THE EZ PASS: The Lindsay I Once Knew

In the early 2000s, the good old days of the Hilary Duff versus Lindsay Lohan tabloid cage match, I was always team-Lindsay. Though both were manufactured by the Disney machine, Hilary was the pop-tart for people who liked Pop-Tarts. She was all sugar, no edge. Lindsay, at least in the way I conceived of her, was the starlet for girls who had a more refined palette. The same year Hilary was living the tween version of a fairy tale in “A Cinderella Story” — a movie which I refused to see and still haven’t — Lindsay was reciting immortally sassy lines in “Mean Girls.”

It’s not my fault you’re like, in love with me, or something!

Fast-forward seven years. Hilary is pregnant and in a seemingly stable marriage with a hockey player. Meanwhile Lindsay was handed yet another jail sentence Wednesday. Both barely appear in movies, but Lindsay is going to appear in Playboy. Hilary tweets pictures of pumpkin pies she makes with her tagalong big sister, Haylie; Lindsay tweets about doing her court-ordered community service.

In the grand scheme of being a successful human being — if that success is measured by your ability to be healthy and stay out of jail — team-Lindsay lost.

It’s tempting to think of Lindsay as just another side-/shitshow. But before she partied with Paris and broadcast her whoziwhatsit to the world, the persona she created through her film roles was one I wanted to identify with. Lindsay was talented and unusual (if red hair can be deemed unusual) and her fame meant that you didn’t have to be a standard blonde ingénue, which I certainly wasn’t. Lindsay was praised in the adult press. Hilary, I assumed, would slog away in goody-two-shoes tales until she began to wrinkle. Lindsay might win an Oscar.

During a girls’ night in viewing of “Freaky Friday,” shortly after it came out, my mom asked me if I wanted to get a second piercing in my ears. I did. It was something I had wanted but never thought I could ask for. The emulation of Lindsay — making herself over in the body of Jamie Lee Curtis, it should be noted — was a sign that fashion-experimentation could be condoned and encouraged. Meanwhile, as I was nursing my freshly poked lobes, I was listening to Joey Ramone on the movie’s soundtrack along with Lindsay’s fabulously catchy ditty, “Ultimate.” (Seriously, I sometimes still listen to that song.) A year later “Mean Girls” gave me an appreciation of Tina Fey, a head for witty dialogue and a “never conceal your brain for the sake of a guy” message that I always knew was true, but but was rarely confirmed in Seventeen or Teen People.

Then the movie Lindsay with the spunky intelligence disappeared, and the real-life Lindsay with the penchant for cocaine benders took over. I remember feeling actively disappointed when I read the early rumors of her boob job. Girls like Lindsay — or rather girls like the ones Lindsay portrayed in her movies — would never do such a thing.

It’s now hard to remember the Lindsay that I admired, and in retrospect that Lindsay probably never existed. She was a product of an over-imaginative 13-year-old mind that assumed actors acted like the characters they portrayed. Still, as we analyze the sorry state of Lindsay’s teeth, I can’t help but think that Lindsay’s defeat by Duff was ultimately a loss for originality. The fairy tale heroine won. Those bitches always do.

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