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Posted at 10:42 AM ET, 02/21/2008

Highbrow: Lindsay Lohan's Bombshell Bid

By Liz Kelly

(Reuters)

Lindsay Lohan roared back onto the pop culture landscape earlier this week when (NSFW) pics of the 21-year-old rehab grad aping Marilyn Monroe's iconic "last sitting" photo shoot appeared in the latest issue of New York magazine. When we said back in January that Lohan was ripe for career reinvention, mimicry of a drug-addled icon was hardly what we had in mind.

Which is probably why the spread is so effective. It is at once profane and provocative, sad and seductive. But is the 21-year-old "Mean Girls" star merely basking in the reflected mystique of the long dead Monroe or conjuring some mythology of her own?

Mom Dinah described the pictures as "tasteful" and "artistic." Though taste is subjective. One woman's tasteful artistry is another's gimmicky, naked play for relevance.

L.A. Times blogger Monica Corcoran asks why it is that starlets insist on "channeling" Marilyn to prove they've got unseen depths. Citing similar stunts by Drew Barrymore and Scarlett Johannson, Corcoran says it's "rather sad that so many young actresses crib Monroe instead of inventing their own unique images."

One commenter there responds:

"...what people fail to see is that Marilyn Monroe was just the Paris Hilton, Lindsay Lohan and Britney Spears of the '50s & '60s."

Though comparisons between Monroe and the new millennial bad girls hardly seem fair. At the time Monroe took it all off for Stern she was 36 and had a handful of homerun movie roles ("The Misfits," "Some Like It Hot," "Gentlemen Prefer Blondes") to her credit. Lohan is 21 and can credit 2004's "Mean Girls" as her career high point. While both Monroe and Lohan struggled with addiction, Lohan is hardly the tragic figure the unraveling Monroe was in 1962. In point of fact, Heath Ledger -- who died from a fatal overdose of prescription drugs in January -- had more in common with Monroe. He was another promising actor who -- it would seem -- was his own worst enemy

Rather than serving as Lohan's Drew Barrymore career-saving "Poison Ivy" moment, the New York magazine spread may end up as Lohan's Icarus moment. Like the Greek mortal who dared to fly too close to the sun in emulation of the Gods, Lohan has dared to compare herself with a triple-A rated icon. One can hardly hope to out-Marilyn Marilyn.

Where Monroe was tragic and flailing, Lohan is pitiful and desperate. A public already saturated with images of Lohan in far more compromising positions will hardly be inspired to view her in a new light. Radar Online's quick survey of PR experts would seem to agree:

"She needs to get back to acting," said one. "I'd rather see her do a student film at USC than take her clothes off in a look-at-me-moment. These shots run the real risk of overshadowing her acting career."

And a quick scan of the Interwebs finds reaction largely concentrating on the nudie angle. Not once did this blogger find a sentence resembling anything like "Gee, these nude pix of Lindsay Lohan posing as Marilyn really have turned around my previous dismissal of her talents. Clearly she's on her way to an Oscar."

Wrote Dana Goodyear over at the New Yorker Web site:

I think that I now understand something about the Internet that had previously eluded me--that is, what it feels like to click on the word 'nude,' and feel a little thrill at gaining access to a cache of photos.

In fact, the biggest beneficiary from Lohan's spread (she wasn't payed paid for the shoot) may be New York Magazine's Web site, which had so much traffic on Monday that it temporarily went down. Problem fixed, the site went on to score an estimated $500,000 in ad impressions, according to Forbes.com.

By Liz Kelly  | February 21, 2008; 10:42 AM ET
Categories:  Celebrities, Highbrow, Lindsay Lohan  
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