It's a triumphant media coup, a perfect way to reach a large public.
Or is it? Is taking one's clothes off the right way for a scandal-ridden actress once remembered for charming teen roles in Mean Girls (2004) and Herbie Fully Loaded (2005) to reboot her career?
"The dream that [Lohan] can be an A-list star like Amanda Seyfried is officially gone," says Noah Levy, a senior news editor at the gossip glossy Us Weekly. Levy says that by doing Playboy, Lohan shows that "she understands her career will be more [like that] . . . of a Jayne Mansfield than a Marilyn Monroe."
With the Playboy appearance, Lohan has shifted from an A-list celebrity who had a promising acting career to a B-list personality whose career high might be a reality TV show.
"For Lindsay, posing in Playboy is a last resort," says Us Weekly executive editor Jaimee Zanzinger.
"It could even launch her on a new career," says Zanzinger, who explains that Playboy helped numerous celebrities to get their start, including Brooke Burke, Kim Kardashian, Olivia Munn, Kendra Wilkinson, and Tara Reid.
None of those women is likely to win an Oscar in the near future. They exist on the other side of a class divide.
But they do have an advantage over Lohan: They can get jobs. For now, at least, Lohan isn't likely to be hired by anyone in the industry, says Ronn Torossian, founder of 5W Public Relations.
"We are not talking about somebody who has made a mistake, but someone who has made a whole school of mistakes. She's a train wreck," says Torossian, whose firm has represented Sean Combs, Snoop Dogg, and Pamela Anderson.
"No one is going to take the chance of offering her a [movie] job."
What's left if you can't get signed to do a movie or TV show, or make a recording?
Your body. Get paid $1 million to show off your body - the fee Playboy reportedly paid Lohan for her troubles.
"Why did she do Playboy?" asks Levy. "I think she was just looking to get a job. I don't think she's even thinking in terms of letters of the alphabet anymore, it can be A, B, C, D or E, she just wants a job."
Lohan's pictorial may be tasteful - like many of her photo shoots, it is inspired by Monroe - but it still strikes some as desperate and seedy, says Andrew Mendelson, chair of Temple University's department of journalism.
"Plenty of actresses appear nude or partially nude in Maxim, FHM, GQ, and other men's magazines," he says, "but those magazines don't pay you to pose."
Playboy's pictorial is accompanied by an interview in which a remarkably penitent Lohan admits to her sins.
"During the past five years," she tells the magazine, "I've learned that time flies faster than you think, and because you only live once, you have to learn from your mistakes, live your dreams, and be accountable."
Lohan's intended effect? To beg our forgiveness and pave a path for a comeback, says Mendelson. "And we love comeback stories."
Media strategist Tony Panaccio of EMSI Public Relations in Florida wonders if the photo and interview aren't disjointed. Why appeal for forgiveness while at the same time making $1 million for posing nude?
"She's giving mixed messages," says Panaccio . "In one sense, she's giving one of those post-rehab interviews, saying 'I want to get my act together again' - but in a magazine which has her posing nude."
David Schmid, who teaches literature at the University at Buffalo, suggests the photos and the interview have the same intended effect - to present Lohan bare before her public, the consumers who will judge her worthy or not of their attention and their dollars.
"The therapeutic process of unveiling her emotions is consistent with her exposing herself" physically, says Schmid, author of Natural Born Celebrities: Serial Killers in American Culture.
Lohan, he says, is offering her body as a gift, baring herself in some ill-conceived act of contrition.
At the same time, Schmid says, he finds Lohan's stunt "so cynical and so opportunistic that I don't think people would fall for it."
The jury's out.
Contact staff writer Tirdad Derakhshani at 215-854-2736 or firstname.lastname@example.org.