War & The Sex Goddess: The Iraq War Meets Anna Nicole Smith (excerpt)
by Kenneth King
Published in Rio Grande Review, December 2010
War is inevitable and never-ending. After Korea, Vietnam, Cambodia, and Bosnia, come Afghanistan, Iraq, and Iran. Sacrificial bloodshed sustains nationhood—the Iphigenia Principal—she was sacrificed so the troops could sail for a ten-year war. Ishtar, the Sex Goddess of ancient Mesopotamia (now Iraq), presided over love, fertility, and war. Mistress of death and the underworld, she may have started it all. War is misdirected aggression, provoked by frustrated Eros—‘Make Love, Not War’ was the credo during Vietnam. Movies glorify war—the visceral upsurge for mayhem and violence, and children’s games and toys propagate it. America will always be at war.
Wars perpetrate sensational bloodlust. Iraq is besieged by an incessant parade of crippling injustices: suicide car bombings, Abu Ghraib prison torture scandals, military crimes, contractor equipment rip-off schemes, and mercenary guard atrocities, etc. Four years into the unnecessary, ineptly managed, grossly misappropriated, and unstoppable Iraq War, untold lives and billions upon billions of dollars have been squandered, and worse, continue being frittered away.
A moment of high drama came during an acrimonious 2006 Congressional showdown that was interrupted and upstaged by the sensational saga of the death of the nation’s preeminent Sex Goddess, Anna Nicole Smith. The Iraq War and Anna Nicole Smith collided in high-profile media dissonance while nonstop coverage of her death preempted an angry congressional showdown. Even though the Democrats had regained congressional control, they proved themselves powerless to make a dent or pass legislation to bring the troops home or defund the war.
Like the war, the legacy of the campy vixen’s rags-to-riches story is replete with jaw-dropping sleaze, misappropriation, and criminality—many believe she was murdered. Anna Nicole’s sister’s tell-all, Train Wreck, could also be the title of our foreign policy.
The irresistibly racy saga of Anna Nicole’s death grabbed more fitful media coverage than a president or head of state. The ink spilled over the incredulous circumstances might as well have been blood. Andy Warhol would have loved her. He was doing Reality TV decades before anyone knew what it was, and her show was unquenchable for its trite and tawdry fascination, its over-the-edge surreal gluttony of out-of-control binges and nutty gross-outs. Like America, her glamour and addictions fueled a Thana-erotic frisson, a rollercoaster public relations fandango, a national death trip. Glamour on the outside, hell inside—the war syndrome—not only invades cells, but psyches. Sex solicits dark obsessions when compounded by drugs, wealth, and power.
Anna Nicole Smith was an over-the-top blonde bombshell, a postmodern Marilyn Monroe (her celluloid idol), and for all her questionably unredeeming qualities, uppermost was the public’s freak fascination with her outrageously indelicate life. Drugs, deviant sex, outrageous antics, and exhibitionistic behavior played themselves out on her grandly sybaritic body. Hunky African-American bodyguards, lesbian encounters, forbidden antics, and lawsuits enhanced her irresistible star power. Like munitions, her voluptuousness was manufactured with silicone, liposuction, and cosmetic surgery to ignite explosive fantasy on a grand scale and juice the most questionable public relations. Public relations, get id? War is an eruption of the Id on the macro scale.
It’s rough being a Sex Goddess! The heady allure, non-stop show, and magic camouflage tragic preoccupations, not to mention the off-camera compromises. Like Three-card Monte, the woman and the goddess suffered a lurid discombobulation in the prestidigitated scramble of identity and its fractured media projection.
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