Since Lindsay Lohan’s life seems to be playing out like a campy made-for-cable movie these days (She ran over a pedestrian! She’s going to jail! Her family is insane!), it should have made sense that she was tapped to play Elizabeth Taylor on Lifetime. Who else would they get? Kate Winslet? Instead, when the news broke the Internet lit up with snarky speculation and gleeful derision. Then, months later, the reviews started popping up. Everyone from the Hollywood Reporter to Huffington Post urged us to watch this train wreck of a biopic and cackle until our abs ached. The reviews promised a Mommie Dearest “so bad it’s good” kind of flick. They told us to play drinking games. They said we’d have a great time. They set us up.
As a longtime fan of the real Elizabeth and Richard, I was first horrified and then ridiculously excited about Liz & Dick. The title alone was a sign that the filmmakers didn’t care about authenticity since Dame Taylor hated being called “Liz” – but Lifetime doesn’t have a reputation as a network that respects history and cares deeply about characters and story. Like a lot of people out there (you know you watched it too) all the reviews and hype had us primed for the most ecstatic TV-watching experience of our lives. People like Patton Oswalt and Lizz Winstead proclaimed they’d be live Tweeting Liz & Dick. The last time a bunch of strangers on the Internet felt like one big happy family was when Obama won reelection. Except for the Ann Coulter and Donald Trump faction, of course, but who cares about them? It’s actually surprising that Coulter wasn’t Tweeting vicious snark about Lohan’s performance. She left that to the rest of us.
Liz & Dick was silly, and almost as campy as the reviews promised. It was such a poor depiction of Taylor and Burton that at times the only thing keeping me from hurling a shoe at the television was Grant Bowler’s spot-on Burton voice. Going from playing Cooter the werewolf on True Blood to playing one of the greatest Shakespearean actors who ever lived is pretty impressive. Like a lot of people, I joined in on the live/drunk Tweeting about #LizandDick and I felt pretty pleased with myself when I thought I came up with a hilariously clever observation. Then something unexpected happened – I got bored. And I started feeling bad for Lindsay Lohan.
It was either all the wine, or the voice of my Southern mother ringing in my ears, warning: “Don’t be a Hateful Hanna,” but I erased all my Tweets (super lame, I know) and suddenly felt like we’d all been brainwashed into watching this dumb movie and acting like… Hateful Hannahs. Lifetime executives are probably still drowning in celebratory champagne and laughing at all of us for falling for their little stunt. No one I know watches Lifetime movies unless they’re severely hung over, heartbroken, or paralyzed by the flu and don’t have the strength to change the channel. And here we all were, men and women, tuning into Lifetime like they were broadcasting a press conference that was about to reveal who shot JFK.
Sure, watching Liz & Dick was fun, and reading cheeky Tweets about it was entertaining. It definitely wasn’t the hysterical TV miracle they promised, but, for better or worse, we just experienced a good old American cultural phenomenon. We got drunk and voluntarily watched a Lifetime movie on a Sunday night in November, just like they wanted us to. Let’s hope the next biopic is called Petraeus & Broadwell & Kelley, starring a slimmed down Val Kilmer, plus Jennifer Love Hewitt and Kim Kardashian. I’d fall for it again. Wouldn’t you?