Wednesday, January 09, 2013

marilyn matters

It was just a year ago that I wrote a post about Marilyn Monroe's weight, "Why Marilyn Monroe ('s size) Still Matters" — it was in response to an article written about her in Slate that I found to be generally clueless about Marilyn, women's weight, and the perception of women in our society. My post hit a nerve, generating over 23,500 views on my blog, and over 26,000 in its subsequent republishing on BlogHer to date. I felt that in taking a look at Marilyn from a different perspective I might be onto something. I have always been a fan of the actress, and knew the general details of her life and death, but I decided that if I was going to expand my piece I would need to take a deeper look at the lady.

Marilyn Monroe is such an iconic figure. She is our modern goddess. It is possible to be familiar with especially her image from The Seven Year Itch —  the white pleated dress billowing skywards, exposing her lovely legs, without ever having seen one of her movies. I want to remedy that. I'd like to not only explore why I think Marilyn is an important female image, and has more than earned her goddess status, but why I also think she is important as an actress and a celebrity. She has shaped the perception and career paths of contemporary actresses.

Over the past year I have read tons of books and articles, good and bad, on Marilyn — on her films, her life, and her death. I have watched and rewatched many of her films. I still have quite a bit of reading and film viewing ahead of me. It hasn't been easy. Not just the sheer volume of of material to wade through, but the endless repetition of her path to oblivion. Most of the writing out there is only concerned with getting Marilyn and the reader to August 5, 1962, and usually in as seamy a way as possible. No one can change the facts of Marilyn's life, but there are other ways to look at her journey than such a negative, straight-line view. At least I think so. No one lives their life with the end moment in mind. Marilyn certainly did not.

I have to admit that reading, over and over, her hard times and final days took a toll. I had to take a break from the lady for a while. What I have been doing, instead of immersing myself in her life and troubles, is continue to look at the massive amount of images left of the lady. Marilyn was first a model, and then the ultimate Hollywood starlet. She posed for tons of publicity photos. She loved the camera and it loved her back. She seems to have been incapable of taking a bad picture. She always seemed to be willing to sit for multiple photos and loved working with photographers. She worked with some of the best during all phases of her career — Eve Arnold, Richard Avedon, Alfred Eisenstaedt, Milton Greene, Cecil Beaton, and many more. As many familiar photos as there are of Marilyn, it seems that every day I have run across one that I have never seen before, like these she did with Marlon Brando, publicizing an Actors Studio benefit.

This post is a bit of a progress report, and a note that you once again will be seeing some more Marilyn-related posts from me in the future. I continue to find Marilyn Monroe fascinating. As well-known as Marilyn may be, she is also completely under-appreciated and a bit misunderstood. I hope to be able to do something about that.
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