Marilyn Monroe: More than a sex symbol | Culture | Reports on the arts, music and lifestyle of Germany | DW
Self-determined. Body positive. I woke up.
These adjectives were not common parlance in 1950s Hollywood when actor Marilyn Monroe was alive. Yet, more often described as a “blonde bombshell” or “sex symbol” than “avant-garde” or even “feminist”, she had opposed some of the social mores of the mid-twentieth century, which still resonate. today.
Monroe would have been 95 on June 1, 2021, had she not succumbed to an overdose of barbiturates 59 years ago.
Beyond the two-dimensional character
While her mother struggled with mental health issues and her father’s identity unknown, daughter born Norma Jeane Mortenson grew up in foster homes, where she was sexually assaulted. Monroe’s troubled private life has been carefully dissected over the decades: objectification, failed marriages, miscarriages and abortions, drug addiction and supposed affair with movie studio bigwigs, as well as the Kennedy brothers.
Professionally, her adventurous demeanor, breathy voice – a strategy suggested by a speech therapist for overcoming a stuttering – and her sexuality determined the roles she landed and reduced her to a two-dimensional character who mostly bowed to fantasies. male.
Today, however, she’s seen from a different perspective: the women of the 1950s simply did not have enough weight to dictate their terms.
But Monroe was ultimately adopted as an icon by the most unlikely of groups: feminists. Originally presented as an example of the need for feminism to counter the sexual exploitation and objectification of women, she has since been recognized for her autonomy and her lead over her time.
Long before Facebook COO Sheryl Sandberg rallied women to “lean” on and claim their rightful place in the workplace, Monroe had already warmed up her seat.
Signed at Twentieth Century-Fox, she had grown tired of the roles of “stupid blonde” and wanted to have more of a say in the scripts and roles that were entrusted to her. “An actress is not a machine,” she once said Life magazine writer Richard Meryman, “but they treat you like one.”
She created Marilyn Monroe Productions in 1955, becoming the second woman in the United States, after Mary Pickford, to start her production company. Pickford, nicknamed “America’s Darling,” was a legendary silent film actor who founded United Artists and helped establish the Academy.
After extensive legal wrangling, Monroe and Fox struck a deal that saw her successfully negotiate a salary backlog, higher pay, and a say in scripts, directors, and cinematographers – a victory rare for an actress at the time. His company produced The Prince and the Showgirl.
Wanting more meaty roles than “stupid blondes”, she created her own production company.
She called the dating #MeToo
In “Wolves I Have Known,” an article she wrote for the January 1953 issue of Film and television magazine, she denounced the sexual harassment which then prevailed in Hollywood.
Describing the men in the industry, Monroe, then 27, wrote: “There are many kinds of wolves. Some are sinister, some are just good-time Charlies trying to get something for nothing. and others make it a game. “
Joan Collins, famous for playing Alexis Carrington Colby in the 1980s hit soap opera Dynasty, shared on British television in 2017 how Monroe once warned her as an emerging actress in the United States about the dangers of the job: “She said, ‘Watch out for wolves in Hollywood, honey. … If they don’t get what they want, they will abandon your contract. ‘”
She was body positive
Monroe was full. Fashion magazines today would call it “curvy,” as if that in itself was an exception to the norm. While the jury is still out on the actual size of her dress – given how fluidly fashion sizes have flowed over the decades – there is no doubt that in an era before the airbrushing, what we have seen of her was who she really was.
Her unabashed display of her curves and open sexuality was once considered the antithesis of feminism, but these days she’s been hailed by some as an icon of body positivity and self-love.
She had her truth
Before being discovered as an actress and model, she was in serious financial difficulty in the 1940s.
In 1952, when she started making waves, nude photos emerged from a calendar shoot she had done, for which she was reportedly paid $ 50. His bosses at Twentieth Century-Fox told him to deny everything, but Monroe instead chose to own his truth.
Speaking to United Press International reporter Aline Mosby, she said she was broke and needed the money. “Why deny it? ” she said. “You can get one anywhere. Besides, I’m not ashamed of it. I didn’t do anything wrong.” It turned out to be a PR stunt for the actor and appreciated it even more by his fans.
she was awake
His quick wit and enlightened opinions on politics and social justice were also often relegated to the background. Perhaps one of her oft-mentioned “wake-up” acts was when she used her fame to allow jazz star Ella Fitzgerald to perform at a club that initially refused to hire her. Mocambo’s club management were apparently unwilling to hire a real jazz singer and believed Fitzgerald was not “glamorous enough” for the West Hollywood hotspot. Monroe urged club owner Charlie Morrison to book Fitzgerald and, in return, vowed to attend each show personally and sit in the front row.
As the First Lady of the song recalls in a biography: “The owner said yes, and Marilyn was there, in front of the table, every evening. The press has gone too far. After that, I never had to play in a little jazz club again. unusual woman – a little ahead of its time. And she didn’t know it. ”
Fitzgerald (left) described his supporter and friend Monroe as being “ahead of his time”
In the #MeToo and #BlackLivesMatter era, it is of course worth highlighting how Monroe fought for self-determination and supported civil rights.
Like Lois Banner, professor of history and gender studies at USC and biographer of Monroe, Monroe continues to fascinate as an “eternal shapeshifter,” whose “myriad transformations enable every generation, if not every individual, to create a Marilyn to their own specifications. ”
And, again, the cultural icon’s ability to reflect the times contributes to its enduring legend.