WHAT IS THE OBSESSION WITH ICON MARILYN MONROE?
January 27, 2023
Today I am going to discuss Marilyn Monroe’s cultural impact and why she is still so relevant to this day. Similar to one of Hollywood’s most beloved actresses, Audrey Hepburn, who lived under brutal wartime conditions as a child, Marilyn Monroe also endured a similar Cinderella story.
Marilyn was born on June 1, 1926, as Norma Jeane Mortenson in Los Angeles and later took her mother’s surname: Baker. As a kid, Monroe was in and out of unkind foster care homes, was once an orphan, and her mother was frequently in the asylum. Her troubled childhood had made her a relatable figure to the general public.
Robert Cahn described her as, “A blonde apparition in a strapless black cocktail gown, a little breathless as if she were Cinderella just stepped from the pumpkin coach.” This quote is pretty ironic considering how Monroe’s films such as, How To Marry a Millionaire and Gentlemen Prefer Blondes, reinforce the Cinderella trope with most of her fictional characters starting out as the disorientated modest girl who ends up with a wealthy love interest at the end.
When we think of the “blonde bombshell” Marilyn is probably the first person to come to mind for that. She was a sex symbol and was very symbolic of the 1950s to early 1960s sexual revolution for women.
Author Sarah Churchwell writes in her book, The Many Lives of Marilyn, “Part of the reason Marilyn became so identified with a static concept of sexuality is that she began her career as a pinup. A pinup sold a coy, sanitized image of the sexually available image.” In the 1950s, pin-up girl Marilyn Monroe was the ideal woman, as the wartime years and rations came to an end.
All of these money hungry corporate men, who have no real attachment to the real Marilyn, are the ones who make decisions on where to put Marilyn’s face and name, so it’s no surprise that we see her plastered on every sort of product. She’s basically her own brand, and since her face is everywhere, this creates a long standing fascination of her.
Even from just the Met Gala when controversy arose because Kim Kardashian was found wearing her dress when she sang happy birthday to John F Kennedy in 1962. Bob Mackie, the designer who drew the sketch for the crystal-covered gown once worn by Monroe, thought it was a “ big mistake” for Kim Kardashian to wear the dress at this year’s Met Gala. “Marilyn was a goddess. A crazy goddess, but a goddess. She was just fabulous. Nobody photographs like that. And it was done for her. It was designed for her. Nobody else should be seen in that dress,” Mackie added, according to Entertainment Weekly. Kardashian’s decision to wear her dress also sparked judgment from heritage industry bodies, including the International Council of Museums (ICOM). ICOM stated: “Historic garments should not be worn by anybody, public or private figures.”
Till this day Marilyn Monroe is still talked about and continues to be one of the highest earning celebrities, even surpassing her death. And the question of whether she was actually a plus-sized woman comes up from time to time, but today’s beauty standards for leading movie actresses and models, seem to prove that she fits into that category. Because of that time and era where women were still judged on being on the more “thicker” side, her hourglass shaped figure put her on a higher pedestal, later making her one of the most influential beauty icons in American history.