Slowly but surely, we’re looking back at the tragic it girl of the aughts and finding the end how tiny we actually knew—or, sadly, cared—about the people they were. Paris Hilton came forward, in critical year’s movie This Is Paris, through allegations the she to be abused as a teenager at a collection of residential revolutionary schools—and explained that her airhead-heiress persona was an act devised to attain financial independence from she family. A destructive court statement and a raft the investigative documentaries have revealed the extent to which Britney Spears has, by countless accounts, lived like a prisoner because 2008. Now, the reckoning has broadened to incorporate a misunderstood actor that didn’t live to tell her very own tale: Brittany Murphy.

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What Happened, Brittany Murphy?, which will certainly arrive ~ above HBO Max ~ above Oct. 14, feeling a little bit tawdry. Directed by Cynthia Hill (Private Violence), the docuseries, such as it is, is composed of two hour-long episodes connected by a flashy cliffhanger; it could easily have been a feature, but you can’t binge among those. Unequal This Is Paris or FX and the new York glossesweb.coms’ pair that Spears docs, the balance in between respectful reevaluation that its subject and also true-crime salaciousness tilts conspicuously towards the latter. When it comes to new insight, What happened has much much more to offer right into Murphy’s nightmare husband, Simon Monjack, than into the gibbs herself. But, taken along with everything we’ve learned around the various other Britney these past several months, that does raise part questions about the lifelong dangers of kid stardom for women in particular.

For those who were too young or too checked the end of celebrity culture (lucky you) in ~ the, Brittany Murphy, who died under mysterious circumstances at simply 32 years old, in December 2009, to be once among the most endearing young stars in Hollywood. A bubbly brand-new Jersey theater kid elevated by a supportive solitary mom, Sharon Murphy, she to be booking commercials and also TV appearances by center school. In ~ 17, she made her film debut as Clueless’ wide-eyed carry student Tai, memorably wringing every ounce of humor out the the 1995 teenager classic’s immortal burn “you’re a virgin that can’t drive.” (“The way she delivers that just offers you chills,” says Clueless director Amy Heckerling in What Happened.) A collection of diverse, well-received performances followed, in top-tier movies including Girl, Interrupted (1999) and also 8 Mile (2002).

Hill pegs Just Married, a 2003 rom-com in i beg your pardon Murphy starred with her then-boyfriend Ashton Kutcher, as both the top of her mainstream fame and also the start of she downfall. A few years earlier, despite being slim by any type of rational metric and also after shedding a role amid feedback the she was “cute yet not f-ckable,” she had lost a far-ranging amount of weight. Include to the a windy breakup through Kutcher—one that sounds ugly but about which, curiously, celebrity interviewees prefer Murphy’s King of the Hill castmate Kathy Najimy don’t it seems ~ to want to to speak much—and Murphy was in the tabloid-media crosshairs. Accusations of anorexia and drug seeks flew, as well as some slut-shaming for good measure. Cue repentant aughts-era gossip blogger Perez Hilton, now a fixture the docs choose this one, to sell some self-flagellation end his old habit that scrawling mean phrases on picture of Murphy in multiple sclerosis Paint.


After years of merciless publicly scrutiny, Murphy met and married Monjack, a screenwriter of little renown. Friends and also colleagues repeatedly explain him as controlling. Over there is speak of his obsession v skeletally slim women, alleged penchant for doing BDSM-tinged photo shoots v the actor and also micromanagement of she appearance; one makeup artist incredulously recounts his insistence ~ above doing her makeup for a role himself. Najimy suspects that he took she phone and also kept she away native other settings of communication, due to the fact that she ultimately became fully unreachable—shades of Jamie Spears. Monjack flourished so creepily close to Sharon Murphy, who remained a fixture in her daughter’s life, that part suspected, together they tearfully do the media rounds together following Brittany’s death, that they were much more than just in-laws. And in the big investigative coup that What Happened, Hill interviews Monjack’s mother and also brother, and also the mommy of one his two youngsters (neither of i m sorry Murphy seems to have known about).

The revelations around his deceptions room juicy if you’re into scammer story in the vein the Love Fraud, however Monjack greatly comes off as a garden-variety true-crime psycho who lucked right into marrying a movie star. Despite Hill revisits numerous rumors and alternating theories around why Murphy died, including the possibility that she was poisoned, obtaining to recognize Monjack doesn’t ultimately adjust what’s top top her fatality certificate: significant pneumonia, through anemia add to prescription and OTC drugs together contributing factors. It’s likewise impossible because that the film housing to confront him or breakthrough a criminal case around his therapy of Murphy and also many other civilization in his life due to the fact that he died five month after his wife, under weirdly similar circumstances.

Which is just one reason why Monjack’s deceptions revolve out to be much less compelling than the question of why a human being of Murphy’s fame and success can so quickly fall under his sway. For me, the an essential moment in What’s keep going comes about 20 minutes into the first episode, when Heckerling and also others room describing the strange, isolated stays of son actors, because that whom an education and learning so often consists of a pile of textbooks skimmed during breaks indigenous work, rather than a classroom complete of children their very own age. “You don’t become as conscious of people and also what they deserve to do—and the petty stuff that world can do, or lies,” kris Snyder, Murphy’s first agent, reflects. “All that tiny stuff that you work-related out in junior high and also high school. So the you kind of get caught into this vacuum of not learning who a an excellent person is and also who a bad person is.”

It’s impossible to hear this there is no making a link to Spears—who additionally rose to fame in she mid-teens and who has likewise been described, prefer Murphy, as an extraordinarily sweet, open and also trusting person. I also thought that Soleil Moon Frye, the Punky Brewster star whose bittersweet Hulu doc kid 90 collects clip from her teenage years, once she underwent chest reduction surgical treatment after earning the devilish nickname “Punky Boobster” and, later, was raped before consensually shedding her virginity. The isn’t news that son stars have the right to have daunting transitions to adulthood, with tragic outcomes varying from problem abuse to suicide, but maybe, also after #MeToo, we haven’t talked enough around the gendered perils of at an early stage fame.


Women who thrived up in the general public eye, like Natalie Portman, Mara Wilson and also Raven Symone, have defined feeling insecure in your bodies and also uncomfortable about their sexuality together a an outcome of receiving so lot harsh, referee feedback, from the industry as well as the media, around their appearances as kids. Although different world can react in different way to the very same experiences, that seems likely that such heightened sensitivity come criticism, an unified with the loneliness of boy stardom, might shape a delicate teenager into an adult that is intensely breakable to gaslighting. Once your picture is simultaneously so public and so far outside your control, what a relief it could be as soon as a forceful, self-assured male comes along to relieve you the the burden of making your very own decisions and interacting v the world.

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To Hill’s credit, she includes enough serious, observant conversations around Murphy’s work and also talents the the collection doesn’t it is registered as schlock, exactly. But the focus on Monjack, and the suspense v which his backstory is teased, undermines any kind of attempt in ~ high-mindedness. Various other weird choices, choose the regular montages of armchair detectives top top YouTube puzzling out Murphy’s instance while likewise performing makeup tutorials, indicate a desire to pad the end the product to fill two hours. I wish that room had, instead, been used to broaden the series’ consideration of why so plenty of young, famous women have discovered themselves in situations comparable to the one neighboring Murphy’s death. As is, What’s Happening, Brittany Murphy? feels prefer an episode of Inside version smoothed the end to end up being a prestige mini-binge. The line in between vindicating an unfair maligned person and continuing to posthumously manipulate her has rarely been so thin.