I wanted to be wrong about Lindsay Lohan’s Beach Club.
Even though the trailer for her new reality show made me feel sad, I thought there was a chance, however unlikely, that an MTV paycheck might pave the way for a Lohan comeback. Unless she’s aspiring to become the next Kris Jenner, queen of reality TV, this seems unlikely. I’m thrilled, however, that the show uses Lohan’s 2008 single “Bossy.” Collect those royalties, girl!
Instead of a star vehicle, Beach Club is some painful voyeurism. From the first shot of Lohan wearing too much makeup, her lips painted a technicolor pink that clashes with her delicate, freckled skin, you want to reach through the screen and give her a hug. When LiLo fled America to live in Dubai and Greece, she was retreating to heal and rebuild herself. The toxic environment of a reality TV set seems like the worst place on Earth to do that.
In its opening minutes, Beach Club addresses Lohan’s painful past. She’s been famous since she was a child, her parents took advantage of her, and she was harassed by the paparazzi. She sought an escape through partying, which devolved into substance use disorder, which turned into a rap sheet and rehab. It’s kind of miraculous that Lohan made it out alive.
Lohan waxes poetic about Mykonos in a voiceover, while stock footage plays of white stucco balconies and ample bikini-clad butts diving into the turquoise ocean. (Seriously, so, so many butts.) But the thing Lohan loves most about the island, she tells us, is that “it’s safe.” Out of context, it’s a weird thing to say.
But there’s a dark reason Lohan decided to buy the stretch of beach she has turned into a party destination. It’s the site where her ex-fiancé Egor Tarabasov assaulted her in 2016, in front of other beachgoers and paparazzi. In photos, you see the “Russian playboy” violently grabbing Lohan, who is a tangle of reddish hair and pale flesh as her dress gets ripped askew. They’re hard to look at.
After giving Tarabasov the heave-ho, Lohan considered what her biggest “fuck you” move could be, and she decided to buy the beach where he assaulted her. “Instead of crying or getting angry I said, ‘I’m going to own this beach one day,’ because I always want everyone to feel safe,” Lohan says in the Beach House pilot. “I made it something that is meaningful to me.”
The thing that sets Beach House apart is Lohan herself. Otherwise it’s a cookie cutter copy of every other reality TV show out there: put some shameless hot people in a fancy house, make alcohol readily available, then alternately shame them or laugh at them for being dummies. Wash, rinse, repeat.
The world of Beach Club feels like Jersey Shore transposed to Greece, peopled by the same-old “gym, tan, laundry” loving 20-somethings, except they’re honestly not as interesting as Snooki or Pauly D. Lohan’s refuge in Mykonos is like an LA nightclub or a Las Vegas pool party, just with more sand. It’s extravagant and tacky in equal measure. (Now the abundance of ample booties makes sense.)
There are a few other cringey things about Beach Club that make you think, “Yep, 2019 is a cultural void.” First of all, Lohan’s business partner, Panos Spentzos, is the real Lisa Vanderpump running the show, and he’s terrible. The first time he meets the “VIP Hosts” he’s hired he says, “You look cute, all of you, which is a very good thing for me.” Later, Spentzos assigns Brent Marks, a promoter from Vegas, to wait on a wealthy “model” from Dubai who rolls up to the Beach House solo. Marks ends up making out with her in a private cabana while the rest of the cast seethes. Spentzos has essentially pimped out his staff, but that works just fine for him, an awful playboy archetype himself. The whole fog of toxic sexual politics is exhausting.
Lohan's whole “professional lady” cosplay comes off as a charade, from the scene where Lohan and Spentzos surprise the drunk, skinny-dipping cast to have a Serious Business Meeting™, to the moment when Lohan proclaims “I have no emotion when it comes to business.” I haven’t seen the books for Lohan Beach House, but it doesn’t seem like things are going super well. To be fair, it’s the off-season in Mykonos, but a visitor recently told Vanity Fair she saw a “literal tumbleweed” at the club during her pilgrimage.
Still, unlike a lot of other reality TV, which tends to be “bad in a good way,” Beach Club made me feel sad in a way other trash entertainment doesn’t. The show centers on a bunch of narcissists who give up their lives to work for someone they consider an icon, but who is clearly still working through a myriad of traumas.
Even if Lohan is fulfilling a dream of business ownership, and even if purchasing the club was a big “fuck you” to an abusive ex, it's concerning and just weird to watch her use her pain to rebuild her brand and simultaneously feed the content-hungry masses.
I wish she’d use her wealth and influence to give back to the country she claims has healed her. Lohan isn't obligated to do charitable work. But Lohan's wealth and influence could make a huge impact in Greece, as long as she worked with reputable aid organizations. But for now, while Lohan navigates the next step of her journey, we’ve got Beach Club, a TV show about the starlet's golden hideaway, where she's still surrounded by cameras, but now she feels safe.
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This article originally appeared on VICE US.