Friday, February 09, 2007

The Scripted End of Anna Nicole

From a purely narrative point-of-view, Anna Nicole Smith has suffered the perfect end. A tabloid death to punctuate a tabloid life. Cue the music for True Hollywood Stories, we have a great American tale here.

More so than any other modern celebrity, Anna Nicole epitomized the commoditization of fame. With no discernable talent, man-made D-cups and a moderately attractive face, Anna Nicole was famous simply because our culture demands more celebrity than the genuinely talented can provide. By being the right type at the right places and making the right choices (and the right mistakes), Anna Nicole became famous. An inflatable celebrity product.

What makes the Anna Nicole variety of celebrity so fascinating is their endless quest for attention. Unlike those who have talent and will continue to garner attention for that talent, Anna Nicole celebs catch the spotlight because of their fame and maintain their fame by staying in the spotlight. Only through ballsy acts of gold-digging matrimony, high-level court cases, humiliating reality television and bizarre paternity disputes could a woman of Anna Nicole’s limited appeal stay on the covers, or at least on the insets, of so many major magazines.

So, what better way to secure her endless celebrity than by meeting an untimely end? No fading into obscurity for Anna Nicole. No, she will now live on as a member of the died-too-young club that fittingly includes Jayne Mansfield and Marilyn Monroe, the two bombshells on which Anna Nicole’s handlers originally modeled her upon.

For those who knew the real Anna Nicole Smith and certainly for her newborn child, her death is a tragic loss. But for the rest of us, there is something entirely unsurprising, something bizarrely preordained about this event. Our celebrity culture lives for these moments of sudden death just as it feeds on turbulent lives of the world’s Anna Nicoles – an endless parade of unremarkable humans become shallow distractions become paper icons.

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