ESSAY- Anna Nicole: How TV has failed us

"She was entropy porn at its finest."—Cintra Wilson, Salon

You would think that Mother Teresa had just died (again) the way the media– especially television– is covering every nuance of the life and death of Anna Nicole Smith.

Fox News Channel has labeled it a "tragedy," while devoting a portion of their website to a photo essay of her life. The Today Show ranks it ahead of their reporting on government corruption and cover-ups in the Libby trial. The LA Times provides readers with a timeline of her life, such that it was. The Houston Chronicle has printed a eulogy of sorts– thoughts from her friends (Playboy's Hugh Hefner being one of them) on her untimely death.

But it's an exotic dancer-turned-model that the media is turning itself inside out to glorify: a stripper who met an octogenarian billionaire at the topless bar where she was working, subsequently divorced her hometown husband in order to marry the oil tycoon, only to become a widow a year later and spend the rest of her life fighting over her inheritance and using her notoriety to win a place in the tabloid media spotlight.

Pure and simple, Smith was a creation of the media, a porn star personified. Playboy Playmate of the Year in 1993. Guess jeans girl for a season or two. Producer and headliner in several movies that went bust. Star of a TV reality show that dwelt on the absurdity of her life. Spokesperson for diet pills. Mother of two: a son whose death at age 20 reflected a fast-track culture of drugs, and a baby whose paternity is being challenged by two different men.

Anyone who dies deserves a certain amount of sympathy (to quote John Donne: "Any man's death diminishes me because I am involved in Mankind"). However, what I find offensive is the way the media has fallen over itself in its eagerness to glorify someone who left little behind except nude photos, a handful of lawsuits, and a five-month-old baby girl who may or may not be an heiress.

The media's obsession can be chalked up to the white goddess syndrome. Smith was a tall buxom blonde who positively smoldered with eroticism and sex, but she had no redeeming social or moral value other than as the object of the media's devotion. As author Neal Gabler said, "She had no talent. She couldn't sing. She couldn't dance. She couldn't act. She was attractive. Anna Nicole Smith's job was to live a cinematic life, which could then be broadcast by the media and entertain us. So she's an entertainer in this new art form, which is life itself. The only value she had was doing things that had narrative components that would then show up in supermarket tabloids. That was her life."

The true tragedy in all of this is not that Smith died, but that the media continues to fail the American public. First, they fail to give us the news. The death of Smith is not news. Very little real news is to be found on television anymore– it's newzak. Nearly all the news shows have shifted into entertainment formats; otherwise, they would not draw an audience in our entertainment-driven, non-information, low-content society. Most of the content of news programs now largely consists of inane entertainment items.

Second, the media has lost its way. The world is devastated by crisis, war, and the deaths of noble, courageous people. Yet seldom are their names even mentioned in the news. They have become mere statistics. However, this former stripper's death has already been given more coverage than the death of former President Gerald Ford.

Lest we forget, the media has a moral obligation to tell us what's going on in our society and the world, even if we don't like it. It's what we used to call the truth. They need to show us what's really happening. They need to challenge us. 

Instead, the media simply titillates the American public. Why? For the sake of ratings. That explains why they publicize their own media creations like Anna Nicole Smith.

Sadly, American society is essentially an extension of television. Some might even say that television is America's God. It holds tremendous sway over people's minds.

Maybe it's time to turn the television off. 



Amen Cletus. Yeah, let's turn the TV off now - what an original idea. Do you think maybe it's a bit too late for way too many.

Wow, aren't you a hater!?!?!?! Do you just not like women???? Jeez! The true tragedy here is that a human being died and a six month old baby is now motherless. If you don't like what you see on tv then change the channel for God's sake, don't sit there griping, then write a pathetic article about a woman degrading her after her death. That is pathetic! Who cares what she did, who cares how she became famous, who cares what she did wrong or right during her lifetime!! She was a human being in search of love just like everyone else in this world. Our media covers "crap" because that's what society wants to see, that's what society feeds off of....the pain of others, humiliation of our brothers and sisters, torture of innocents in other countries as well as our own, society lusts after the crap you just spent hours, maybe days writing. See, Mr. Whitehead you just wrote an article that consists of nothing but inane entertainment crap, wherein your self esteem and manhood was obviously boosted by your ability to degrade and trash a woman that did absolutely nothing to you. Put that on your resume big guy, it's pretty impressive. You are a judgmental jerk and I think The Hook ought to reconsider letting you write articles of substance, or articles of inane crap for that matter in the future. Rest in peace Anna Nicole Smith. You were a beautiful woman who went after what you wanted and I loved that about you. I am one of the many women in society that wanted to be more like you. Mr. Whitehead, lighten up, don't be a hater, it just shows me that you deep down really dislike yourself. If everyone could just be a little nicer to each other and stop hating, this world would be a much better that's something that you could really write about, and something I would love to read about!!

Mr. Whitehead, you had some good points, but then slipped into that kill-your-television Postman cliche. That was too easy an escape from a more complex problem that deserves more thought from someone like you. Something is clouding your mind. Instead, why not examine why people are more interested in this version of the news than yours. Does Anna have more relevance to the everyday lives of most people than Gerald Ford, or Mr. Libby? Take Savannah for instance, who reveals much or her thinking in her comment above. Or, how about examining the talent aspect. Today, there are so many people with talent, ability, or beauty. What makes some successfull and others not? Is it the right friends and relatives, or the willingness to trade in all dignity and morality - to sleep with the billionare. Or, how about reactions. We could examine that. What makes degreed and credentialed people like yourself crow at simple Anna's demise and deplore the media and public sentiment?

Cletus, why would you say Anna was a brainless gold-digger? You did not know her, neither did I. We only know what we were told by the media, so how can you judge her? No one knows what killed Anna Nicole, so you can't say she left her child. She died. I don't think any mother who is truly a good mother leaves their child, or even wants to leave their child. I think Anna Nicole Smith was a beautiful woman, she was bold and exciting. She lived life the way she wanted, with no boundaries, and what is so wrong with that? Who are we to judge each other anyway? I would never wish death upon anyone, and I am very disappointed to see you write such a comment. I guess what suprises me also is that you even refer to me as a "dim bimbo" and you don't even know me. I am neither "dim", nor am I a "bimbo". I guess if you can't pick on Anna, then you have to pick on someone. What is the purpose of degrading and lashing out at people? This is the kind of person you choose to be through your writing. Why? Who does it benefit? No one. If you want to make a difference then write something positive for the community to read, after all The Hook is a community based paper.

Cletus, John Whitehead, founder of the Rutherford Institute, whomever you are, you are a hateful, angry man and I feel very sorry for you.

Cletus~Were you born with your umbilical cord wrapped tightly around your neck? Or, are you really just this ignorant in making a total FOOL of yourself? Go back and read your article. Read it until it sinks in to your very closed and narrowed mind. Then read your responses to the contributors comments regarding this article. I have a feeling if I was to read the archives of your 'article' they would pretty much have the same 'flavor.' You're no better than the very 'media' mentioned in your article...what a bunch of CRAP! The Hook needs to make a big change...and let you OFF and OUT of there!


Cletus whoever gave you the job to voice your opinion needs to lose theres. Where in the hell do you get off talking about someone (ANS) that way and then having the nerve to regard a reader in such a tactless, disrespectful manner. You're the one who is wrong here and I hope you found what you were looking for, belittling others the way that you have. You need jesus, I'll say a prayer for you.

Wait... Are Cletus and Mr. Whitehead the same person? One would hope that the author of the article would not post messages such as these. If so, then I have a new view of the Rutherford Institute.

From her first entry, Savannah was criticizing Mr. Whitehead's article. Cletus, et al, why are you all defensive, insulting and vitriolic? These posts do not represent people who are interested in a rational dialogue.

Cletus, you do have a right to your opinion, and so don't we, but what i cannot understand is how you can result to 9th grade name calling. It's pathetic. And Savannah is right, you didnt know ANS and neither did anyone else that watched her on tv or read her in the paper and so forth. Nobody knows and of the celebs because we cannot talk to them person to person and the media is the only way we can possibly know what is going on in their lives. It's not always correct but that it the media. I also think you should have a little more respect for the dead, how would you feel if that was your daughter, wife, sister or friend that someone was trashing about??

Such heated responses! Its really sad that their is so much hatred in the world and a lack of compassion. I have to mention Jesus again because this is not what he taughts us. We are not to judge others. Ana Nicole Smith was a human being just like all of us. A person's worth should not be determined by how great an actress she can be, how physically beautiful someone is, whether they takes drugs or not. We are human beings and we all make mistakes sometimes. Ana Nicole may have made mistakes in her life but that is no reason for us to condem her. She is no longer alive. We need to end this banter and respect her for being a human being not for what we saw being portrayed in the media, not for her celebrity but for who she was when she went home and she was not in the spotlight. She had a son that she lost that was her everything and just gave birth to a daughter not too long ago. At least see her as a mother and that she had worth to her life. Its just sad that I even have to read such ignorance. I feel disgusted. It almost makes me feel like your hate is spreading because I'm starting to feel the same about the writer of this article and the people who even agree. I will definetely pray for all of you that the hate is dispelled from your hearts.

Whether you liked her or not, the woman is dead & isn't in control of all this attention she's getting. Have some respect. Asshole.

Cletus, thanks for the offer of flowers. After reading your posts, I'd have to decline. I might say or do something that you disagree with and be subjected to insults.

Whoever Professor Randall is, she seems to be the object of your affection, so it might be crowded.

What is your argument anyway? That you agree with what Mr. Whitehead already said?

Do you guys actually have lives?

What do you want from this message board? Validation for stating the obvious? To belittle people who don't feel like engaging with you when you spew nasty insults? To assume that you are right because no one addresses loaded questions? I only say these things because your posts seem to do this. My only impression of you and your thoughts is from your posts. People get self-righteous all the time on blogs, and it's tiring. It's really easy to flame others on an anonymous board. I think it's a lot more interesting to have a discussion.

I logged in to say what I thought, so here it is: No, ANS is not a role model. So far, no one has said that they wanted ANS to be their role model. Doubtful anyone would say they want to be just like her. I don't think famous person=role model. That's a hard standard to hold for anyone, famous or not. I do believe that all humans deserve compassion. Sure, make judgements, but is it necessary to brand a human worthless? The media attention to ANS is overdone and exhausting. Celebrity gossip is more like folklore and fairy tales these days, so I don't think it's a crime to show interest and take in a cautionary tale or two.

I'm done. Have fun.

I agree with the above and also with Savannah. No, she was not a role model. ANS was beautiful yes, but extremely troubled. I hate how the media hypes up celebs like they're gods and goddesses, but then when they're down and out or down in the ground for her (ANS) matter, they spat on them and ridicule every aspect of there life. Is all of this necessary? Do we need to be so unprofessional as to degrade and belittle anyone and call them a bimbo without truly knowing them? Whatever you think or don't think of Anna Nicole, I am saddened by the tragic life and death of this woman and that her son got caught up the same whirlwind and died, now there is another child out there who's motherless. I just pray she won't end up the same way!! No, we shouldn't glorify her life or any other celeb. We are all human, and some of us make a hell of lot more mistakes than others, but it's no reason to bash people up! The woman needed help, not ridicule. Thank you for your time.