Andrew Hamm: the Bipolar Express

Ruminations on theatre, music, and just about anything else that crosses my bipolar brain.

Friday, February 09, 2007

Goodbye, Abnormal Jean

I can’t help but find the story of Anna Nicole Smith’s death tragic, not so much because of her death as because of the way it framed her life, a kaleidoscope of approval-grasping and self-destruction. Smith wanted to be Marilyn Monroe, and I guess she got what she wanted: money, fame, beauty, sex, scandal, and premature death. There was no way for her life to end other than this, sacrificed on the altar where we worship wealth and celebrity.

In life, Anna Nicole Smith was a walking, talking, giggling and jiggling tabloid headline: Playmate of the Year, gold-digger, trophy wife. Fluctuating weight, unpredictable scandalous behavior, drug abuse. Reality-television train-wreck, and finally grieving mother. In death, she becomes an icon of Warholian celebrity. She has become the poster child for the TV-age American Dream: fame and fortune as a goal, not a result of talent or achievement. Make no mistake, Anna Nicole Smith had no talent whatsoever. Her notoriety was based solely on her ability to remain notorious. Next up: Paris Hilton, whose only contribution to society is her prominence in society's so-called "high" regions.

Most interesting to me has been the wall-to-wall coverage of Smith’s passing by the television media, which has portrayed her in death as some combination of Marilyn Monroe, Mother Theresa and Mary Magdalene. Perhaps this is a post-mortem apology for treating her entire life like a series of punchlines to jokes you wouldn’t tell your mother. It’s all fun and games until someone loses their life.

Now sit back on your couch and watch as we learn nothing whatsoever from her life or her death. As we increasingly celebritize destructive behavior, the behavior has to become more and more destructive in order to titillate. Jerry Springer, Maury Povich, and their ilk will continue to make dysfunction and amorality into disposable entertainment. Ozzy Osbourne’s family gives way to Gene Simmons’, which will give way to Marilyn Manson’s, and eventually, I promise you, Charles Manson’s. American Idol will continue making fifteen-second celebrities out of people with dreams bigger than their talent or self-awareness. And no one will pay any attention whatsoever to what happens to these people when the red light on the camera turns off.

Somewhere in America, some pretty young blond-haired blue-eyed girl is starting today on her dream to become the next Anna Nicole Smith.

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  • At 2/09/2007 5:16 PM , Blogger Joey Fanelli said...

    What an amazing post. It really is, written well and hitting every major pressure point with a jolt.

  • At 2/11/2007 10:44 AM , Blogger Frank Creasy said...

    Anna Nicole's life and celebrity are disturbing on multiple levels. Is it worse that someone with no talent and "augmented" beauty becomes rich and famous, or that WE enabled it in the first place? Should we be troubled by her vacuous superficiality, or by the fact that she KNEW she could manipulate our culture in spite of her obvious shortcomings?

    Frances Gumm became Judy Garland thanks to a truckload of talent, and Marilyn Monroe developed serious acting chops ranging from comedy to drama. Anna Nicole, Paris, Nicole and others like them aspire to everything that makes Betty Friedan roll in her grave and gives Gloria Steinem night sweats and dizzying nightmares. Is this REALLY the decline of western civilization? Perhaps that's too dramatic. But when the other end of the spectrum for female role models is Hillary Clinton, it's clear that feminism needs to establish a new set of values for Hannah Montana and her burgeoning sisterhood.

  • At 2/12/2007 8:52 AM , Blogger Andrew Hamm said...

    Great post, Frank.

  • At 2/13/2007 9:49 AM , Blogger PhilBiker said...

    "Like my Body?"

    Who'd have thought that when she married that old, old man that she'd only outlive him by a few years.

  • At 2/13/2007 12:37 PM , Anonymous George Peele said...

    Not sure if I agree that Marilyn Monroe was a good actor. But she was definitely a sensation...

  • At 2/13/2007 6:16 PM , Blogger Joey Fanelli said...

    congrats, Hamm, you have a dead English dramaist commenting your blog, or at least someone with the same name.

  • At 2/20/2007 10:04 AM , Blogger Kate said...

    Bullseye. Well and truthfully said. It's just so sad to see people's tragic lives spiral out of control yet glamorized. But a lot of people are just obsessed with celebrities. Ok, I'll just stop here since you said it best in the post!


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