|Monroe in 1948, when she was still|
Everyone knows Marilyn Monroe as the most iconic blonde in film history. But how many people know the journey she took to get there? What we don't know about celebrities, like Marilyn, can pose a real problem.
I learned a lot of what follows from my favorite podcast, "You Must Remember This
", which is currently running a series of episodes titled "Dead Blondes
". The topic brings context to many of the women who, ironically, still symbolize glamour (something very different than beauty) as something aspirational.
It also sheds light on the juxtaposition of many of their harsh and untimely deaths...which are not at all unrelated to their carefully constructed images.
For better or worse, I spent my entire childhood watching hours and hours of classic film. One memorable summer, sometime in the early nineties, my oldest sister made it a point to rent classics from the library every weekend. She used VCR to VCR editing to dub her own private collection. (Video piracy. Shocking, I know.)
That was the year I saw my first Marilyn Monroe movie, "Gentlemen Prefer Blondes
". (On Netflix now.)
We were more of an Audrey Hepburn/Judy Garland household. All I knew about Marilyn was what I heard over conversations at the dinner table. How Madonna copied her in the video for the song "Material Girl". How she was beautiful and tragic. Like so many others, I knew Marilyn's image (via Andy Warhol's art) long
before I knew the identity attached to it.
"Gentlemen Prefer Blondes" surprised me. Monroe was smarter, funnier and far
more talented than I was expecting. Her character and performance very directly addressed her image. She was as much a reflection of the desires of American men as she was anything else.
I hope this blog does two things:
1. Convinces you to listen to "You Must Remember This
" and watch one of the classic movies it deconstructs.
2. Makes you think twice about who you idolize, why and how you came to idolize them.
Stop Number One:
The photo below is of Marilyn Monroe in 1944. It was taken years after she was first surrendered to an orphanage, years after she was passed from guardian to guardian and just a few years after marrying the son of a neighbor at the age of 16...yet again for the purposes of transferring legal guardianship.
This was when she worked in a factory during World War II.