The Revolving Rehab Door

Two different editions of The Washington Post, two different pop star stories about rehab.  Both stories – as of press time - among the top three most viewed in the online edition of the Arts and Living section of, right after “Best Buys for the Summer Bar.”

If it weren't for the train wreck that is celebrity screwups, what would people read?

The May 29 Associated Press story which The Post ran featured former teen-queen Britney Spears and her “personal web message” lamenting how other people are ultimately responsible for the mess she has made of her life. “'I think the whole problem was letting too many people into my life,' she continues. 'You never know another person's intentions or what another person wants. ... I have had to cut so many people out of my life.'”

In speaking about her time in rehab, the AP quotes Spears who wrote, “'Recently, I was sent to a very humbling place called rehab. I truly hit rock bottom. Till this day I don't think that it was alcohol or depression. … I was like a bad kid running around with ADD (attention deficit disorder).'”

The AP merely regurgitates what Spears wrote on her Web site, all of which is free publicity for a lack of personal responsibility and the “poor me” mantra which seems to define the way many celebrities are responding when they are actually held accountable for their actions.  Paris Hilton trying to get out of serving jail time comes to mind.

Next up: Lindsay Lohan.  According to the May 30 AP story in The Washington Post she went into rehab – again - after having been arrested for suspicion of DUI.  This story quotes Lohan in the May issue of Allure saying, “I always said I would die before I went to rehab.” The “wild-child” actress reportedly checked herself into rehab for this latest round of detox.

But the reporter, Sandy Cohen, trots out the Lohan defenders, quick to put the blame for the 20-year-old's problems anywhere else, rather than on the shoulders it should be placed: her own.

“'The world has been very hard on her,' said Michael Heller, an attorney and Lohan family friend. 'She has a lot of personal issues and family issues. There's an incredible amount of pressure on this 20-year-old.' He also noted on Tuesday that Lohan has 'gone from one movie to the next,' spending long stretches of time away from her family. 'She's living in a hotel,' he said. 'It's a very lonely existence.' Lohan's mother, Dina Lohan, told Us Weekly magazine earlier this month that when her daughter isn't working, 'she's so bored. … I've told her, 'Please slow down. Stop!' She's growing up and learning to do that. She really loves the business,' the mother said.”

Cohen chooses to end the story by quoting Heller again, “'This is a time when she will reflect backwards and think forward,' Heller said. 'Hopefully she will plan a future that will be fruitful artistically, professionally (and) take a place in society that will be appropriate for someone of her standing.'”

In a story coming on the heels of the Virginia Tech massacre, Time contributor David Von Drehle wrote, “A generation ago, the social critic Christopher Lasch diagnosed narcissism as the signal disorder of contemporary American culture. The cult of celebrity, the marketing of instant gratification, skepticism toward moral codes and the politics of victimhood were signs of a society regressing toward the infant stage.There's a telling moment in Michael Moore's film Bowling for Columbine, in which singer Marilyn Manson dismisses the idea that listening to his lyrics contributed to the disintegration of Harris and Klebold. What the Columbine killers needed, Manson suggests, was for someone to listen to them. This is the narcissist's view of narcissism: Everything would be fine if only he received more attention.”

The cult of celebrity. The politics of victimhood.  Narcissism.  All speak to a complete lack of personal responsibility.  And all serve as great fodder for readers hungry to peek into the messed up lives of celebrities.  Somehow this is “news.”

Kristen Fyfe is senior writer at the Culture and Media Institute, a division of the MediaResearchCenter.