I hated all the chatter about Anna Nicole Smith’s being famous for being famous – that was the way embarrassed writers and TV personalities, trying to present the story and distance themselves at the same time. But I think that Myrna Blyth has captured What It Really Meant (with a little help from journalism prof Robert Lichter):

“Robert Lichter really nailed it in his analysis of the media frenzy surrounding the Anna Nicole Smith story. Lichter, a George Mason University professor of journalism, explained in USA Today, “The media can’t resist when something serious happens to someone frivolous. She had everything the media looks for in a story: money, sex, and dieting. Her death is so irresistible because it lets people mourn and gloat at the same time.”

“Deep within the American consciousness beats the heart of a Victorian gentleman, who likes nothing better than a story that shocks as well as titillates and about which he can shake a finger and say, “Shame, shame.” It was that Victorian gentleman who was the target customer for mass-market papers that came into being at the end of the 19th century. The target customers for today’s TV tabloid shows and celebrity magazines, whose circulations keep growing and growing, are not so very different.”

“Anna Nicole Smith’s story really is the old morality talke of a girl who strays, becomes a stripper and a gold-digger, fall in with even more unsavory people, and finally comes to an appropriately bad, sad end. But upon this basic penny-dreadful is the overlay of a very 21st-century story of celebrity, where being famous for being famous is more than enough and can trump lack of talent, lack of substance, and especially, lakc of character (whether good or bad or anoything noteworthy at all).