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Marilyn Monroe’s Tragedies, Successes

Marilyn Monroe was a victim of a male-dominated marketplace. Today needs better icons

On August 4, one of Hollywood’s brightest stars will have died 60 years ago. Was her drug overdose death in Los Angeles a suicide, accident, or murder?

Marilyn Monroe is called the world’s most beautiful lady (most certainly in Hollywood of the time). Monroe’s life and death have inspired countless books, documentaries, films, TV shows, and conspiracy theories. There were other attractive and accomplished actors, but Andy Warhol painted her face as the Marilyn Diptych, which is still on posters, mugs, T-shirts, and keychains. Forever Marilyn was sculpted by John Seward Johnson in 2011 and installed in Palm Springs the following year. It caused an uproar, was removed and then reinstalled.

14 films and series have been made on her, including Emma Cooper’s The Mystery Of Marilyn Monroe: The Unheard Tapes (on Netflix) and Andrew Dominik‘s Blonde (based on Joyce Carol Oates’ 2000 book). 2001 made-for-TV film based on Pulitzer Prize finalist novel.

Marilyn Monroe

She inspired painters, advertisers, architects, singers, and the countless actresses who played her. Goddess: The Secret Lives of Marilyn Monroe by Anthony Summers is the basis for the Netflix film.

From her name (Norma Jean Mortenson) to her blonde hair, much about the woman was phony. That doesn’t diminish the courage and dedication she must have had to overcome a rough life and become America’s most desired lady. Along with achievement, sexual abuse, exploitation, mental illness, and controversy fuel Marilyn Monroe’s eternal fascination.

In the online clip, Monroe admits to being abused as a youngster, but she didn’t think much of it. She also confessed to a desire of making love to her father in a bar. Trauma’s impact on a child’s psyche can’t be measured.

That breathless voice and waifish image could have been a product of her upbringing; she said she felt like a rejected orphan, raised in foster homes, with relatives, and at orphanages, which may not have been healthy.

Marilyn Monroe

A photographer converted her into a pin-up girl when she was 16 and married James Dougherty. After her death, her pin-up and nude images sold for much more. She rose to fame despite being typecast as a dumb blonde.

Sarah Churchwell said, “The biggest myth is that she was dumb.” She was delicate. She couldn’t act. She wasn’t dumb, but she was unschooled and sensitive about it. Smart and fierce, she was. She needed both to beat Hollywood in the 1950s. She was an actor, for crying out loud! No one believes she was anything but what she portrayed onscreen.”

Hollywood was governed by males who treated the expanding lines of eager young women as meat. If an actress was chosen, studio bosses and their publicists controlled her life.

Public curiosity about her personal life grew after the success of her films and sex symbol’ and ‘blonde bombshell’ images. She married two renowned men: baseball player Joe DiMaggio, who couldn’t handle her fame, and playwright Arthur Miller (“Egghead Weds Hourglass” was the Variety headline), who allegedly treated her horribly and was disappointed in her.

Monroe helped She had mental help but no family or friends; the studio environment didn’t encourage female co-star ties. No safety net existed for women with addiction and mental illness.

Monroe’s death was worldwide news. Jean Cocteau suggested her murder should serve as a lesson to those who spy on and torture film stars.

Marilyn Monroe

Academic interest in Marilyn Monroe, which began during her life (she was revered and pitied), grew after her strange death. Film historian Laura Mulvey said, “With her all-American qualities and simplified sexuality, Marilyn Monroe epitomized the economic, political, and erotic in a single image.” By the mid-1950s, she represented classless glamour wearing American cosmetics, nylons, and peroxide. She improved her acting at Lee Strasberg and her mind by reading voraciously. None of the men she dated, and fanzines mined the gutters for rumor, appreciated her brain.

Her deterioration began with John and Robert Kennedy. Because of who they were, her privacy was horribly invaded; her home and phones were monitored, as was actor Peter Lawford’s home, where Hollywood aristocracy partied. Every intimate moment and the thoughtless word was recorded, and she was accused of being a communist (a bad mark in Cold War-era America). Mentally frail, she began abusing alcohol and narcotics. By the time she made The Misfits (1961), she could scarcely work.

In a postfeminist era, maybe Marilyn Monroe should be de-mythologized. In spite of her achievements, she fell victim to a male-dominated market. New icons are needed now.