Netflix has gone in on true crime in a big way, premiering a new true crime series or documentary every month of 2021, though they saw diminishing returns over the course of the year in the genre. Now, they’re getting in on another current trend, documentaries reexamining famous women of the 2000s, as Netflix will release a documentary about Anna Nicole Smith. It’s currently in production, so there’s no set release date, but it’s being directed by Ursula Macfarlane, who also directed Untouchable, a documentary about Harvey Weinstein (which you can stream now on Hulu).
While Anna Nicole Smith richly deserves the second look her Aughtie peers like Britney Spears and Janet Jackson, via the “wardrobe malfunction”, are getting, I am a little nervous because Netflix’s true crime tone often veers into tasteless territory. The most obvious example is Tiger King, a docu-series engineered to be bingeable to the Nth degree, but one that is also exploitative of its subjects and borders on poverty porn. But Tiger King was a legit phenomenon in 2020, so Netflix has seen no reason to back away from their quasi-lewd true crime coverage. My hope is that Macfarlane, who has shown sensitivity when approaching subjects such as Weinstein’s survivors, is the guiding force and her style will override what has quickly become Netflix’s “house style” of crass true crime coverage, because the last thing Anna Nicole Smith’s legacy needs is the Tiger King treatment.