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Young stars on different paths.

Lindsay Lohan vs. Scarlett Johansson

What do young starlets and media magnets Lindsay Lohan and Scarlett Johansson have in common? A lot and not much.

Both are husky-voiced beauties filled with talent and potential well on their way to major movie careers; both grew up in New York; both started acting in their tweens, have displayed versatility and appealing personalities hosting Saturday Night Live, and are still quite young: Lohan 19, Johansson, 21. Both dated actor and 30 Seconds to Mars singer Jared Leto. This is about where the similarities end.

Before Lohan became tabloid fodder, she was a fresh-faced, girl-next-door type, best known for her dual role as twins in the remake of The Parent Trap: likable, sweet and endearing. In just eight short years, Lindsay Lohan has transformed herself from likable to loathable. In an attempt to capitalize on her fame, she has also dabbled in pop music.

In a case of too much too soon, she has become as famous for her off-screen exploits as for her celluloid or musical presence: exploits that include drug use, public nudity, revolving-door boyfriends, cat fighting, alarming weight-loss, trying to bed famous actors twice her age, and generally bizarre behavior many suspect could be the result of an out-of-control cocaine habit.

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Lindsay Lohan

Lindsay can be an extremely effective actress: delivering, for example, an inspired and convincing performance in the critically acclaimed film Mean Girls . In the movie, derived from the book Queenbees and Wannabees and scripted by SNL head writer Tina Fey, Lohan plays an outcast turned popular girl. Interestingly, Lohan’s transformation in the film in many ways parallels her off-screen backwards evolution in real life.

Scarlett Johansson, on the other hand is steady and composed. She embraces her curvy and natural body while projecting confidence and maturity well beyond her years. Described as grounded and serene, Scarlett is best known for her role as the object of the avuncular affections of the great Bill Murray in Lost in Translation. Private and graceful, Johansson shuns the paparazzi, speaking out against how intrusive and dangerous their pursuit of stars can be.

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Scarlett Johansson

On body image, Scarlett has this to say: “Everyone in Hollywood is so damn skinny, and you constantly feel like you’re not skinny enough. But I have ‘fat days’ and I accept that I’m never going to be rail thin. I try not to let the pressure get to me but Los Angeles is a very hard place to be unless you have people here that love you. It can be very, very lonely and it can eat you up if you don’t take care of yourself.”

On the contrary, Lohan admits to taking the unhealthy way out of weight gain, when she admitted to Vanity Fair that she was “making herself sick.” “I knew I had a problem and I couldn’t admit it.” So much so, that she accused Vanity Fair of misconstruing her words.

Both actresses have had experiences with illicit drugs, but from very different perspectives. In the same Vanity Fair interview — one Lindsay probably wishes she hadn’t done — she admits to “a little” drug use and waffles on whether that included cocaine: “I don’t want people to think that I’ve done…you know what I mean?”

No, I can’t say as I do.

Scarlett has a very different view on drug use. In an interview with Cosmopolitan, she talks about an ex-love who could never be trusted and she always felt a distant second to his love for drugs. “It was horrible. I won’t allow myself to get involved with someone like that again because you’re never as important as the drug. You can’t trust them, and you never know where they are. They lie. Every time they blow their nose, you’re like, ‘Hmmm.'”

Sounds like sage words on love and addiction.

When it comes to their love life, Johansson — currently dating fellow actor Josh Harnett — is much more realistic about the limitations of dating in her line of work. She even suggests that monogamy is unrealistic. “I don’t think human beings are monogamous by nature. It’s difficult – you have to put a lot of effort into a relationship. I think it’s hard for actors to date each other because they are so damn moody. You are away from people constantly and having a relationship that is strictly by phone, it is miserable. Or if you say to him/her, ‘Hey, (even though) I am doing a very sexy scene with this very sexy girl/boy, I love you and I’m going to be thinking of you when I am rolling around in bed with this person!'”

Lohan just chooses to date relentlessly and recklessly, demonstrating her views on monogamy.

In all fairness, Lindsay hasn’t had the easiest life. Her parents are both doing a mad grab to control Lindsay’s money and career and in the process have subjected her and her siblings to a nasty divorce. Her father, currently serving time in jail for drunk driving and assault charges has been a very volatile influence on the Lohan family – not to mention the overall difficulties of growing up before the camera.

I can certainly feel sympathy for Lindsay, she’s young and bound to make mistakes. But like Scarlett, she is an adult now and needs to make better choices.

Lohan has lashed out at the press and the world at large for not taking her seriously. She has expressed anger that fellow actresses Keira Knightley and Scarlett, both just two years older than Lohan, have gained respect for their work while she’s become a tabloid regular for her late nights and overactive love life.

“It’s hard for me to have to watch that. I work just as hard as those people and sometimes [the media] make it seem that they’re more mature because their fan base is more mature and my fan base is younger,” she said.

One cannot use their “young fan base” as an excuse for not being taken seriously and then offend that same fan base by setting a poor example.

If Lindsay hopes to attain the respect she longs for before her star power extinguishes, she needs to take a good hard look at herself and her behavior. With the new movie coming out, Prarie Home Companion, where she shares a billing with such powerhouses like Meryl Streep, she has an opportunity to make a positive impact on her image.

Taking a page from the Scarlett Johansson book, slow and steady will win the race; unless, of course, Lohan wants to end up coked up, burned out, and faded away before she’s old enough to rent a car.

About Dawn Olsen

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