July 9, 2021

Anna Nicole Smith, Manic Pixie Dream Girl

Going through the Perfume Nationalist podcast, and found this episode about the Anna Nicole Show. I was only vaguely aware of her and her claim to fame (blonde bombshell who married a rich geriatric), never having watched the early 2000s reality show after her initial burst of notoriety in the '90s.

But the way they describe her is like a Manic Pixie Dream Girl — a beautiful soul, free-spirited, winding her way from one of life's many adventures to the next, and cheering up those who happen to cross her path.

Still, those are only personality traits, not a role that she plays with respect to other characters in the dramatis personae. The MPDG is an earthly guardian angel, who nurses an unlucky-in-love sad sack back to social-emotional health, enabling him to find true love by the end (though usually not with the MPDG herself).

Then it hit me — that's the role she was playing with the rich geriatric she married. He was in a romantically low-enough place that he was going to strip clubs as an elderly man. And she happened to be one of the dancers there when he showed up.

She wasn't seeking out rich old guys habitually, like a gold-digger or a maneater, hellbent on a master plan. It was one of those spontaneous, fun projects that occurred to her as it was already happening. Why not pick up the spirits of this gentle old sad sack, who is clearly not long for this world? Just another zany, off-the-wall adventure along the neverending tour of her life.

The fact that he was loaded appealed to her more at the level of establishing themselves as an odd couple — young and elderly, rich and poor, captivating and invisible, sensual and buttoned-up. A carnivalesque, Studio 54 kind of match, not cold deliberate and predatory.

The MPDG doesn't want a clone as her project — the whole point is to add zest and variety to her life — and to the lives of the people she meets — not to close herself off in familiar homogeneity. They have to be endearingly mismatched in some crucial way.

Their ending was partly true-to-type, and partly not. He did wind up with her until the end, rather than her only being a temporary guardian angel. But she did get deprived of his company before very long when he died, and was kept out of the rest of his social circle afterward. So her role was more of a temporary rehabilitating nurse after all.

So then, how well does Anna Nicole Smith and her odd-couple relationship fit the other aspects of the MPDG pattern I've detailed over the past year or so? That is, not the intrinsic qualities of their relationship, but her personal profile, the timing and zeitgeist, and so on? More or less to a T.

First, their relationship — from initial encounter through getting married — took place during a restless warm-up phase of the 15-year excitement cycle, namely the first half of the 1990s. Same time as Pretty Woman and L.A. Story. This is the phase of the cycle when people are itching to leave their refractory state cocoons from the previous vulnerable phase (the late '80s, in this case). But some need more coaxing than others, enter the MPDG to help out the sad sack.

Second, she was born during a manic phase of the cycle — the late '60s, just like Julia Roberts and Sarah Jessica Parker. She imprinted on a climate of soaring energy levels, invincibility, and therefore a downplaying of risks and setbacks. Dust yourself off and try again. She imprinted on this same climate again during her second birth in adolescence, turning 15 in the early '80s manic phase. If your role is to coach and coax someone who's shy about taking risks, you'd better be resilient and invincible-feeling yourself, or else they won't buy into you being a role model to follow.

Third, she was a corporeal rather than cerebral type. Dancing, whether in a strip club or elsewhere, is one of the most corporeal and least cerebral activities. She was also a model for Playboy and Guess, back when models were still used rather than actresses, singers, podcasters, and other non-fashion celebs. Another activity whose expressions are of a visual, concrete, and kinesthetic nature, rather than a verbal, abstract, and conceptual nature.

The MPDG is an earthly, not ethereal, guardian angel. She has to get the sad sack to turn off the "paralysis of analysis" program running in the computer of his mind. Romance is fundamentally physical, and how else is he going to find a true love mate, without getting more comfortable in his own body and taking part in kinesthetic activities? In her nursing role, physical rehab and emotional rehab are just two sides of the same coin.

And, true to the profile of corporeal types, she was a butt woman rather than a boob woman. She did opt for breast implants, back when there was still (waning) pressure to do so, but by nature she had more around back than up in front. In their review, the Perfume Nationalist group mentions only one iconic physical pose of hers from the entire show — when she got stuck under a table while drunk, on all fours, with her PAWG-tastic ass preventing her from escaping forward out the other side.

Aside from being corporeal butt women, MPDGs also tend to be somewhat taller than average, although this is a weak correlation and there are plenty of shorties. But Anna Nicole is another point in the taller-than-average direction — standing at a statuesque 5'11. I think this has to do with taller girls feeling less intimidated about approaching men first, as is required for a spontaneous nurse who seeks out her own patients, rather than them checking themselves in to her.

Despite this slight tomboy tendency, though, MPDGs have very feminine hourglass waist-hip ratios, which she did as well. Nursing is a fundamentally feminine, not masculine role.

She also had a bisexual tendency, which supports my claim that lesbians cannot be MPDGs but bisexual or bicurious girls can be. In her show, there's an ongoing theme of her flirting with her unattractive sad-sack lesbian personal assistant. A woman in need of the MPDG treatment must rely on bisexual women, not their fellow lesbians, who are defined by a perimenopausal / middle-aged state and are therefore unlikely to initiate such an out-of-the-blue adventure. Bisexual women are the young-at-heart type, and can be relied on for that kind of youthful frenzy.

Her story is only off-brand for the MPDG in that it was not set in a bi-coastal WASP-kenazi milieu, but in the downscale flyover South. Even then, in the sprawling Houston area, not the hip Austin or the glamorous Dallas of that time. And yet, all of the other aspects of their relationship, her role, and her individual traits, match up with those of the MPDGs from the movies. It was just inflected by her being a reality celeb in the early '90s, before that trend had become mainstream in Hollywood and New York media.

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