Sunday, December 20, 2009
Brittany Murphy Dies. What the Hell, Hollywood?
But when a beautiful, funny actress shows up at premieres looking like a skeleton, denying cocaine use, and then experiences a downhill trajectory in her career, I can't help but get a little pissed.
Today, Brittany Murphy suffered full cardiac arrest and was never revived. She was only 32 years old.
Murphy's death comes (hopefully) last in a long line of 2009 celebrity deaths. Y'all know how I feel about Michael Jackson. Bea Arthur was another. Natasha Richardson never recovered from a horrible freak ski accident.
True, Murphy wasn't a pop icon like MJ. She didn't have the dry humor and distinctive baritone of Bea. She didn't bring an elegance and flair to stage and screen roles like Richardson.
However, she was only 32. Maybe she had it in her. And now we'll never know.
In her short lifespan, girl did a hell of a lot. Reading Jezebel's lovely tribute, I remembered how many fun and cool roles she had. Of course, we all remember Tai in Clueless, at once "way harsh" and sweet, with beautiful reddish-brown hair and the most winning smile of the three protagonists. But I'd forgotten about her sensitive, supportive sister of a closeted gay boy in Drop Dead Gorgeous. Her supportive friend and fellow teen mom in Riding in Cars With Boys (I remember that film made me really love the name Amelia--Murphy's character's daughter). Her fierce ex-girlfriend with an ax to grind in Sin City--probably one of my favorite vignettes in the film.
And Luann Platter on King of the Hill. I love King of the Hill--sure, I resisted it at first because it hit too close to my redneck past, but then I learned to embrace it for the very same reason. I went to high school with many Luann Platters. Trust me, Murphy's voice characterization hit it out of the park. And as her career went through increasingly fallow periods, it's a comfort now to know that she had a steady gig.
I didn't know her. Like every other celeb I gab on about, my theories are pure speculation. But today, I find myself angry and sad. No, I didn't worship her like I did MJ or even Bea. I didn't aspire to emulate her version of "Don't Tell Mama," like I did with Richardson. I did, however, enjoy hearing her cute little twang when I just needed a laugh at the end of a hard day. She always delivered.
I find myself angry and sad because once again I'm questioning what Hollywood does to young women. Why'd she get so thin a few years ago? HOW'D she get so thin a few years ago? She didn't look like a poster child for healthy and responsible weight loss, that's for damn sure. Her face was positively skeletal and her smile sad.
And I'm not saying she was an angel: she was reportedly fired by her agent and publicist before Sin City was released. But in this past decade, Brittany Murphy has just seemed . . . lost. Like a directionless little girl, rather than an accomplished young woman.
Granted, people lose their way every day. Famous or no, some are susceptible to addiction, eating disorders, and less-than-desirable life choices, for reasons we still debate. But this happens over and over in Hollywood, and has been going on for decades: Marilyn Monroe. Karen Carpenter. Dana Plato. Lindsay Lohan. Quite possibly Miley Cyrus.
Hollywood and the film industry are nasty to women in a way they never are to men. Sure, there's pressure for men too (especially those in the closet), but you don't see them starving themselves into oblivion to fit a mold that no one can realistically aspire to. Or pumping their chests full of silicone. Men may go under the knife and needle too, but the results are nowhere near that extreme.
I keep thinking of one of my least favorite episodes of South Park, where the boys try to guard a headless Britney Spears from a scandal-hungry public. I enjoy uncomfortable humor (way too much sometimes), but seeing the pop princess go around with a bloody, shot-off stump of a head--even though I knew it was just a cartoon--crossed a line for me. Yet I agreed with the point that Stone and Parker were trying to make: Hollywood has forever made sacrificial lambs out of young girls and women. At the end of the 2008 episode, they predicted that Miley Cyrus was next, and it's slowly but surely coming true.
I don't know what to do with my anger, either. I love pop culture. I have a blog about it. I write movie reviews and cover celeb shenanigans. I've pointed and laughed as much as the next person. I can say I'll boycott mainstream films and renounce reality TV, but I know I won't do it.
She wasn't my friend. But she was only two and a half years older than I, and those deaths seem to hit me harder.
I wish I could have helped her.