Our society is “addict” happy. The increasing medicalization of addiction welcomes new ways to treat, address and/or ignore addictions and we, as a society, have been trained to recognize addiction at the drop of a flask, can’t we? We sure do label individuals and addicts all the time so we must be experts. Right?
What do you think of when you think of an addict? A person who has hit the dreaded rock bottom? Rebecca Tiger addresses this notion of addiction within the context of celebrity Lindsay Lohan and her public struggles with addiction in the article They Tried to Make Her Go to Rehab. Tiger notes: “While the U.S. increasingly medicalizes addiction, searching for pharmaceutical cures, it simultaneously criminalizes drug use, leading to a system in which some addicts are managed by both rehabilitative and punitive measures, treatment and incarceration, in an effort to achieve the goal of sobriety.” It seems as though everyone has their own theory on how Lindsay Lohan can obtain sobriety, or at least they offer suggestions and/or opinions on how she should be “handled” as an addict.
Just this month on Perez Hilton, Lindsay was tagged in yet another blog post regarding a potential intervention. The twenty-two comments from readers that followed this post ranged from statements like, “she doesn’t want help, it’s obvious she’s using and partying, same old, same old, as always. She looks awful, her face is the face of a hard-core drug user. I say leave her alone. Eventually she’ll OD and that’ll be that” to calling Lohan a “wasted piece of DNA”.
These comments are a great example of biopower and how it is embodied within a society to establish control over an individual – in this case, the “addict” Lindsay Lohan. Jeffrey Jerome Cohen addresses similar examples of biopower in his work Monster Theory. Cohen states, “The monster is continually linked to forbidden practices in order to normalize and to enforce” (Cohen, 16). Biopower roots itself with the body and society uses the monster as a living example, even citing dead monsters like Amy Weinhouse or Whitney Houston to police the body against drug and alcohol abuse.
Celebrities offer ways in which identity of the self has been transformed through the cultural economy of entertainment. Society can police these figures openly, either on blogs or in other public spheres, while policing themselves through their own knowledge concerning addiction. This is a wonderful example of governmentality and it explains how we partake in social control. It is important to question who or what is influencing this authority. Furthermore, it is especially important to acknowledge intersections of gender and race to see how society criticizes a gendered expectation. Examine the similar antics of Charlie Sheen in which blog comments read, “The guy is a crazy but who can stop him when he makes a mill per episode?” The fall of a women under the influence of addiction feeds into a familiar trope of feminism regarding wasted feminine potential.