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Last Friday marked the debut of this ad, featuring a mug shot of Lindsay Lohan after her arrest last year for drunk driving. I finally saw it today in the New York Post. Somehow it doesn’t seem right to me to use this kind of image in this way. I’m not sticking up for Lohan and her repeated arrests and serial-rehab ways. But does she deserve this?
The ad is not an anti-drinking-and-driving ad. In fact, it is paid for by a restaurant and liquor group that is campaigning against the mandatory installation of ignition interlocks. These devices analyze a driver’s breath, and if they detect alcohol they won’t let the car start.
These would be great for drunks like Lindsay, says the ad, but bad for all of us who want some wine at lunch. “No more toasts at weddings,” we are warned. “Let’s stop drunk driving without eliminating our traditions.”
That’s a shaky argument—the ad wants us to eat our cake (beer at the ball game before the drive home) and have it too (remove drunk drivers from the road).
The deft use of symbolism is the key here: The ad creates a two-tiered system of drunkenness—an “us” and “them” in which “us” are responsible imbibers and “them” are pretty much without redeeming value—a position that Miss Lohan now finds herself in. A certified cultural scourge, she becomes in this ad a convenient foil, staring at us from the police photo and inviting us to feel ever more virtuous about our own behavior.
Lindsay Lohan doesn’t have anyone but herself to blame for her life. But this ad let’s the rest of us off the hook when it comes to our own responsibility.—David Schonauer