Anna Nicole Smith:
the Fascination with the embodiment of all of America’s Stereotypes
Janet Kuypers editorial
You heard it on the news at great length about the passing of Anna Nicole Smith on February 8th this year. And yes, I’m sure we’d all say that she was some generic bimbo stereotype, and you don’t know why on earth I’d be talking about it. But I bring it up because even though I didn’t get Playboy (surprise surprise), and even though I don’t really remember her Guess advertisements (though I have to say that her hair and emulation of Marilyn Monroe was really phenomenal in those ads...), and even though I don’t think I saw more than a episode’s worth of the Anna Nicole Smith Show” (only long enough to see how dependent on drinking wine on television really was for the drunkard), well, even though I wasn’t really a “supporter” of her lifestyle, I was transfixed to any drive-by media news footage of news on Anna Nicole Smith’s death. And I tried to figure out why.
I heard people talk immediately after her passing about what a bubbly personality she had, and how genuine she was, and how straight-forward she was. And all I could think whenever I heard anyone talk that way, was that people will only say the nicest things after a person passes, but she was a stripper who married Texas billionaire/oil tycoon/octogenarian J. Howard Marshall and felt she had due an f-load of money when he died, who drank like a sieve and ballooned (only to get a company to pay her for advertising to lose weight).
Oh, I shouldn’t be so mean. This 39 year-old woman, who just had a baby daughter, witnessed her son’s death. I can tell you how horrendous it is to lose a parent (I wouldn’t even wish that on my worst enemy), but I can only guess that it’s exponentially worse to lose your child. And what’s even worse is that every report indicated her bond and love of her son, which was so great, and she referred to her son as “her rock.” as the only one she could talk with and the only one she could share her life with. It has to be terrifying to go through the loss of a son you are so incredibly close to.
But tie these two points together, people after her passing talked about how nice she was, then talked about the Hell she went through in losing her son shortly before her death. Tie her son’s death with the fact that she was fighting for money from her marriage, which she thought should have been hers. Tie that with the fact that she was able to balloon to a preposterous weight (I think I heard reports that she was once 220 pounds), and then lost it in such a short period of time (she lost that much weight in months, not years). She had an f-load of stressors in her life, and all of this could cave had such an extreme effect on her, Poor thing.
But I’m not the only one who has sounded mean when talking about her — I saw tabloids after her passing with headlines suggesting “Someone killed both her and her son,” magazines with “photos of her death scene.” And after her passing at least 4 or 5 men have claimed that they were the father of Anna Nicole’s baby daughter, from Howard K. Stern (who is listed as Dannielynn’s father on her birth certificate) to photographer Larry Birkhead, to ZaZa Gabor’s husband to a bodyguard of Anna Nicole’s to the Immigration officer in the Bahamas (they assume that as the father they’d stand to get a lot of Smith’s money to raise her daughter). And they argued in courts over every last detail for Smith — her estranged mother wanted to get her daughter’s body for burial in Texas, while potential fathers argued for needing DNA to prove the child’s father, all while Anna Nicole Smith decomposed in the Bahamas waiting for people to make up their minds. And the sad thing is that smith didn’t even have an updated will — her will (which the mother argued was invalid because it was never filed in court) stated that everything of her’s was to go to her son Danny, who died right around the time Dannielynn was born, months before Smith died.
Even after her passing, people drew the comparison between her and Marilyn Monroe (you know, they even had the same hair style for a bit, and they both had an untimely death at an earlier age...), but anyone with any knowledge will remember that the type known to court Marilyn Monroe were well-known playwrights (like Arthur Miller, who married her), versus Smith’s choice an aged tycoon who was close to death to marry. Marilyn Monroe is still considered an icon; Smith, like the commonality of her last name, will be forgotten with the next big entertainment story.
Speaking of the commonality of her last name, consider that Anna Nicole “Smith” isn’t even really her real name. I mean, I suppose there’s nothing wrong with the most-common-name-in-the-United-States Smith,’ but when I heard that this wasn’t even her real name, I wondered how awful was her last name had to originally be, to decide to change it to Smith? But when I heard the name Smith, I thought that in a way, she strove for being generic.
Wait, that sounds rude again. Let me rephrase that: she was striving to be the generic icon.
What the Hell does that mean? Well, think of the name, it’s not something anyone would be offended by... Think of her breast implants — they’re almost comically huge and can look offensive, but most men would disagree with calling them “comically” anything, or calling them offensive (they don’t mind the pain women go through to please them... and trust me, breast implants that large are painful) Think of her blonde hair (I’m positive that every strange of hair on her head isn’t her natural hair color). Think of her gaudy excesses, from her money, to her excess in breast size, to her excesses in drinking wine at every opportunity on her reality television show, to the fact that if she ever attended any Hollywood function, the largest entourage of dressers and stylists and guards had to accompany her. And in some ways, all of these things make her look like the generic icon.
Granted, some people in the United States don’t think she’s worth much, but many foreigners — well, many foreign men — think Anna Nicole Smith embodies America very literally. People in repressed cultures marvel at the brassy blonde hair. The fact that she’s been able to sweet-talk her way into her fame and fortune is even something of an American dream; I think a small part of a lot of people in this country would wish that something would happen to them so they’d suddenly have a lot of money, or that they’d be thrown into the spotlight and gain any fame they can substitute for recognition.
And I wondered why I was fascinated with watching the news to learn about Anna Nicole Smith’s passing. Well, maybe because she’s that generic icon who seemed to stumble into more accomplishment than she worked for, and maybe she was not the smartest thing and she was able to reap these successes. She was able to grab a big piece of that American Pie that we all want a larger slice of, so... So I don’t know why learning about her death was fascinating, but it was. In that gory, simple way, it was.
Tunku Varadiarajan even wrote in the Wall Street Journal (02/13/07) even wrote that in her pursuit of wealth, in her fight with the family of her dead husband for money, she was also looking for “validation in litigation” — which is probably something we all want, wanting to feel better simply because we have more money. Anna Nicole Smith only took the excesses of a lot of things that a lot of us in part want, and took them to such a radical extremes that it may have led to her death. She supersized everything in her life, and by seeing her recovery from her crash and burn in the 90s to a way to generically display her faults in her reality television show, she somehow became, in some respects in America’s eyes, larger than life.
And the additional draw of her was that she was so accessible — the media wanted to know about her, and she even displayed herself in her television show. She broadcast her weight loss by getting paid for showing herself off with TrimSpa. Any news reports on the money she would get after her husband’s death was covered in the news. The birth of her daughter and the death of her son — especially when they happened in the Bahamas — were really covered in the news.
So yeah, she was in your face, whether you wanted it or not. But a lot of people were allowed to be voyeurs, and if that didn’t apply to people, then reality television show wouldn’t be so popular. People wanted to see her, maybe because they wanted to see when she would self-destruct. Because even if she had a lot of demons in her past, and compounded on the baggage she carried for altering her persona (she wanted to appear like Marilyn Monroe, and people are silly enough to associate her with Monroe now after her death). It doesn’t matter if she chose to highlight her blonde hair or have huge breast implants, it’s still baggage to your psyche, trust me, and she carried the baggage of losing her son after losing a husband whose death kept her fighting in trials for what she thought was here. She may have had an beaming smile on the outside at all times, but models and dancers learn how to put on the right faces to make everyone smile. If you dug under her surface to see what she was really like, you might not have found anything — literally. It’s not nice to speak poorly of the dead, but this generic icon was literally that — all of the glitz and glam, all the fame and fortune, but no substance. And like a good actress, she spouted her lines on cue and gave the right smile to please everyone... Possibly everyone except herself.
The 24-hour media allowed us to be voyeurs, and we watched fiascos like her estranged mother wanting to move Anna Nicole’s body for burial in Texas, even though Anna Nicole had her son buried in the Bahamas and specifically said that she wanted to be buried with her son (I think she even bought plots for the both of them when her son died). So we’ve been forces to be bystanders in this hillbilly feud when one dead girl managed to stumble into a lot of money before her death. And as I said before, Anna Nicole Smith, like the commonality of her last name, will be forgotten with the next big entertainment story. And lucky us: less than two weeks after Anna Nicole Smith’s passing, Britney Spears (huge pop icon who married one of her dancers after a 50 hour Las Vegas wedding to a high school sweetheart, and even had a stupid reality show like Anna Nicole Smith...) shaved her head and had two tattoos.
See, I told you, there will always be someone to steal the spotlight from any insane Hollywood story...
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