Volume 76, Number 38 | February 14 -20, 2007

Talking Point

Anna Nicole Smith: Media creature

By Andrei Codrescu

The Anna Nicole Smith business hit me hard. I didn’t expect it. I was saddened, troubled, I nearly cried. I got mad at the letters from viewers on CNN. People said things like, Why give such coverage to the death of a nobody? Great scientists, thinkers and writers pass with nary a mention. Why give the airwaves over to a bimbo?

Rationally, these people were right, but I didn’t care about reason. I was amazed to discover just how much this operetta creature and overblown paparazzi fodder had gotten under my skin. When somebody called her a pale imitation of Marilyn Monroe, I cringed. Sure, she was that, too, but how many Marilyn Monroes have come down the pike since the original? A million Monroes, at least, some of them successful on their own, like Madonna, others gone like the pretty flotsam down the ever-hungry gullets of the media.

Anna Nicole Smith was her very own unique creature, a working-class girl who took off her clothes for America, first in a strip club, then in Playboy, then for a billionaire. But her greatest triumphs came when she put them back on to begin a staggering journey through our collective soul: she gained weight, lost weight, became a reality show, wept and harangued and exposed publicly her soul.

Her body, generously hinted at through ever-changing cloth, began to follow the twists and turns of her own mind rather than the simple demands of the public. She revealed her smarts and appeared smartly in courts to fight for her rights. At one point she told a judge, half smiling and brimming with a kind of subversive intelligence, “It’s not cheap to be me.” Indeed. Not cheap and not easy.

Her marriages and her liaisons were like lighting in a theater: the men were there only to illumine her larger-than-life person. In the end, she also revealed her maternal side. Her well-loved, maybe smothered, son, grew in her shadow and died of her vices. Throughout her adventures on earth she made sure to stay high, as high as possible, in order to be the best Anna Nicole she could be. When her son died from drugs, she must have plunged down from her own highs to a mirror in the abyss. The new baby she brought to earth must have satisfied some deep need to leave the stage to make room for a brand-new human being.

She was a creature of the media, proof that fame makes more fame, that we live in the age of the eternal feedback loop. When she died, the media seized her passing as if a great part of the media itself had passed, and it had. But beyond that, there was the generous content of the marvelous creature herself, a half-angel, half-demon who seared herself on my mind.

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