Anna Nicole Smith and the Kindness of Strangers

This guest post was written by "Mamacita," Joan Conde.

Tunku Varadarajan's "Citizen of the World" column about Anna Nicole Smith in the Wall Street Journal today is a heartless reading of her life and death. For the India-born Mr. Varadarajan, Smith's life is nothing but a metaphor for a dissipated American culture, where "most adult relations have been recast as transactions."

This sweeping generalization conceals a sexist analysis that neglects a real examination of Smith's situation. Anna Nicole Smith was an ignorant, downtrodden, single parent who took up dancing to support her son when minimum wage and tips failed to make ends meet. Her situation was that of millions of women the world over who are uneducated, alone and bear the sole responsibility of raising children when they are abandoned or orphaned.

Varadarajan fails to mention that Smith was first approached by Marshall, who pursued her vigorously (despite his physical condition) and who felt that she was the antidote to his depression following his wife's death.

Varadarajan eschews comparisons of Smith to Marilyn Monroe by virtue of her marriage to Arthur Miller, in other words, based on her short relationship to a man who was a well-known, American playwright. Pinning Monroe's value on Miller's lapel in no way validates her life or death. It's meaningless unless you consider Varadarajan's own background, as an Indian-born, Oxford-educated intellectual. Then the "transaction" occurs this way: if an accomplished, intellectual male playwright associates with a beautiful, artificially-enhanced actress and emotional basketcase, the actress is more worthy of consideration than if there is no association to the accomplished, intellectual, male playwright. Varadarajan would do well to examine the math involved in this transaction and its roots in his native India, where a good many Indian arranged marriages would not occur were not the education and social status of bride and groom considered equal or otherwise advantageous. It's not crass commercialism but it is a transaction.

Varadarajan should have looked to the playwright Tennessee Williams, to "A Streetcar Named Desire" and to his portrait of Blanche Dubois, whose life depended, with tragic consequenses, "on the kindness of strangers."

To be vulnerable, ignorant, and beautiful is no crime. To seek love on the wider stages of fame and fortune is no crime, indeed, if it was, half of Hollywood and a good many on Wall Street would be culpable. Let's not revile a woman who struggled to make the best of it, needed to make it work for her, and in the end, may have been murdered by a man whose greed was cloaked as kindness.
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