"Anna Nicole Smith, dead of femininity at age 39."

Monday, February 12th, 2007

Thus far, 2007 is shaping up to be a fairly melancholic year, at least virtually. First came the passing of Zeke, beloved blog dog of the liberal/progressive corner of the internets. Last week, I was saddened to discover that Heidi, my favorite – and perhaps the most-photographed – dachshund on Flickr had died suddenly in a freak accident. I don’t think I’ve shed so many tears for other people’s companions, ever. Perhaps it’s just because my first-born is starting to get on in age, and I’m dreading the day when…gah, enough.

Anna Nicole Smith’s death…well, normally I wouldn’t pay much mind to the demise of a B-list star. And yet, I find myself mourning her death, albeit in a low-level way. Smith was something of an advocate for animals; she posed in several PETA ads, including two protesting Iams and fur. (Interestingly, the ads featuring Smith were arguably – and ironically – the more tasteful of PETA’s largely exploitative campaigns.) As an animal rights activist, the loss of a fellow activist hits hard. Yet, even my pensive mood and our shared values don’t explain why I feel such sorrow over her death.

Though she’s been (and even in death, continues to be) derided as a dumb, no-talent bimbo by the media, Smith is more deserving of sympathy than spite. Salon explains it eloquently, so rather than offer a half-assed paraphrase, allow me to quote Cintra Wilson:

Vickie Lynn Hogan of Mexia, Texas — the woman Spy magazine once called a “super-duper-model” — was ripe for the taking: She had always been compared to Marilyn Monroe, and she nursed these comparisons, right down to her own sense of victimization by a society that she perceived as having no respect for her, and to her self-fulfilling prophecy that she would die young and tragically.

Naturally, the death of her 20-year-old son didn’t help, and neither did the methadone. It was clear she lacked coping skills. Following the death of Daniel Smith, three days after Anna Nicole gave birth to a baby girl, the tabloids reported that the distraught new mother was so sedated that she needed to be reinformed of his death, again and again, every time she woke up … an excruciating ring of hell.

Even in such times of private agony, prurient interest now follows its victims everywhere. Wherever there’s a cellphone and an Internet connection, the camera can steal a soul. […]

What needs saying — what it seems nobody has yet said — is that when she was able to suppress her demons enough to pull herself together and look her best, she was fabulously gorgeous. Numerous red-carpet moments, the footage of which we now run over and over again like a televised rosary in order to understand her death, reveal this. Anna Nicole was a star because she possessed an unusually large amount of beauty. At her best, she didn’t evoke Marilyn Monroe so much as Anita Ekberg in “La Dolce Vita” — the strapless black dress, mounds of white flesh, piles of blond hair. She was indelicate, but an unstable element nonetheless — not so much a candle in the wind as a bonfire in a hailstorm. But the real similarity between Anna Nicole and Marilyn was their shimmering tension — an unsettlingly powerful physical beauty, collapsing irresistibly in real time beneath the frailties of its hostess. She was entropy porn at its finest.

Our fascinated gaze was her real addiction — and the humiliating media tractor pull between our disgust and our attraction for her was, in all likelihood, both her lover and her murderer. Fame, the only chemotherapy available for the desperate toxicity of narcissism, proves once again that it is deadly enough in its own right to be avoided.

Like all women, Smith tried her damnedest to adhere to society’s mandate that women be teh sexxy, that they be ready and willing to bend to the patriarchy at will. And then she was scorned and derided – abused – for doing so. Just as women like Hillary Clinton are criticized for being too smart, too successful, too manly, Anna Nicole Smith was castigated for her uber-submissiveness, her unabashed sexuality, her exaggerated femininity.

As Twisty opined:

If any doubts linger as to the sinister essence of the feminine directive marketed by the beauty industry, I urge you to consider the painful case of poor Anna Nicole Smith, dead of femininity at age 39.* Blonde bombshells are disturbingly disposable.

* The system that rewards a woman’s acquiescence to pornulation with fawning attention, cash, glamor, and fame can be fickle. Here is what one enlightened genius commenting on Smith’s Miami-Herald obit had to say about yet another icon destroyed by the pornsick culture he jacks off to on his computer every night: “Anna Nicole Smith — Stupid Life, Lived Stupidly, By a Stupid Person. A disaster from beginning to end.”

Too sexy or not sexy enough. Women just can’t win.

The media blitz is sickening, really; not just on accounta it mostly hates on the deceased, but because there are much more important stories out there. Those covering mocking Smith’s life and death reek of hypocrisy: they drone on about how inconsequential Smith’s life was, all the while trivializing the important events that they’re not affording adequate coverage, such as the War on Terra, the crises in Darfur and the Congo, heck, climate change, even. But 300000+ dead Iraqis does not a pornalicious scandal make, I ‘spose. Add to that the fact that those who made Smith famous are now decrying her undeserved fame, and you’ve got a pack of patriarchal media pricks.

So let’s help the press out, shall we? Take a moment to write CNN, the NY Times, your local paper, whathaveyou, and tell them how you think Anna Nicole Smith should be remembered. Not as a drugged-out bimbo, or every misogynist’s jagoff material.

Remind them that she was more than her celebrity.

Unlike more educated, esteemed, “respectable” individuals, Anna Nicole Smith worked to improve the plight of the single most disadvantaged group in our country, indeed, the world: animals. She spoke out against Iams’ torturous treatment of dogs and cats and campaigned against seal slaughter. She was more than boobs, booze, and blonde curls – she also had a big heart, in a world sorely lacking big hearts.

And that’s the Anna Nicole Smith that I’ll remember.

After the jump – a selection of Anna’s PSAs.

(More below the fold…)