Leave Marilyn Monroe alone

Image illustration: by The Cut; Images: Getty Images

It seems to me that it is finally time for all of us to leave Marilyn Monroe alone. The Hollywood legend He died 60 years ago and was revived a lot in the last year, well, that’s enough already.

In May, Christie’s Sold Andy Warhol‘s Shot Blue Marilyn A photo of the amazing actress with a sum of 195 million dollars. It is the most expensive 20th century artwork ever sold at auction. In the summer, Madame Tussauds installed a wax carving From movie legend to the Lexington Hotel, a place Marilyn and her second husband, Joe Dimaggio, called home. Of course, there is Kim kardashian From it all: As the story goes, the reality star lost 16 pounds in three weeks to slip into Monroe’s nude fake dress in order to get a Disreputable Three minutes random order of the steps of the Met Gala. until the last Barbicur A fad that can’t help but evoke the iconic blonde being carried on a ladder in flight singing About her best friend, Diamond. And this week, Netflix will be releasing Blondethe much-anticipated Joyce Carol Oates adaptation of the 1999 fictional biography of Monroe, a film that features an NC-17 rating for its sexual content and stars Ana de Armas doing the Marilyn accent who took “nine months” to perfection and yet it has already managed to irritate the masses.

This focus on Monroe’s life and nauseatingly re-examination is nothing new. in 2020, Forbes included Monroe As the 13th highest-earning celebrity, she earned $8 million, just under the $13 million she earned from her estate the previous year. The outlet reported that at the time, her look was officially licensed by nearly 100 brands globally, including Dolce & Gabbana, Zales and Lego Group. (In 1999, Christie’s, commissioned by the second wife of Monroe’s acting coach Lee Strasberg, sold the majority of Monroe’s personal items and clothing for $13.5 million; these were items Monroe requested to go to friends and colleagues, including a custom Jean Lewis gown that would It finally ends in Ripley’s Believe It or Not and on the Kardashian.) And in 2012, the CEO of CMG Worldwide, the company hired by Strasberg—which has inherited 75 percent of its intellectual property rights—confirmed to license Monroe’s image, NPR“We’ve done hundreds and hundreds of programs with companies like Mercedes-Benz to Coca-Cola for perfume, apparel, gifts, collectibles, paper products, and things like that.” Strasberg eventually sold the remainder of the Monroe estate to the Authentic Brands Group for an estimated $20 million to $30 million.

As art historian Jill Levine said, TV programAmerican Masters About Monroe, “She is arguably the most photographed person of the 20th century.”

As in life, Monroe continues to be widely exploited by both those around her and industries that benefit from her public image. She was never allowed to be a fully investigative person, at least in the public eye. By her own admission, the woman she presented on screen to American audiences was just the front of a glamorous sex bomb that Hollywood decided to market as, not the shy Norma Jane Baker who grew up in a chain of foster homes. A character now, decades after her death, threatens to completely overshadow who she really is and remove any real human complexity that doesn’t align with her tragic bestselling model. Monroe is no longer a person but a void that members of the public can fill with their vague desires. It’s been made into an acronym for the impossible feminine ideal – the Madonna-whore complex in America generally played. And as such, it has become the perfect marketing tool. Face is now as synonymous with our modern capitalist scene as McDonald’s or Coca-Cola. In which article Academic Susan Hamsha wrote “Thirty Is Better Than One: Marilyn Monroe and the Performance of Americanization”, that Monroe has become “a surface on which narratives of American culture can be (re)constructed” and “acts as a cultural genre that can be reproduced, transformed, translated into new contexts and enacted by other people”.

Released by other people like Ana de Armas or Kim Kardashian, women who don’t dress like Monroe but actually wear her entire identity as a costume, thus reassert this fictional version of her. And in Kardashian’s case, he cut it down to her most shallow miss traits by telling her entire dress-up story about weight loss, her bleach blonde dye job, and her post-divorce fling. But at this point, it’s probably impossible to get to the core of who Monroe was as a person. Even when a project revolving around her attempts to transcend this superficial level to address her fraught inner life, it can’t help but come across as cliched, because the idea of ​​Monroe itself has become little more than a lazy trope, a metaphor for a certain type of woman. The real actress behind the ubiquitous version of her that now looms large in our daily lives as consumers are long gone, if she ever did.

As de Armas says in the trailer’s voiceover, “Marilyn isn’t there. When I walk out of my dressing room, I’m Norma Jean. I’m still her when the camera rolls. Marilyn Monroe is just there on screen.” We have stripped this woman so far from herself, even during her private life, that she was always a figment of our imaginations. What we imagine as Marilyn is actually just a product of our collective projection of her. And as a very fictional version of her life, Blonde It makes no attempt to correct or ground the myths surrounding this woman, instead adding another layer of illusion to her already mythical existence. And she’s particularly egregious at that, given the film’s NC-17 rating due to the sexual content, specifically the rape scene. for BlondeMarilyn is not actually the protagonist but merely the archetype with which to tell a thrilling and lively story about the industry he crushed.

In her last interview with life Before her apparent death by suicide, Monroe spoke openly about her fraught relationship with her public image, admitting that she often felt like she was a “Zeena.” If only she could see how much insight that insight was. She goes on to explain that she learned to tap into the power of her beauty, and soon realized, “It was kind of a double-edged thing.” Monroe said, “When you are famous, you encounter human nature in a raw way. It elicits envy and fame does… [People] The feeling of fame gives them a kind of privilege to come up to you and say anything to you that, you know, is of any kind and won’t hurt your feelings. It also happens to your clothes… you always go unconscious of people.” She concluded, “Fame has a special burden, which I may mention here and now. I don’t mind being burdened with being charming and sexual. But what comes with that can be a burden.”

If anything, her life, at that point, had become about escaping from that very version that the public had set on such a high pedestal. In this light, it seems odd to honor a woman who desperately wanted to escape this distorted projection and be taken seriously for her profession through media buying and consumerism that perpetuates the worst stereotypes for profit.

That is why I ask again: What if we left Marilyn Monroe alone? At least a little.

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