Four days have passed since Lindsay Lohan returned to host Saturday Night Live, and the benefit of time does nothing to portray her performance in any more of a positive light. Yes, in spite of her wooden, stumbling, at times helpless appearance, the show delivered some of its strongest moments of the season (including Bill Hader reaching new levels of brilliance as both Shephard Smith and James Carville, and an inspired, if somewhat haphazardly placed, “Music of the 70s” commercial parody with a retro-coiffed Jason Sudeikis), but those sketches don’t negate Lohan’s awkward struggle, her 90-minute death march, and nor has almost a week of reflection.
It wasn’t always this way. And that’s why this is so sad, so tragic. There was a time when Lindsay Lohan was a bona fide star, white-hot and electric. The next big thing while simultaneously being the “it” the girl. And, yes, she had curves, but she also had talent. Was she a young Jodie Foster? Outside of the freckles, no. But she had something that a young Jodie Foster did not. Sizzle. Sparkle. That special something.
And she showed that it was not just limited to the silver screen or the magazine cover. Indeed, in her prior SNL appearances Lindsay proved herself to be, if not the next Amy Poehler, supremely competent at the SNL brand of sketch comedy (or, should we say, the SNL brand of playing to the hosts’ strengths in sketch comedy). Was she the female equivalent of Justin Timberlake? Certainly not. But she was at ease, she was comfortable, she was borderline adroit, keeping it together in one instant classic, and losing it (along with everyone else) in another. And, as we’ve noted earlier, her first three hosting turns came within two calendar years. So, in that way, she was kinda like JT. She was a fixture, on her way to Alec Baldwin status. If she kept up that rate, she’d be hosting for her ninth time this spring.
But, instead, there was a six-year gap between hosting go-rounds, a half-decade hiatus that wasn’t kind to Lilo. Alright, that’s being generous. The last half-dozen years have been downright cruel to the girl from Long Island (btw, there’s fun variation on “Six Degrees of Kevin Bacon” you can play with anyone from Long Island. It’s called “Two Degrees of Lindsay Lohan.” Anyone from Nassau County can tell you how they know Lohan in two degrees or less, often with an accompanying colorful story). It wasn’t so much a fall from grace as it was a violent plummet down seventeen flights, with Lindsay banging her head on each step on the way down. But we really don’t need to go into those details, everyone knows that she had her run-ins with the law, her drug problems, her lesbian experiment, her run-ins with the law, her drug problems. She went from starlet to cautionary tale in 0 to 60, a lesson for later generations within her own generation.
So why do we care? Because we all love a comeback, right? Because a) we put our time and energy into these people, and, often, we put our faith, and we’d hate to have wasted what precious emotional and mental capital we have on someone who turns around and squanders it; and b) we can project her story onto our own. Not that we’ll ever achieve the level of fame that Lindsay Lohan had, nor will we likely ever reach her depths, but we’ll no doubt hit some valleys along our personal journey. So we like to see examples in humanity, in our little bubble of society, in which people make it all the way (or just some of the way) back. Because if she can do it, so can we. It’s hope. That’s why we adore a second act.
Which is why we were so eager to see how Lohan would acquit herself on SNL. When we first saw the SNL bumper announcing that she’d be hosting we thought it must be a joke. Or they were planning a rerun from ’04 for some peculiar reason. But it was real. A favor from Lorne Michaels, yes, but legit. Nothing to promote but herself, but her recovery, on a stage where she’s welcomed as the sweet, rosy-cheeked girl from 2006, where the ankle monitor jokes are just jokes. And if Michaels and the cast were going to welcome her with open arms, to envelop her in their comforting embrace – all these people whom we respect and admire – then, we assumed, she must be on her game. She must be on her way back to being that girl.
And during the monologue – her altered visage not withstanding – it seemed that dream might actually be attainable. Yes, she was shaky, and relied on her supporting cast, but we could easily attribute that to opening jitters. She got through it without any major disasters, and we surmised she’d settle down. The best was yet to come.
But we were wrong. It was going to get worse. Soon. Specifically here.Vodpod videos no longer available.
For it was here where the wheels fell off. Where Lindsay barely managed to escape, and would not have if not for the – and we never thought we’d say this – immense talent of Kenan Thompson, who put her on his back and carried her through the sketch (“No, Lindsay. Those were my footsteps. I was carrying you the whole time.”) It was, frankly, painful. Relying on the cue cards is fine. But this was something else entirely. It had you yearning for Rudy Giuliani. It was, all at once, a car crash happening before our eyes and a six-year long train wreck that may or may not have reached its final destination.
And it was in this moment that the dream died, and, once again, a symbol of our youth evaporated, much like when Dana Carvey hosted SNL last season, or when they started showing Full House on “Nick at Nite.” We held on as long as we could, but whatever we had, whatever magic there was, is gone. And it’s not just that Lindsay was bad, that she was overwhelmed and ill-equipped, it was that her essence has vanished. A very similar girl to the one we knew was up there; same curves, same smokey eyes, same raspy voice, but not “it.” And, as much as we love a good tale of redemption, we’re not sure you can ever get “it” back.
Which means our relationship with Lindsay Lohan, the warming glow that she radiated in Mean Girls that had us transfixed, is gone too, likely for good. “It” has gone into the void.
And that is why her appearance on SNL was utterly depressing, her story truly tragic.