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It's bigger than both of them

MEDIA

Lindsay Lohan's latest fling has generated a surprising restraint in some usually breathless quarters.

July 20, 2008|Kate Aurthur | Times Staff Writer
  • Neither Lindsay Lohan nor Samantha Ronson has spoken to the media about their relationship.
Neither Lindsay Lohan nor Samantha Ronson has spoken to the media about… (WireImage )

During HER 10 years as a famous person, Lindsay Lohan has worn a dizzying number of public masks.

She began as a beloved Disney tween queen and a much-praised box-office lure. That unraveled soon enough, as she became another wounded, doomed celebrity girl careening through the tabloid world: Lohan the despondent daughter of reckless parents, the on-the-set monster destroying her career and holding up expensive productions, the luckless dater whose boyfriends and hookups trash-talked her and did her no good, the cocaine-and-alcohol-fueled road menace who seemed rehab resistant.

But lately, there's been another twist in the Lohan saga that the mainstream gossip media -- her unofficial biographers -- have been feeding to their readers in regular doses. US Weekly, OK!, Star, the New York Post's Page Six, Life & Style and all of the other cogs in the celebrity news machine have been regularly publishing reports about her relationship with DJ .

Which from all happy and seemingly sober appearances -- they kiss, they hug, they hold hands, they shop for groceries -- is a romantic one.

Neither Lohan nor Ronson has spoken to the media about their relationship, and not surprisingly, Lohan's publicist would not comment for this story nor make Lohan herself available, writing in an e-mail that Lohan "wants to keep her private life private." (Ronson likewise did not respond to a request for comment made through her website.)

Yet the celebrity magazines have kept the stories coming. Mainstream editors used to be squeamish to the point of erasure when it came to unconfirmed same-sex relationships. Unless a star was willing to say, "Yep, I'm gay," as so famously did on the cover of Time in 1997 -- and as a trickle of others have too in years since -- print publications (including this one) have generally employed their own form of don't ask/don't tell when covering gay or bisexual celebrities who have not come out via press release or some other explicit declaration.

While many celebrities themselves have stopped hiding their same-sex relationships, the media have not until Lohan followed suit. , an openly gay columnist for the , who himself has never engaged in that kind of self-censorship, has noticed a change. As Musto sees it, we've reached a moment in which the Lohan-Ronson pairing can simply be reported as a fact because people have, you know, eyes.

"Traditionally, the media has been as interested in closeting celebrities as the celebrities themselves have been," Musto said. "I've read things in gossip columns that would never go there in the past and realized, 'Wow, they're going there now.' They don't consider gay a dirty thing anymore. And it's very cool."

Jared Shapiro, the editor of Life & Style, said that the Lohan-Ronson story has indeed presented a unique set of issues for celebrity magazines. "Why is this couple different than every other couple?" Shapiro asked rhetorically recently on the telephone. "We know they're not friends -- we know they're in love, we know they're dating.

"Major movie star! Gay, question mark? Bisexual, question mark? Um." For Shapiro, those questions are just the first stop, and his magazine devoted its cover this week to them, asking, "Is Lindsay Gay?"

Before that, Shapiro said, the magazine had chosen to "follow their step-by-step," which is fairly easy because the couple are out so often. In a sense stories about the doings of "LoRo," as they've been called, are just standard celeb-gossip fare. And yet, Shapiro said, there is undeniably a larger issue looming over each story.

He returned to the rhetorical to ponder the question: "At what point do we editorialize and say why we think this is important?"

None of the other weekly magazines or gossip columns seems to have reached that point of what-does-it-all-mean analysis, either. Each has used the same template for this relationship as they do week after week for, say, "Eva and Tony" or "Nicole and Keith": "Lindsay Lohan Turns 22 With Samantha Ronson at Her Side" read the headline of a from this month. On the cover of its July 14 issue, "Lindsay & Samantha: Inside Their Hot Romance" to its readers; and on its Love Notes page on June 30, US asserted that "those close to the pair call it love" under the headline "Lindsay & Samantha: This Is for Real."

Nothing is official

Still, THE facts can't be pushed aside: There has been no official acknowledgment from Team Lohan -- or Team Ronson, for that matter -- that the relationship is Sapphic. So to discuss it looks a lot like outing, which is, to paraphrase , "publicizing homosexual behavior without the person's (or people's) consent."

No less an authority than Bonnie Fuller, the former editor of US and Star and numerous other publications, who is both credited and blasted for creating the current gossip world we live in, said in a telephone interview, "I don't think we've ever been in the business of outing celebrities at celebrity news weeklies."

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