Reluctant Icons in an Iconic Age

In a weak moment at the grocery store last week, I broke one of my cardinal rules.  I bought a People magazine.  I was intrigued by the cover story, and I had to have it.

As I perused the magazine, I came across an article about Lindsay Lohan. While I’m not a big celebrity watcher, it would be impossible to be an American and NOT know about the debacle this girl has made of her young life.  Reading this article made my heart hurt for this child-woman who was thrust into the limelight when she was too young to have a choice, who never had a chance to have the “normal” American
childhood that most of us take for granted, whose mother is more concerned with managing her career and being her party buddy than being a responsible parent, and who clearly does not value herself enough to make wise choices for her health and her body.

Her story is only one of many child stars who find themselves on the brink of adulthood throwing away their talent, fame, and fortune with vain, self-destructive behavior.  And all the while we, the general public, look on in derision while at the same time perpetuating the hype that has put these girls in the limelight to begin with.

After all, it is WE who buy the magazines and follow their personal lives with morbid curiosity.  And don’t we just love to talk about the latest tidbit of juicy gossip.  Sadly, even in Christian circles, where supposedly grace would prevail, I have wasted more minutes of my life than I care to count listening to Christian women discuss these celebrities and their escapades, usually with attitudes of disdain and judgment.

But this is what I don’t get.  Of all people, shouldn’t we be the ones extending grace to these disillusioned and misguided girls?  Shouldn’t we, who are recipients of the most lavish gift of grace ever bestowed upon mankind, be the first to look upon these girls with mercy and compassion?

(I can’t bring myself to refer to them as “women”, even though they are of age, because it seems as though they are in a state of perpetual youth, unable to mature into women because their growth has been stunted by the celebrity lives they have led.)

Our culture views them as icons and glorifies their lifestyles, but I can’t help but feel pity for these girls.  Because in all of these situations, one thing is the same.  These girls never had a chance at a normal
life.  I feel more contempt for their parents than I do for them, for first creating these child celebrities and now enabling their narcissistic, self-destructive behavior.

I’m not trying to make excuses for their wrong-doing because every person is responsible for his or her choices, and we all must account for our own behavior.  And they are certainly making some very poor choices.  But  I feel so, so sorry for them.

And why shouldn’t I?  We seem to have no shortage of compassion these days for those who are brought up in abusive and/or underprivileged homes, and we often allow such unfortunate personal backgrounds to temper our attitudes towards the poor choices some people make.

I suggest that we should extend the same mercy to these girls, who in a very different way have also been given a raw deal in life. This world is hard enough to navigate without starting out at a disadvantage.

A disadvantage, you might be saying is disbelief.

Yes, indeed.  Because I believe that there comes a point where privilege and stardom are more of a curse than a blessing.  And these lives are certainly case in point.

So what else can I say but, There but for the grace of God go I.