“Blonde” and Kim Kardashian: Society’s Obsession with Marilyn Monroe

Photo from youtube.com

Given the mortifications and horrors that Marilyn endured during her short life span – her family tragedies, maternal abuse, absent father, time in foster homes, poverty, underappreciated acting skills, dumb blonde portrayal, struggles with mental illness, substance abuse – it is a relief that she didn’t have to endure the three-hour vulgarity that is “Blonde”, the latest attempt to further exploit her.

“Blonde” is based on the 2000 Joyce Carol Oates dramatized account of Marilyn’s life. Though Oates draws from historical facts, she adds in her own false details, making this book entirely historical fiction. And the movie does no better. Monroe’s life, inner personality, intelligence, wit and interest in politics among other things are completely thrown away in pursuit of the role of a victim. And, what makes matters worse is that this movie does not define itself as fiction, so some audience members who are not well-versed in the life of Marilyn will walk away with yet another false image of the actress.

Hollywood has always managed to eat its own, and that includes the dead. Marilyn continues to be one of the highest-earning dead celebrities, which is morbid in itself. According to Forbes last year, the total earnings for the 13 best-rewarded celebrities was a staggering one billion dollars. The reason for Marilyn’s involvement is when she passed in 1962, she gave portions of her intellectual property rights to her acting coach, Lee Strasburg, and therapist, Dr. Marianne Kris. When Strasburg passed away, the rights were handed to his wife who sold her stake to the authentic brand’s group for 20-30 million dollars. Because these money-hungry corporations, who have no attachment to the real Marilyn, are the ones making decisions and deciding where to put Marilyn’s face and name, it’s no surprise that her face is plastered on products from absolute vodka to Mercedes Benz. And, because we see her face everywhere, our society has adapted this cultural fascination with her supposed glamour.

Photo from facebook.com
But, why is our culture so obsessed with Monroe?

Most of the photos of her are the same famous ones: the white dress over the subway grate and the publicity photo for her movie “Niagara” that Andy Warhol used in his pop art paintings. These images have been carelessly disseminated by those who simply want money, causing Marilyn to become this forever glamorous image. Such photos lift scenes out of the narrative flow of her movies, intensifying their grace, and with it, their glamour, leading to a fixated image of Marilyn’s personality and character. Take, for instance, Kim Kardashian at the Met Gala last year. The theme was Gilded Glamour, and Kim thought of no person as glamorous as Marilyn Monroe due to this misconception of her image. Thus, beginning the controversial sporting of Marilyn’s iconic dress that she wore when she sang “Happy Birthday” to President Kennedy. During Monroe’s life, the actress was constantly denied ownership of her body and image, and “Blonde” and Kim Kardashian’s publicity stunt are merely extensions of this pattern.

We see Marilyn as the image Hollywood so carefully crafted. Marilyn’s archetype is set as “The Girl”, which is described as being solely defined by age, gender, and overall sex appeal. In each of her films, Marilyn is knitted into the fabric of the plot through the point of view of men, and especially in her earlier work, she is set up as the object of the male gaze. To define Marilyn’s real-life persona as this character crafted by 1950’s Hollywood men is a disservice to who Marilyn Monroe, or Norma Jean, was in real life. We as a society need to let her rest, and stop slapping her name on fictionalized movies and framing them as biopics.

Have you seen “Blonde” on Netflix? Tweet us @VALLEYmag with your opinions of the movie, the Kim Kardashian scandal, or simply Marilyn in general.


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