Tuesday, October 19, 2010

Marilyn Monroe: Not Just the Girl with the Shape

So, for those who don't know, I've been on a Marilyn Monroe kick for a couple weeks now. I told this to a friend and he said, "who hasn't?". Well a lot of people. Up until recently, I just viewed Marilyn Monroe as a sex symbol actress famous for having wind blown up her skirt and singing Happy Birthday" to JFK. She wasn't someone I really wanted to idolize or study... I passed her off as a dumb blonde. Now after I've watched her movies for the first time, read her quotes, and studied her life, I've begun to understand exactly why people made such a big deal about her... Why she was so fabulous... How I could start to identify more with her than Grace Kelly and Audrey Hepburn who were my previous actress role models.

First and foremost, let me clarify that Marilyn Monroe was NOT a "dumb blonde". She oftentimes played the dumb blonde role in movies such as "How to Marry a Millionaire", "Gentlemen Prefer Blondes", "The Seven Year Itch", and "The Prince and the Showgirl"... BUT in all of those movies (with the exception of the first), the she plays a girl who PRETENDS to be a dumb blonde in order to get further in life, or is stereotyped as a dumb blonde but clearly is not. For instance, in "Gentlemen Prefer Blondes", Monroe's character is seen as the blonde who only uses her looks rather than brains while the brunette Jane Russell obviously uses her brain more than looks... however Monroe’s character reveals she actually is witty and intelligent and when asked why she pretends to be dumb responds, "because men prefer it that way". In the "Seven Year Itch" and "The Prince and the Showgirl" a man tries to woe her just to have sex with her, but she ends up waving away his advances and even makes the man look foolish for thinking. In the game of love, she wins with the upper-hand in both stories. The characters in her stories often reveal to have deep pockets of knowledge such as knowing German for example.

Monroe was very similar to the characters she played for several reasons. She was often labeled as a dumb blonde because that's what people wanted to categorize her as. She was often photographed reading or holding a hefty book such as "Ulysses" (pictured above) for the purpose of making people chuckle because they never could imagine her in a million years with a brain. But in fact she was very intelligent and loved to read. She was often seen on set reading the autobiography of Abraham Lincoln for example.

She also struggled with her sexuality and the big question of how to be an attractive woman in a man's world...

* How to be proud of and flaunt one's beauty without being considered vain
* How to be comfortable with one's sexuality without being considered slutty
* How to not care about what others think while caring about what image you project
* How to use both body and brains to succeed in life
* How to find real love when people just want you for sex and prestige

These are questions I wrestle with myself. I wrestle with my sexuality and all these questions on a daily basis, and I'm sure others do too. Really, I want to talk about Marilyn so much... in this blog I can only touch a fragment about her, I feel the best way is to focus on some of her quotes...

"Sex is part of nature. I go along with nature."

"The body is meant to be seen, not all covered up."

"It's not true that I had nothing on. I had the radio on."

"That's the trouble, a sex symbol becomes a thing. But if I'm going to be a symbol of something, I'd rather have it sex than some other things we've got symbols of."

"We are all born sexual creatures,thank God, but it's a pity so many people despise and crush this natural gift."

On one hand, Marilyn Monroe was very comfortable with her body, beauty, and sexlife. Especially for being in the 1950's, this was all very progressive thinking. Even for nowadays, I would argue that this is progressive thinking. She had a sense of humor and loved her sexuality!

"Being a sex symbol is a heavy load to carry, especially when one is tired, hurt and bewildered."

"I don't want to play sex roles any more. I'm tired of being known as the girl with the shape."

"With fame, you know, you can read about yourself, somebody else's ideas about you, but what's important is how you feel about yourself--for survival and living day to day with what comes up."

Even though she was comfortable with herself and loved her body and sexuality, she was frustrated with the fact that that's all that people wanted out of her. The media, the public, even some who knew her in real life... they all wanted to see her as the "dumb blonde" with the killer body. So although she was not ashamed with her body, she was frustrated with those who either A) Wanted to see her as only as a sex symbol and a moneymaker through sex or B) criticized her for being a slut and only a slut. I know that I have the problem of seeing myself as beautiful in a world where the stick thin androgynous pre-pubescent boy look is hailed more than the curvaceous hourglass that my body is. I have to admit, that when seeing pictures of Marilyn Monroe nude, I looked at myself, and saw how similar our naked bodies look, and it comforted me and made me feel beautiful. It has been difficult to find bodies that look similar to mine, or at least classy women with bodies like mine. Her confidence gives me strength.

"It's better to be unhappy alone than unhappy with someone."

"A wise girl kisses but doesn't love, listens but doesn't believe, and leaves before she is left."

"Alone!!! I am always alone. I am always alone. No matter what"

She was vulnerable and sensitive. It's clear by these quotes that she had been burned by several men numerous times and wrestled with how to find love. If you read up on her many different lovers, you might get a glimpse of the heart ache she's been through with how to be herself and also hold on to someone she loves. In her journals, she made it clear that the last thing in the world she wanted was for her third husband, playwright Arthur Miller, to find disappointment in her, and when he did their marraige started to go south. She knew how to love, but oftentimes the men she loved did not know how to love her. It scares me, honestly, that even the most beautiful woman in the world who was so talented and smart, could not find true love and happiness in a man. I know she was searching, too. She often wrote or talked about it whether in journals or various public events, "I'm just a little girl in a big world trying to find someone to love" she said. and she knew the unselfishness of love too... she could have worded it "trying to find someone to love me" but she didn't, and I find that fascinating. I also identify with the quotes,

"I've never fooled anyone. I've let people fool themselves. They didn't bother to find out who and what I was. Instead they would invent a character for me. I wouldn't argue with them. They were obviously loving somebody I wasn't."

I've had it happen to me on many occasions that guys will fall in love with the idea of me rather than me. They will make up a character of who I am, a character that will glorify themselves, rather than loving me for me. For instance, there have been two or three guys who have told me that they were head over heels in love with me, not just like, LOVE. And they wanted to "rescue me from the hardships of my life" and give me everything I always deserved. Give me the happiness that I deserved like a new place to live, nice clothes, fancy meals, etc. They probably wanted this so that they could have the girl to go home to, to give them meaning to their life... someone to provide for so that they can fulfill their idea of manliness. But if you know anything about me, you will know that I don't want any of this. Even typing out this scenario leaves a bad taste in my mouth. I don't want anyone to "rescue me"... if I need rescuing, I want to rescue myself. I don't want a man to have to provide for me, I want a man to provide with me. Even suggesting that they LOVE me without even knowing the first thing about me wants me to punch them for daring to slander the word of LOVE. You can't toss the word around like a frisbee.

"Women who seek to be equal with men lack ambition."

"I want to grow old without facelifts. I want to have the courage to be loyal to the face I have made."

"You believe lies so you eventually learn to trust no one but yourself."

She also was ambitious, strong, a feminist, and very confident in herself for herself. It's clear she had a solid understanding of herself despite her huge insecurities. And I mean... she had HUGE insecurities. She never knew her father, her mother was a schizophrenic, she was often afraid she would become schizophrenic herself, she wrestled with her own image, her public image, yet still loving herself and trying to be true to herself despite what everyone wanted her to be. I think a woman can be strong and insecure at the same time. I think by recognizing one's insecurities, you can work on them and build strengths to compensate for the weaknesses.

Like I said before, I identify with Marilyn Monroe on so many levels, I guess mainly because I feel like I am a very strong person but also insecure. I wrestle with how to be beautiful but not vain, sexy but not a slut, how to view men, how to find true love and if it actually really exists. I find myself aching for love so much... but I don't want to settle for just anything, for anyone.

Actually, as an aside, since I was a baby, my mother sang me, "Goodnight, My Someone" from The Music Man. It's about singing goodnight to your "someone", your one true love that you haven't met yet or haven't realized you've met. To this day, I sing that song in my head before I sleep, I write letters (I've probably written a hundred by now), and even sometimes talk to my own Someone. I'll wonder if he's having a good or bad day today... hoping that he is happy and having a blast doing something crazy or ridiculous. Sometimes I'll tell him how horny I am and how it's unfair that he is so far away, or how I really hope that he's good in bed. LOL. I tell him a lot of things. But then I wonder that maybe this is all just my fantasy. That he really doesn't exist.

I mean... how is my faith in my Someone any different than having faith in God? God didn't create us in His image, We created God in our image.

I oftentimes get more an more cynical in my viewpoints... because honestly most couples I know whether married or not, do not live a life of "love" that I would ever want to remotely imitate. So, either I find someone who can invent a new sort of love with me, or it just doesn't exist outside my own head.

Maybe Marilyn Monroe wrestled with this too. In the new issue of Vanity Fair (kindly given to me by Tessa, who totally made my week with that gift!), it features Monroe and explains how she was portrayed in her own journal entries. She was insecure, frustrated with love, etc. The article kept on suggesting that this was the REAL Marilyn Monroe, because all over her entries were dark. However, as a journal writer myself, I know that half of my entries are me venting about my frustrations, and I tend to view myself as more of a happy optimistic person than a frustrated sad one, but my journal would reflect otherwise. I think that's the same with Monroe. Yes, she was insecure and frustrated, but that is only a part of her. That doesn't change the fact that she had strength and confidence at the same time. Again, people try to pinpoint people as such narrow, shallow people, but we are all complex. We are all complex.

Beautiful, Strong, Insecure, Vulnerable, Confused, Enthusiastic, Brilliant, Talented,
Marilyn Monroe.