Having watched and reviewed the movie BLONDE, a very distorted, negative portrayal of the film star Marilyn Monroe, I find myself experiencing a re-awakened interest in her, namely to give this cultural icon a fresh, second look. I intend to watch more of her movies, discerningly read about her, and find any well-balanced documentary on her (if one exists). It’s time to view Ms. Monroe as the fascinating, full person that she was.
I was enamored with Marilyn as a young child, starting at about age six years old. But, by age ten or eleven, I began to think of her as a sad, tragic figure, more a victim of circumstances than anything else. She was not at all “cool” to think much of in my 1970s and ’80s West Coast feminist-oriented household and social circles my folks ran in. She was someone to pity and avoid thinking much about at all, in order to not participate in perpetuating negative, oppressive stereotyping of women. Okay, fair enough, but yet limited and, ultimately, also unfair for Marilyn and, by extension, perhaps even, for women.
The truth is, Marilyn Monroe was not just a victim but many other things as a human being. She was a successful, assertive businesswoman, a singer, a natural comedian, a generous soul, a progressive thinker, and, undoubtedly much more. A few examples of her progressiveness: She was a staunch advocate in making sure the Black singer Ella Fitzgerald got a big break; she was a nudist; she was a supporter of “free love,” which has culturally since evolved into the furthering of polyamory as a way of structuring intimate adult relationships for some people who this is more natural feeling to do (this being just one among other freedoms of sexual and relational expression differing from hetero-normative, patriarchal norms centering on monogamy and heterosexuality). As dear Ella herself once said of Marilyn, she was “ahead of her time.”
The more I’ve learned about this historical figure, the more I realize I don’t know about her and got lulled for decades into holding a skewed, unexamined viewpoint of Marilyn. This has been lazy thinking on my part. Regardless of what one may feel and think about Ms. Monroe, in her own right, she was a dynamic, complex human being overcoming great odds for a while before her tragic end. I no longer wish to participate in relegating this woman and her legacy into a box that I and many others then inaccurately see her as pitifully stuck within.
(Photo of Marilyn Monroe taken in 1953.)