an open letter to the world about lindsay lohan’s playboy spread, value-based economies, artaudian theatre, and institutional cruelty


I don’t understand why people think it is so scandalous that lindsay posed for playboy. playboy is selling something very specific and the people who buy it know that. the women in playboy are generally not being taken hostage and forced unwillingly in front of cameras and exploited, they are aware of themselves as commodity objects and they are aware of a market and they have made themselves into luxury goods.


I am not going to lie and say that lindsay lohan is not sometimes a trainwreck but I don’t know many great artists who are not sometimes that way.



Iindsay lohan is not a dumb girl and she knows what she wants and what kind of business she is in.



I wonder where the limit is of systematic cruelty. I think there are people who think playboy is cruel, its economy and the way it commodifies women. I think there are probably people who are aware that there are cruel aspects to theatrical industries (by which I mean film, television, photographs, etc. in addition to live theatre), and artaud would say there is a latent cruelty in the systems of theatre/theatrics/theatricality, that “everything that acts is a cruelty.[1]


last winter I watched the monster ball on hbo and I remember thinking that lady gaga was probably consciously and intentionally performing artaudian theatre, having recognized the contemporary popular media stage-space as a theatre of cruelty –


“the Theater of Cruelty proposes to resort to a mass spectacle…We want to make out of the theatre a believable reality[2]


and lady gaga is not a stupid girl –


“The separation between the analytic theater and the plastic world seems to us a stupidity.[3]”.


all systems of theatre are necessarily cruel if we define systematic cruelty as having primarily qualities of severity, strictness, and rigour.[4]


intelligent artists regardless of their gender are aware of their roles within the various theatrical systems they inhabit. they understand the latent economic implications in every theatrical system. theatre, even when it does not require money and is “public”/”free,” still operates on a value-based economy, both internally in terms of the relationship between its components and externally in terms of the relation between the system as a whole and the various systems with which it interacts.


lindsay lohan being as she is an intelligent artist and in her own right a system with an internal economy and therefore capable of assigning value to its various components, purposefully commodified her own asset, which she had defined for herself and in relation to other of her assets as valuable.


this is important: a woman does not pose for playboy unless she has assigned relatively high value to her own physical appearance/appeal. and I do not mean that the ability to make this assesment translates necessarily, although it can and often does, to confidence, happiness, or any inclination towards self-preservation. but a woman who enters into this particular kind of an economy does so because she has first commodified herself.


“but she wouldn’t have to commodify herself if the external systems of media/capitalism/america/fashion/thepatriarchy/etc weren’t already commodifying women based on their appearance!” I can hear the teen feminist barbie version of myself whine. true, she wouldn’t have to. but she probably would. and she doesn’t have to now. she could for example not be an actress, a profession which by its nature requires that one assign to one’s own physicality a relatively high value.


it seems pertinent to note that by this I do not necessarily mean beauty or bodily organization in any conventional sense, although either or both may be relevant components. what I mean is that an actress must be willing to use her ability to appear as an economic tool in her profession. to say that she should not do so would seem to indicate that no woman should use any skill or asset she posesses as an economic tool, which would seem to imply that no woman should enter willingly into any kind of economy or economic venture, which seems to me to be very much beside the point of any variety or strain of feminism.



[1] The Theatre and Its Double, 85

[2] The Theatre and Its Double, 85

[3] The Theatre and Its Double, 86

[4] OED “cruelty” n. †3, Obs.

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