Six years ago, Lindsay Lohan was a redheaded ingenue, headlining a funkily twisted teen comedy written by embryonic supergenius Tina Fey. Lohan was already a Disney sweetheart, but Mean Girls seemed to announce her arrival as a major teen megastar. Almost instantly, everything went sour: Within a year, Lohan had gone blonde, and was beginning a four-way tango with the paparazzi, the L.A. club scene, and the criminal justice system. (In a weird way, Mean Girls anticipated all of this: her character goes from being a spunky outsider to a much-despised popular girl. So basically, Lindsay Lohan is to Mean Girls as Orson Welles is to Citizen Kane.) This summer, Lohan was released early from jail, and then rehab. In an interview from the new cover story of Vanity Fair, Lohan says, “I was irresponsible,” and compares her frantic last half-decade to living her college life in public. The question remains: Can Lindsay Lohan’s career ever really recover?

Short answer: yes, with an if. No career is ever really over. Mickey Rourke apparently spent 20 years living in a swamp, but he was propelled back into the mainstream by Robert Rodriguez, who gave the actor a redefining role in Sin City. Lohan is appearing in Rodriguez’s new film Machete as a gun-toting nun, which makes more sense than Just My Luck 2. If Lohan can reinvent herself, then she might start filling theaters again.

Long answer: no, with a but. It’s almost impossible to imagine a director like Robert Altman wanting to work with Lohan again. Heck, it’s hard to even imagine that any marketing department would put Lohan in a movie preview. Lohan wasn’t just a tabloid fixture: she was also the star of the some of the worst movies ever made (one of which provided us with the best PopWatch post ever). As excited as I am for Machete, it’s weird to think that, at the age of 24, Lohan is already getting the kind of cult-fetish role that Rourke was getting in his 50s. It seems to announce the beginning of a meta-phase of her career. (Same goes for the rumored biopic about Linda Lovelace. Come on, people, they even have the same initials!) Not that there’s anything wrong with playing a tabloid-ish version of yourself, but in Freaky Friday, Mean Girls, and even Bobby, Lohan was playing real characters. She was an actress. In the interview, Lohan says that she wants to be an actress again, and “if that takes not going out to a club at night, then so be it.” Let’s hope she’s telling the truth.

What do you think, PopWatchers? Can Lindsay Lohan become a true movie star again? Is it weird that, as my colleagues Keith Staskiewicz and Emily Exton pointed out, every other actress in Mean Girls has a more viable career now than Lohan? (Okay, maybe not Lacey Chabert, but that’s a different PopWatch post.)

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