As Actress Lindsay Lohan contemplates her 90-day jail sentence, not to mention recently being dropped from a role in the upcoming film “The Other Side” after producers reportedly balked at her erratic behavior, she may want to use the hiatus to assess whose voice she heeds, say longtime industry watchers.
While the tabloid coverage rages, everyone from legal and rehab specialists to family therapists and spiritual leaders call the Lohan celebrity train wreck one more sign of a growing “entourage” culture, where behavior is influenced by like-minded cohorts and less and less by traditional values.
“This is a replacement for the traditional family where outside values from older, wiser figures such as parents and teachers have less and less influence,” says Rabbi Schmuley Boteach.
It is also a world of increasing parental abdication, he says adding, “The reason it is so destructive is once there is no one of responsibility or values or wisdom, they tend to fall back on the most base human instincts of sex, drinking, and consumption.” The author of 22 books on spirituality in modern life, Mr. Boteach counseled Michael Jackson before his death and says, “I saw an entourage kill Michael Jackson.”
When the police must become parents and law enforcement becomes the last barricade before young people “go over the cliff,” it is time for a collective wake-up call about such old-fashioned values as responsibility and integrity, says Tom Anelli, a veteran defense attorney who specializes in underage, drunken-driving offenses.
Pushing the boundaries of behavior
He says the issue is not so much that young people emulate favorite celebrities, but that the outrageous behavior that saturates the Internet, with kids of all ages posting personal videos of themselves doing “boundary-pushing” behavior such as drug use and sex, “normalizes the attitude that everyone in my group is doing these things.”
For example, he says, “If you have 150 friends in your Facebook and they all have these kinds of things online, even if you would never have thought of doing some of these things and your parents certainly would never have approved of it, it now becomes every-day, and the odds that you might try it go up exponentially.”
In his legal practice, he says, the most common frustration he faces is “an astonishing lack of a sense of responsibility for one’s actions.” Routinely, he adds, he hears both his young clients – and their parents – suggest that bad behavior is somehow mitigated by the fact that “everyone else is doing it.”
The fascination with celebrity and personal fame fuels a push to the edge of socially acceptable behavior, she says. “Law enforcement is the last line standing. In some cases, it absorbs the roles of parent, teacher, guardian, and therapist, to then be heeded, acknowledged, ignored, or challenged … all to the backdrop of lighting, camera crews, and all the rest.”
'Wealthy, spoiled socialites'
“Paris Hilton, Nicole Richie, and Lindsay have surrounded themselves in many cases with a group of wealthy, spoiled socialites who are no strangers to drug use, promiscuity, and being outrageous in public to garner attention,” he says in an e-mail.
“This is the blind leading the blind,” says Rabbi Boteach. “Police can erect a barricade against going over a cliff, but they can’t impart values.”
The four essentials for surviving celebrity are the same as for everyone else, he says: “You need a life to keep you grounded … someone to make you take out the garbage.”
Next, he says is spiritual values. He points to musician Bono, who he he says has been married for 27 years and is a devout Roman Catholic, as the “perfect” celebrity.
The Irish rocker also has a cause that is much higher than himself – Africa – and longtime friends, his band mates who will tell him when he’s being stupid – the last two tools for navigating fame.
“If you have these in place, as Bono does,” adds Boteach, “you have a chance at a real, meaningful life.”