Muhammad Hudhud, Johns Hopkins University:
Lindsay Lohan is one of the most recognizable names in contemporary pop culture—infamous or not. Her run-ins with the authorities have only been fodder for media outlets over the past decade, prompting her move to London a couple years ago. Despite once being one of the highest paid and talked about actresses in Hollywood, she is still reduced to the iconic Mean Girls or Freaky Friday actress. And as of recent, her recent trip to visit Syrian refugees in Turkey has garnered both praise and criticism. I will seek to Illustrate her reputation in light of her persona and current geopolitical involvement.
At 30, Lohan is no longer the child and adolescent actress who was catapulted to stardom. With her name recognition, her episodes with substance abuse became the quintessential subject of celebrity gossip. She was dismissed as a deviant, or another child-star gone off the wayside. Her humanitarian work consequently has largely not been covered by major American outlets. This is due to two factors: firstly, refugee work simply cannot be sensationalized as easily as, say, getting one’s finger cut off; secondly, because her warm attitudes towards the Turkish state its falling out with American interests.
Another interesting element that potentially complicates her public image in America is her popularity among pro-Erdoğan Turks. In an interview with Turkey’s Habertürk newspaper, Lohan describes her interactions with Syrian refugees, and notes that “[Turkish President Recep Tayyip] Erdoğan did very well” in galvanizing support against the July 15th coup attempt.
Al-Monitor’s Amberin Zaman writes of Lohan’s potential to be mitigating force in the “tepid relations” between the US and Turkey. The United States’ arming of Kurdish Syrian forces, which Ankara considers an extension of the separatist group PKK, has strained US-Turkey relations in recent months. While this is not a far-fetched assessment in the short-term, Lohan distancing herself from her life in America will only reinforce the skepticism of pro-Erdoğan Turks, and vice-versa.
Various American media outlets, ranging from TMZ to CNN and Bustle, greatly vary in their portrayal of Lohan. One one hand, she recalls the viral paparazzi picture of her walking with a Qur’an, recalling that “in America, I was going through a lot with past things that had to me over a ten-year span and my very close friends…gave me Qur’an, and I brought it to New York because I was learning…but this is just me holding it with me walking…and they crucified me for it. They made me seem like Satan.” On the other hand, she has recently been described as “poised and engaged and speaking about important issues” in Vanity Fair, and her visiting Syrian refugees has been called “heartwarming and important” in Bustle.
It is this strange concoction of rejection and acceptance that has precisely reflected Washington’s relationship with Ankara. Long-time allies, Turkey and the US have increasingly been at odds in regards to strategy in Syria, particularly in regards to prioritizing Assad’s removal or Daesh’s elimination. And while both President Obama and Secretary Kerry released statements in support of the Turkey’s democratically-elected government amidst the failed July 15th coup, many Turks speculated the US’s involvement due to a number of factors; these sentiments were reaffirmed during with the US’s continued unwillingness to extradite Turkish cleric Fetullah Gülen. Gülen, a former Erdoğan ally, fled to the US after charges of corruption and terrorism in 2013. The Turkish government maintains that Gülen and his followers are primarily responsible for the coup attempt. Despite this friction, however, the US still uses Turkish bases for airstrikes against Daesh, and Turkish ambassador to the US Serdar Kılıç reaffirmed the joint cooperation in defeating terrorism. It is this “uncertainly certain” relationship that characterizes current US-Turkey relations.
The same can be claimed in regards to Lohan’s relationships with the American media. Once America’s sweetheart, she has gone insofar as to physically move her life away from the US and its spotlight, yet she remains hopeful to star as The Little Mermaid one day. Concurrently, while her humanitarianism has been received positively on some outlets, her injured finger was more widely disseminated.