Friday, February 09, 2007

The Death of Anna Nicole Smith

It's probably a sad commentary on our society and interests when, at a time when Americans are dying in Iraq, the larger Mideast is in turmoil, and thousands are dying every day in Darfur, the lead story on the national news is about the death of a single, sad, quasi-celebrity.

Anna Nicole Smith passed away yesterday from causes yet to be clarified. The 39-year old former topless dancer, Playboy model, reality TV 'star,' and society gadfly leaves behind a five-month old daughter of uncertain parentage and joins in death her 20-year-old son.

Ms Smith will be missed by her family, friends, and fans, but the unfortunate end to her turbulent life calls into question her lifestyle and the way in which we create and devour our celebrities. She leaves behind a squalid custody and paternity dispute over her daughter, a still-unsettled lawsuit over her claim to the vast fortune of her late billionaire husband J. Howard Marshall, and an empty space in vacuous 'reality television' that some other 'celebrity' will surely soon emerge to fill.

I don't understand what people saw in this lady. I didn't think she was especially attractive (you can read previous posts in this blog for my thoughts on feminine beauty and desirability), and if you ever saw any episodes of her TV show or her interviews on CNN's Larry King Live, you could see she wasn't a particularly talented or articulate young woman. She was a creation of her free-wheeling lifestyle and of our general worship of over-the-top celebrities. In a world populated with beautiful, intelligent and articulate women like my wife and many of my coworkers and dance friends, I have to wonder what people could see in a shallow and plastic artificial celebrity like Anna Nicole Smith.

But I don't mean to speak ill of the dead. Her sudden and unexpected death at the end of a short and strange life is a tragedy, and on a human level she has left a gap the lives of her family and friends that only time will fill. As John Donne wrote in his work Devotions Upon Emergent Occasions, "Any man's death diminishes me because I am involved in mankind; and therefore never send to know for whom the bell tolls - it tolls for thee."

Let's share in the real grief that accompanies Ms Smith's death, while we look at her life as a cautionary tale for ourselves and our children.

Have a good day. More thoughts tomorrow.


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