Want a nauseating glimpse into how central the exploitation of celebrity is to industrial storytelling? Here are the opening two graphs from a short piece in the New York Times’ theater section:
AMSTERDAM — Over the decades, the story of Anne Frank has been interpreted onstage in varying ways, including a version that some critics describe as too simplistic. Now a new play, simply titled “Anne,” that opened here last week presents a complex portrayal of a teenage girl: sometimes impetuous, spoiled and lonely.
In this multimedia stage production, Anne resents her mother, mocks adults and revels in her emerging sexuality. The new portrait comes nearly 70 years after her death in a German concentration camp, in 1945, and is part of a flurry of efforts by Anne Frank Fonds, the Swiss charitable foundation created in 1963 by her father, Otto, to shape her image for the latest generation.
Whoever Anne Frank was as a human being, she was long ago replaced by a brand bearing her name. Whatever she stood for or endured or had done to her, she’s now the narrative equivalent of Indiana Jones, fighting Nazis on our behalf so we won’t ever have to think too hard about where such evil comes from. Fork over your money and absolution awaits. And did you know there’s an animated cartoon in the works?
There are an infinite number of stories that can be told, but why go to all the trouble and risk of doing something new when you can haul out the Anne Frank cookie cutter and put your own spin on a proven box-office winner? Nobody will question your motives for exploiting her memory or profiting from her death, so cut all the deals you can. You know, out of respect.
Anne Franks sells. End of story.
— Mark Barrett