October 1, 2008

Marilyn Monroe & the Media, 45 years later

The notion of being able to know Marilyn Monroe is so contagious the years the media will spend to revive her will greatly outlive her physical presence in motion pictures. Vanity Fair put her on the October cover to celebrate its 25th Anniversary. The headline reads: Unlocking the 45-year-old Marilyn Monroe Mystery: what her private papers reveal about her life and death. The picture is photoshopped in a horrifying manner so as not to reveal the effervescent movie star; rather a freakishly enlarged, drugged evocation of the past.

America will never be bored with the life of Marilyn Monroe, because in the press her platinum innocence is constantly at battle with the lingering uncertainty of her death. For the past two years, photographer Mark Anderson has acquired access and photographed possessions of Marilyn's that include but aren't limited to furs, jewelry, handbags, love letters, fan mail, and her will. The article mentions Anderson's difficulty with the revelations, having had many sleepless nights and on occasion calling his wife "Marilyn".

I've seen thousands of photographs of her, but only now watched her in a film for the first time. Between "Happy Birthday, Mr. President" and entertaining the troops in Korea, I disposed her as a misplaced vixen. Deeply misguided, accidentally famous. Watching Some Like it Hot projects an entirely different person. As Sugar Kane, Marilyn becomes the anti-Julia Roberts; this America's sweetheart has more two-dimensional love ambitions. She is as innocent as she is seductive. "I'm not very bright," she repeats in her careless, wispy voice that reminisces Sleeping Beauty. Her huge brown eyes roll towards the sky when she is bewildered, sad, or astonished. "Woooooooonderful!" she yelps.

Monroe only teases a man in one scene, as she tears a piece of chicken out of her lover's hand and graciously wraps her lips around him. This is how Marilyn Monroe seduces a man? He rejects her. She tells him, "it makes me feel just awful!". Two further rejections and she is a wounded songbird telling her audience she's through with love forever. Classy, cute, platinum, hopeful, and dressed in furs-her packaged perfection is bursting with vibrant energy.

"Every guy wanted to take her home in his pocket," castmates said of Marilyn. "Jean Harlow, Rita Hayworth, Lana Turner-they all had a tremendous amount of sex appeal, but what Marilyn had was that little extra pinch of salt where she mixed sensuality with innocence. She was magic."

Marilyn once professedly endowed herself to the public, because she knew she never belonged to anyone else. At a time when the media was growing in scope and medium, entertainment media was the news' optimistic counterpart. Marilyn just wanted to make the public happy.

The Vanity Fair article of course relates her to the tragic bunch of today's female celebs. "Marilyn has become the patron saint of lost girls of our own era-Lohan and Amy Winehouse and even Britney Spears-gifted performers knocked around by celebrity, constant surveillance, and the echos of Marilyn's own self-doubt," it reads.

Yes, self-doubt is inevitable in a public figure. But the three girls are hardly relatable to Marilyn. I was personally annoyed by Lindsay's Vanity Fair cover posing as Marilyn. I doubt people could really fall in love with Britney, Winehouse, or Lohan like [Andersen did] Marilyn, because our sympathy only goes as far as the ups and downs the media has constructed, and god forbid discovering their personal possessions might only relinquish hate letters towards the paparazzi. One last thing: I find increasing disturbance in the media's partially admitting responsibility for Marilyn's death; isn't it easier to perpetually revive a female celebrity while recalling the tragedy's link to publicity suffocation?

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