Ever since the term “celebrity” was coined, these pop culture leaders have influenced our lives. They define what’s “cool” in fashion, food, fitness, entertainment, vocabulary, and as of recently, the legal system. As Lindsay Lohan starts her 90-day jail sentence today, she joins a long list of celebrities who have served time behind bars. Khloe Kardashian was sentenced to 30 days in jail for violating her DUI probation, Kiefer Sutherland was sentenced to 48 days in jail for drunk driving, and Lil Wayne is currently serving his one year prison sentence for carrying a loaded gun on his tour bus.
Have these celebrities started a new trend in Hollywood? Is jail the new rehab? Well social psychologists seem to think so, and are concerned about its impact on young, impressionable fans. Arthur Robin, head of psychology at Children’s Hospital of Michigan suggests that celebrities are glorifying the experience of going to jail, which is reducing the negative stigma associated with jail and prison.
In some cases, jail time can even be a positive experience for celebrities, who usually serve time under house arrest and reduce their sentences with good behavior. Celebrities can also enjoy positive consequences post jail; Lindsay Lohan may receive more than $500,000 for her post-jail interview, and Lil Wayne, who is releasing his next album from prison, made Forbes Top 100 most powerful celebrities.
Even Hollywood is capitalizing on this new trend by providing opportunities to former jailbirds like NFL star Michael Vick, who will join the Pros vs. Joes cast to compete against amateur contestants in an athletic competition. Reality shows are even following the celebrities into jail, and networks such as E!, Bravo, and Spike are negotiating deals to produce a reality show filming Lindsay Lohan while she serves her sentence.
This warped world of celebrity justice is clearly sending the wrong message to kids, suggesting that breaking the law will result in no negative consequences. Can we blame celebrities for this mixed messaging? Or should we blame the justice system for bending the rules for celebrities? Or blame Hollywood for giving convicted celebrities a second chance? Regardless of who’s at fault, I am certain of at least one thing: celebrities live a good life.