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What Happened to Brittany Murphy? A Review on the Latest HBO Max Docuseries

Brittany Murphy was the doll of the 1990s and early 2000s. Acting in well known and cult-classic films such as Clueless, 8 Mile, Girl Interrupted, etc. It wasn’t until I came across the new HBO Max docuseries titled ‘What Happened to Britney Murphy?’ that I became very interested in the life and death of the actress. The docuseries includes two episodes, a part one and a part two, explaining the career of Brittany Murphy and what happened in the days leading up to and after her death in 2009.

Warning: Spoiler Alerts

Walking into the docuseries I had very little-known ideas about the actress. All I knew about her is that she starred in famous movies and died young. She died on December 20th, 2009, at the age of 32. At the time, I was only ten years old, so I didn’t really pay attention to the significance and tragedy of her death. The actress was found unresponsive in her home that she shared with her husband, Simon Monjack, and her mother, Sharon Murphy. She was pronounced dead later that morning at Cedars-Sinai Medical Center in Los Angles, California. The cornier and autopsy report reported that she died of pneumonia – after she had fallen ill a week earlier with flu-like symptoms. It was also reported that she had severe anemia. No drugs (except for over the counter drugs to help her cold) nor alcohol was found in her system at the time of her death.

The main question that surrounded her death was: “How did a healthy 32 year old die of pneumonia?” Many speculations went around at the time. The main spotlight was on her husband, Simon Monjack, a known fraud. The media and fans speculated that Monjack killed her. While she was sick and having trouble breathing, neither him nor her mother thought to take her to the hospital, which would have probably saved her life. The media believed that he had poisoned her to take control over her finances. The issue was: she left all her estate to her mother. Speculation started to become increasingly worrisome for Brittany’s mother, Sharon, after her death since her and Monjack became ‘close’. They appeared together on talk shows to speak about the death, and even pictures were released of them being very close and touchy with one another. It was also reported that they were sleeping in the same bed that Monjack once shared with Brittany, but rumors were shot down with, “we would cry together in bed”. People thought that Simon was now controlling Brittany’s mother to gain control of the finances that were left over. In the end, no one knows why he didn’t take her to the hospital, or why she became deathly ill so quickly. It wasn’t until five months later that Brittany’s husband died of almost the exact same thing, pneumonia. He was found in the same bathroom as his late wife, unresponsive, and was pronounced dead later that day.

The docuseries began looking into the health of Brittany before her death. It was reported that she became increasingly thin, almost like she wasn’t eating at all. Also, at many premiers and red carpets, she seemed very out of it, like she was on some type of drug. This makes people think, was Simon controlling her? When they met, it was reported that they fell heavily in love with each other. Nobody really knew who Simon was. He was an English screenwriter in the United States that was outstaying his visa. It’s believed he married Brittany to continue staying in the United States. After they began dating, however, it was like Brittany was being locked down by him. She was never out of the house except for when he was accompanied by her. He became her manager and she fired everyone on her team. It was even reported that she was hesitant to do scenes like she wasn’t allowed to do what she wanted to. Her friends became increasingly worried for her, and tried to get her away from Monjack, but she refused and ended up cutting contact with them in response. When she dated and married Monjack, it was reported by her close friends that she became a completely different person. She became noticeably insecure and scared to do normal everyday things. This was when she also became incredibly thin and started changing her appearance to fit the toxic Hollywood agenda. Sadly, we will never really know what happened behind the closed doors of their relationship.

After watching the docuseries, I had many thoughts surrounding the case of Brittany Murphy. For one, I do believe that Simon Monjack controlled her. It was mentioned that she did not have a cell phone and the only way to contact her is by contacting Simon. As someone who has been in controlling relationships in the past, this is a sign of extreme abuse. Do I think that Simon killed her? I do not think that Simon killed her directly. They met when she was in the most vulnerable state in her life and took advantage of it. Instead of helping her, he made her worse. She became someone she completely wasn’t and was basically destroying her body. She was a beautiful figure of the media that was then destroyed by the Hollywood agenda. I believe that Brittany would still be alive today if she had never met Simon Monjack. Her death was an extreme tragedy to the media, and even hit a nerve with me. At the end of the series, I could not help but cry at how badly this woman needed help but was completely ignored. The media made fun of her; her friends couldn’t get a hold of her. She was on the rise and eventually got brought back down under the control of someone who didn’t even love her. Brittany deserved better, and I hope she is resting well.

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Savanna Fiegl

Winthrop '23

she/they i am a digital information design major with a concentration in digital mass media
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