Friday, February 09, 2007

The Queen of White Trash is Dead...

Long live the Queen of white trash!

As the news of Anna Nicole Smith's death spread around my office like news of a car wreck outside on the street, I wasn't sure how to react. My first thought in my head was I'm surprised it took this long. Which is a horrible thing to think, so I just kept it to "Holy crap!" aloud. I think the media took this tack too, with posting a photo gallery called "Anna Nicole Remembered." Which was kind of funny since you had to be 18 or have a dad who subscribed to Playboy to see most pictures of Anna Nicole in her heyday in the early '90s. The lofty title of the photo gallery bothered me. This isn't exactly as deep a national period of sadness as when President Ford died but gave it the same treatment, probably to keep people clicking on their homepage instead of moving to E! online.

I'm sure a lot of hipsters and people who aren't really into pop culture will wonder what the big fucking deal is about a woman who showed her boobs for money dying. In the global sense of life, Anna Nicole Smith didn't matter very much. She didn't try to forge mideast peace. As far as I know, she never did any charity work. Her reality show made me want to take a shower so powerful was the smell of trash when I watched it. Why do we care about this woman who came from nothing and pretty much went back to nothing at the end of her life?

We care because Americans love people who lead the lives of the rich without any of the responsibility that comes with money. People paid out $39.99 to look at videos of Paris Hilton doing blow with that Girls Gone Wild guy. We love that Paris has all this money and fame without doing anything to get it. Our Horatio Alger stories have shifted significantly since the 1900s from working hard to get ahead to doing little and getting further ahead. As Dire Straits and Sting said, we want our money for nothing and our checks for free. Anna Nicole Smith basically lived that dream for us. She met J. Howard Marshall at a strip club and eventually married him, becoming an oil heiress who posed for Playboy. Then she got into fights over the estate of her late husband, had that horrible TV show, and made more money than most of us will ever see for doing comparatively little. On some level, that's what we all want (without the old guy husband).

I may be coming across as a bit crass, which isn't the case. I do feel bad for Anna Nicole-- she had a rough emotional life, especially at the end-- and her problems with drugs didn't help. I'm not belittling the loss to her family, but why should we who didn't know her care? I think it's because she got ahead without intellect or talent, which has become the new American dream.

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