprah was quick to point out to Lohan, “a lot of people” had criticized Oprah for doing so. Being ministered to by Oprah Winfrey, after all, is not just entertainment but a canny first step on the road to reputation recovery—why give Lohan that opportunity? By the end of the interview it was clear: Oprah could not resist. There is no bigger mental-health pelt out there in the celebrity universe than Lindsay Lohan, a screw-up still cloaked in coherence and the myth of talent. The interview was Oprah doing her damnedest to nail Lohan to her trophy wall, the one with a big banner over it that reads “HEALED.”

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Oprah approached the interview with the single-mindedness of a new-agey Freudian. She began by asking about Lindsey’s various stints in rehab and addiction problems, but kept repeating that she wanted to get to the root of those problems. Addiction is “always a symptom of something else that’s going wrong in your life that needs healing,” as Oprah put it. Why was Lohan so unsettled being just herself? Why was she, in Oprah’s term, addicted to chaos? You didn’t have to be a detective, just a tabloid reader, to understand where Oprah was headed: right to Lohan’s parents, who as Oprah put it are widely seen as exploiting her.

Lohan, wearing a bright orange dress and looking healthier, but still cutting her eyes like a teenager, was pretty straightforward with Oprah about her substance abuse problems. She admitted, almost unprompted, that the biggest difference between this stint in rehab and the previous ones was that she was now off Adderall. (She also said she’d only ever used cocaine 12 to 15 times, so, six of one, half dozen of the other.) But on the subject of her parents, Lohan did not overshare and, even more egregiously in an Oprah tête-a-tête, barely even cried. Lohan insisted that much of the drama with her parents was her fault, that she loved them, that they were doing the best they could, and that they all get along now. Oprah came at it as many ways as possible, finally asking, “You don’t think that there’s toxicity in the relationship between either of your parents and you?” “No,” Lohan said. “I don’t blame anyone for my mistakes. I don’t blame anyone for driving a car while drinking. I did that. I did that. And I’m not proud of it.” Even Oprah had to accept an answer as genuinely right-on as that.

At certain points, the interview got so spacey it seemed likely to float off the screen. Lohan kept describing herself as “craving” spirituality, as wanting to “stay present.” “I’m a very spiritual person,” she said, finally prompting Oprah to ask, “What does that mean?” “I’m really in touch with, whether it’s prayer or meditation,” Lohan said. “There are so many powers greater than me in the world. I’ve been blessed and lucky enough to have a gift to share with other people.” Oprah’s response to this only exacerbated the hippie-dippie quotient: “I am a spiritual seeker,” Oprah said. “I know that we are spiritual beings having a human experience and I live that every day, and what I know for sure about spirituality is it’s about self-awareness. It’s about being fully self-actualized in self-awareness. What do you know about yourself now, that you wish you had known six rehabs ago?” Oprah, and the word “spirituality,” would have been better off if she had just asked Lohan what she has learned lately.

But Oprah saved the interview’s big gambit—the possibility that Oprah will do what no one has before and really get through to Lindsay Lohan—for the very end. Oprah staged a mini-intervention about a trip Lohan had planned to Europe. Oprah thought going to Europe just days after leaving rehab was a terrible idea. “That concerns me,” Oprah said. “Is that the best decision for you? It would be like, for me, coming out of rehab and going to a potato chip factory.” She asked Lohan to seriously consider not going. Lohan said she would. And then Oprah looked at Lohan and said with all the gravitas she could muster, “I want you to win.” If you have ever wondered how Oprah actually performs The Secret, this is it. “I want you to win,” she repeated. If saying something can make it so, Oprah was making it so, not just by the force of her voice, but by putting Lohan on notice: If she messes up, she will have kept Oprah from getting what she wants. Who would want to do that? What kind of repayment would that be? The interview ended on Oprah’s incantation, and was followed by a title card: “Two days later, Lohan cancelled her trip to Europe.” Oprah can tack her up to the “Healed” wall, if only for now.

Willa Paskin is Slate’s television critic.

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