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Posted at 10:45 AM ET, 02/12/2007

Comment Box: Why Is Anna Nicole Front Page News?

By Liz Kelly

Why is this front page news? No impact on our lives at all. Much like Princess Diana. As nice as she was... I really did not care. Moving on... -- MediaHound

Well, you've asked it so I guess I have to try to answer, though I think the answer may involve pop psychology 101, voyeurism, a celebrity-obsessed culture and plain old human nature. Luckily, scads of people way smarter than me have already thought this one through. If you're still interested, keep reading for a sampling of their insight.

The L.A. Times' Tim Rutten (registration required), as mentioned this morning by Howard Kurtz, describes the wall-to-wall coverage of Smith's death as a response to media expectations -- after all, both Princess Diana and O.J. Simpson pushed our threshold for tabloid crossovers to a new level. But he also offers this more basic explanation:

"Americans have a hard time abiding a tale of struggle without reward, or a story without a happy ending, which is why we so often confer a disproportionate posthumous attention on the plucky but dubious dead. Depending on how you look at it, it's a reflection of either our collective good-heartedness or our common sappiness. Maybe the ultimate guarantor of the former is our unwillingness to worry too much about the latter."

The Post's Philip Kennicott, writing in Friday's Style section, posited that we cared because Smith was "the most famous gold digger in America" and challenged our cultural ideals about marriage, money and sex:

"'Courtesan,' which in a different age is probably what she would have been labeled (even though she was married), is a category we don't have much use for anymore. The woman who makes sexual alliances for money, who was less than a blushing bride but not so fallen as a prostitute, was once a vigorous cultural type..."

Writing on Salon.com, Tracy Clark-Flory took it one step further, saying:

"There's extreme cultural anxiety over women who traffic in sex, period -- whether they're prostitutes, strippers, trophy wives or gold diggers. Part of that anxiety is driven by the ease with which intimacy and attraction can be feigned, sure. But there's also an anxiety that stretches clear across the gender divide ... As much as some men may feel anxiety about their ability to attract women without the allures of money or power, women can also feel anxiety about their ability to achieve [fill in the blank] without employing their sexual wiles."

So, there you have it. We err (and care) because we are human.

Is that your name for real: or is a combo of Liz Smith and Kitty Kelley? -- Submitted via Thursday's chat

Are you kidding me? If I were to adopt a nom de plume, I can assure you I would go for something with a little oomph, something that forces the eye to stop on the page -- not my grandmother's name. Maybe something like Angelina Woodward... and that's just off the top of my head.

---
Have questions? Send them to celebritology@washingtonpost.com or submit them during Thursday's 2 p.m. Celebritology Live discussion.

By Liz Kelly  | February 12, 2007; 10:45 AM ET
Categories:  Anna Nicole Smith, Comment Box  
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Next: Morning Mix: Bodyguard Says He May Be Smith's Baby's Daddy

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