September 24, 2008

Lindsay Lohan, the media, and what it means to be an “out” celebrity

Posted in GLBT issues, Media, Musings at 2:57 pm by The Lizard Queen

I don’t normally read the celebrity gossip rags, like People and OK! and Us. That’s not to say I don’t get as caught up in the lives of celebrities as any other average American, but you know, there’s only so much time in a day.

That said, though, this past summer I started going to the gym, and many’s the time I neglected to bring reading material of my own and so ended up leafing through one of the above-mentioned magazines while on the elliptical machine. And in them I came across pictures of Lindsay Lohan and Samantha Ronson. In them Lohan looks happy and healthy, so pretty much the sum total of my analysis of the pictures themselves was “hey, good for her, good for them, mazel tov all around.”  (Okay, I confess that there might have been some skepticism in my initial reaction, too, but between the fact that a) they’ve been together over two years, apparently, and b) it’s not actually any of my business anyway, that feeling passed after about the second week of the gym + celeb mags routine.)

What I did chew on for a while, however, was the carefree nature of the photo captions. They were, in a nutshell, normal. There hadn’t been the earth-shattering “I’m gay!” cover story, and yet the captions didn’t have that breathless “is she or isn’t she?” speculation, either. Just, “Lindsay Lohan and her girlfriend, DJ Samantha Ronson, hit up Bristol Farms for some salad vinegar,” or whatever. There might even have been snaps of the two women smooching, and the captions were still no more salacious or shocked than they would have been for a hetero couple.

It was something I wanted to write about, but wasn’t sure exactly what I wanted to say. So, it works out well that Sarah Warn at After Ellen covered the topic last week, and better than I ever could have:

In the olden days of, say, the 1990s, you had to say actually say the words “I’m gay” or “I’m in a romantic relationship with so-and-so” to some kind of reputable press outlet to be considered openly gay, or “out.” Otherwise, you were considered “in” (or closeted). (See: Neil Patrick Harris pre-2006, or Ellen DeGeneres pre-1997.)

There are and will continue to be those who come out with words, and those who choose not to come out at all. But beginning in the early part of this decade, a new way of being out emerged that was characterized by living openly in a same-sex relationship and not denying or hiding it from the press, but refusing to actually define it with words.

She also points out that

Straight celebrities don’t announce their heterosexuality, we just make assumptions from their behavior. In the past, we haven’t been able to makes the same conclusions about celebrities in same-sex relationships, because their day-to-day behavior was not widely reported on, so an announcement was necessary to counter the prevailing assumption of heterosexuality.

That’s not so true anymore.

And she points out the positive impact Lohan and Ronson’s relationship could have:

One of the most encouraging aspects to Lohan’s story is the positive influence it may have on those young women who have followed her life and career over the last several years.

Not only will they see a very popular (if controversial) young woman living openly in a lesbian relationship, but the press is giving her girlfriend credit for helping Lohan get her life back on track.

The whole article is well worth reading.  Check it out!

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