Saturday, 4 August 2012

Missing Marilyn

Correction: i thought the date yesterday was the 5th August. It was the 4th. Have updated the post accordingly.

Tomorrow it is fifty years since Marilyn Monroe died.

I don't know when it was that my love affair with Marilyn Monroe began. I had always loved old films, I was always watching Casablanca as a child, and I had postcards of Ingrid Bergman and Greta Garbo on my bedroom walls growing up - alongside ballet dancers (a story for another blogpost), Madonna and Annie Lennox. But I think it started properly when I was 16, and watched a documentary on NYE 2000 or 2001 called 'Marilyn on Marilyn' on BBC2 that was purely her own voice talking about her life, an interview put together during the final shoot, cut with footage of her and 1950s/1960s America. I watched the video taped programme over and over again until videos became obsolete, and I lost it. If anyone has a copy of that programme, or knows where I can find it, then please let me know. This clip is from that documentary.

Anyway, I then picked up a box set, read plenty of biogs and picture books and just fell in love.

There's loads of crap that surrounds Marilyn. The conspiracy theories about her death. The speculation about her sexuality. The split between the 'stupid dumb blonde' and the 'great comic actress' debate (I'm in the latter camp, naturally). The endless arguing over her body. Which, for the record, should be stopped now. This was a woman who was endlessly defined by her body, at the expense of her humanity, and the fact that we're still holding her body up as somehow more important than her makes me cross.

But underneath all the noise, was a woman who was a wonderful actress, who seemed to be a good, caring and political person, who went out and educated herself, who had a tragic life where she was used and abused by men, over and over again, as a child, as an adult. Who was hurt and abandoned by the people who she should have been able to depend on to care for her. And who was turned into a sex symbol, a body when she wanted to be seen as so much more - when she was so much more.

And more than that, she was a great actress. Nothing makes me laugh more than the Seven Year Itch, or her turn as Lorelei in Gentleman Prefer Blondes. There's pathos in her hilarious Sugar Kane, and is there a sexier entrance than in Let's Make Love? And of course, she could act act too - the scene where she cries as they take on the mustangs in The Misfits is just perfect.

I love Marilyn Monroe. And I am sorry that she died.


e.f. bartlam said...

I with you. I read an article once about her marriage to Miller. The brunt of it was that Miller had married her to show everybody he was a man. That he could "get" the blonde bombshell but, they must not have had very much to talk about.
What crap! What insulting crap... To both of them.
How can you watch her act and not understand there's a subtle intellect at work. Dumb people ate rarely funny too.
As for her body, i like to see hers celebrated. What can I say? I like the natural curves a woman's body develops. Sue me:).
Still, you're right about the over emphasis and the under appreciation of how complicated a character she was.

sian and crooked rib said...

I mean in terms of how people are always like 'after all, Marilyn Monroe was a size 16' as if her defining achievement was being curvy. Firstly, she wasn't a size 16, secondly she took barbituates and other diet pills, thirdly replacing one body ideal (skinny) with another (hourglass) is still problematic.

So it isn't about how we shouldn't think she was beautiful, or had a lovely figure, but as you say the over emphasis on her body as being the most important thing about her! :-)

e.f. bartlam said...

I knew I was in trouble the second I said anything about her body :). I only speak of my personal preference. The idea of someone abusing themselves is disturbing to me.

To be honest, and maybe you can help me out here, I don't know where these ideals come from. Speaking specifically of physical appearance, most men I know, while having certain preferences, find women of all shapes and sizes attractive.