By now we’re all aware that Facebook is part-life update and part-affirmative feel-good quote generator. If you’re not sure what I mean, just check someecards.com where you’ll find where the quote-in-picture fad began. (Or lolcatz, the Ryan Gosling Hey Girl meme, or any other picture-based meme for that matter.) Since those cheeky bastards came along, Facebook began to capitalize on their success by allowing people to post photos from websites that they find clever. And so a new era of misquoted and misspelled spam dawned.
This week I’ve been thinking about Marilyn Monroe, who is a familiar face on the quote-in-picture scene. For a deeply unhappy woman who was tranquilized to death, her belief in feminism and the capacity for a pair of shoes to empower a woman are impressively forward thinking. Last week Phill and I watched My Week with Marilyn, a sumptuous, well-written, acted and composed homage to the blonde bombshell. It’s not rare that a biopic is often well-written. The Holywood industry is especially fond of recollecting their idols in soft tones and sympathetic chords
The film made me think about Marilyn’s context in the female dialogue—her strength, her ambition, and what her charisma and natural “talents” (yes, her beauty and personality) did for her and women who idolize her.
She suffered from a severe inferiority complex, was handled by a variety of people who thought they “knew her best.” This may, or may not have led to her untimely death. The film made it very clear that she took pills because others wanted her medicated, but she also drank to take the pain away. Unfortunately, she surrounded herself with the type of people who could only tell her nice things. Perhaps this was a failing on her own part—she just couldn’t take criticism with a grain of salt. What I gathered from the film was that she was a deeply unhappy woman whose only bit of happiness existed when she was stroked and coddled into thinking that she was the best. She was a woman-child and watching that depiction of her was infuriating to me.
That’s the thing, you see. She wasn’t a woman who knew anything about being a woman. She was a woman who knew how to act like a child to get her way. She pouted. She cried. She guilt-tripped and made people trip over themselves to make things better for her. Is that really the kind of woman you want to idolize?
I would much rather idolize a woman like Jane Russell, Marilyn’s co-star from GENTLEMEN PREFER BLONDES. Now, Ms. Russell was a Republican with a Capital R. She had some crazy things to say in her day, and she was not nearly as popular as Marilyn, but she was a woman who stood up for her beliefs and acted like an adult. Even in the film, which I’ve seen and I loved, she was the woman that I much preferred to be rather than Marilyn. Her lines were spot-on funny and sardonic. Whereas Marilyn’s were based on her child-like innocence and naivete. (That and her voracious appetite for money and security.)
If you want to use Marilyn as your icon, then you should remember that the quotes you most often see are not real ones. They’re not attributed to her, there are no historical references to when they’ve said them. And you should probably stop using them, because they’re flawed. If you’re really interested in Marilyn’s bon mots, there are plenty of them out there, and they’re quite good! She was a sassy woman. For instance, when asked what she wears to bed? Her response was simply, “Chanel No. 5.”
Now that’s something to emulate.