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Marilyn Monroe: Greater than a intercourse image | Tradition| Arts, music and way of life reporting from Germany | DW

Self-determined. Body positive. Woke up.

These adjectives weren’t common in 1950s Hollywood when actress Marilyn Monroe was still alive. Called a “blonde bombshell” or a “sex symbol” rather than a “thought leader” or even a “feminist”, however, she had gone against some of the social mores of the mid-20th century.

Monroe would have turned 95 today if she hadn’t succumbed to a barbiturate overdose 59 years ago.

Beyond the two-dimensional character

Because her mother struggled with mental health problems and her father’s identity was unknown, the girl, born Norma Jeane Mortenson, grew up in foster families where she was sexually abused. Monroe’s troubled personal life has been thoroughly analyzed over the decades: objectification, failed marriages, miscarriages and abortions, substance abuse, and alleged connections with film studio bosses as well as the Kennedy brothers.

Professionally, her come-here look, her breathy voice – a strategy suggested by a speech therapist for overcoming stuttering – and her sexuality determined the roles she landed, reducing her to a two-dimensional figure, mostly male Fantasies attached.

  • Marilyn Monroe – Myth and Muse

    Sex appeal with outstanding acting skills

    Marilyn Monroe is an icon, a symbol of sensuality and a legend. In her book “Mythos und Muse”, Barbara Sichtermann wrote: “There is hardly a feminine charm that she did not have.” Noting how often her acting skills went unnoticed, the biographer added, “Her sex appeal and fame have (…) blocked the view of her acting.”


  • Marilyn Monroe – Myth and Muse

    A trademark of authenticity

    Sichtermann cited many famous names who described the Marilyn Monroe phenomenon. The icon’s third husband, playwright Arthur Miller, said, “I didn’t realize how Marilyn had become a symbol of authenticity, maybe it was simply because men were unfaithful to see her and women were envious of her.”

  • Vivien Leigh with Marilyn Monroe, Arthur Miller and Laurence Olivier (Photo: Central Press / Getty Image)

    Marilyn Monroe – Myth and Muse

    Intimate moments with Marilyn

    “I was married, but Marilyn couldn’t go out without being photographed, so we spent a lot of time alone,” said Miller, recalling his time with Monroe. “We had much longer conversations than if we had been freer without the usual distractions.” The couple is pictured with Sir Laurence Olivier and Vivien Leigh.

  • Marilyn Monroe

    Marilyn Monroe – Myth and Muse

    The camera loved Marilyn Monroe

    The writer and actor Truman Capote, who was a close friend of Monroe, wrote: “She has that certain presence, that inner charisma, that sudden flash of intelligence that you would never see on stage, all so delicate and fragile that only one The camera is able to capture these moments. “

  • Marilyn Monroe on the set of River of No Return (Photo: picture-alliance / dpa)

    Marilyn Monroe – Myth and Muse

    Exercising their power and influence

    It took Monroe several years to shake off the shackles of Hollywood: “After being neglected by the film industry for so long, she brought the production company she was under contract to its knees,” wrote screenwriter Joyce Carol Oates. After the blonde bombshell started her own production company, new film projects needed her approval before going into production.

  • Marilyn Monroe poses by a window

    Marilyn Monroe – Myth and Muse

    Back to first place

    “Marilyn was from the 1940s and 50s. It was proof that in the American psyche, sexuality and seriousness could not coexist, even hostile, absent opposites. In the end, Marilyn gave in and had to lie naked in a swim. ” Pool again to make a film, “says her third husband Arthur Miller.

  • Marilyn Monroe with sunglasses.

    Marilyn Monroe – Myth and Muse

    Early death

    “I have a feeling that in this job she won’t get old. I know this is absurd, but it is, I’m afraid she will die young. At the same time I hope and pray that she will at least live long enough that this strange talent, which is trapped in her like a restless genie in a bottle, can finally emerge, “wrote the author and actor Truman Capote in 1955, seven years before Monroe’s death.

    Author: Jochen Kürten (mm)


Today, however, it is viewed through a different lens: women in the 1950s simply didn’t have enough influence to dictate their terms.

Monroe was eventually adopted as an icon by the most unlikely group: the feminists. Originally seen as an example of why feminism was necessary to counter the sexual exploitation and objectification of women, it has since been recognized for asserting itself and being ahead of its time.

She “leaned”

Long before Facebook COO Sheryl Sandberg urged women to “sit in” and claim their rightful place in the workplace, Monroe had already warmed their place.

She had signed Century Fox at Twentieth and got tired of the “stupid blonde” and wanted more of a say in the scripts and roles that were given to her. “An actress is not a machine,” she once told Life magazine author Richard Meryman, “but they treat you like one.”

For this reason, she founded Marilyn Monroe Productions in 1955, making her the second woman in the United States to set up her production company after Mary Pickford. Pickford, also known as America’s Favorite, was a legendary silent film actor who founded United Artists and helped build the Academy.

After many legal battles, Monroe and Fox struck a deal in which they successfully negotiated back payments, a higher salary and a say in scripts, directors and cameramen – a rare victory for an actress at the time. Her company produced The Prince and the Showgirl.

Marilyn Monroe on the film set

Wanting more meaty roles than just playing “stupid blondes”, she started her own production company

She called out #MeToo encounters

In “Wolves I Have Known,” an article she penned for the January 1953 issue of Motion Picture and Television Magazine, she condemned the sexual harassment that was rampant in Hollywood at the time.

Monroe, then 27, described the men in the industry: “There are many types of wolves. Some are scary, others are just fun charles trying to get something for free, and others make a game of it. “

Joan Collins, famous for playing Alexis Carrington-Colby in the hit 1980s TV soap Dynasty, shared on British television in 2017 how Monroe once warned her as a young actress in America of the dangers of job: Wolves in Hollywood ‘Honey … if they don’t get what they want, cancel your contract.’ ”

She was body positive

Monroe was full figured. Fashion magazines today would refer to them as “curvy” as if that itself were an exception to the norm. While the jury is not yet informed of her actual dress size – given the sizes of fashion that have been fluid for decades – there is no doubt that we saw what we saw of her in a pre-airbrush era.

Her blatant display of her curves and overt sexuality was once viewed as the antithesis of feminism, but today she is hailed by some as an icon of body positivity and self-love.

She had her truth

Before she was discovered as an actress and model, she was in dire financial straits in the 1940s.

Later in 1952, when she started making waves, nude photos emerged from a calendar shoot she allegedly paid $ 50 to do. Her bosses at Twentieth Century Fox told her to deny everything, but Monroe chose to see her truth instead.

Speaking to United Press International reporter Aline Mosby, she said she was broke and needed the money. “Why deny it? You can get one anywhere. Besides, I’m not ashamed of it. It turned out to be a PR coup for the actor and made her even more popular with her fans.

She woke up

Her keen wits and informed views on politics and social justice were also often pushed into the backseat. Perhaps one of her oft-mentioned “wake-ness” acts was when she used her fame to allow jazz star Ella Fitzgerald to perform at a club that originally refused to hire her. The Mocambo club management apparently wasn’t interested in hiring a real jazz singer and thought Fitzgerald wasn’t “glamorous enough” for the West Hollywood hotspot. Monroe asked club owner Charlie Morrison to book Fitzgerald and in return promised to personally attend every show and sit in the front row.

As the First Lady of Song recalled in a biography: “The owner said yes, and Marilyn was there every night at the front table. The press went overboard. After that, I never had to play in a small jazz club again Unusual Woman – a little ahead of her time. And she didn’t know. ”

Ella Fitzgerald and Marilyn Monroe in 1954.

Ella Fitzgerald, along with Monroe at the Tiffany Club, described their supporter and friend as “ahead of their time”

In the #MeToo and #BlackLivesMatter eras, of course, it’s appropriate to point out that the star was an individual who fought for self-determination and was an advocate for civil rights.

As Lois Banner, professor of history and gender studies at USC and Monroe biographer, wrote, Monroe continues to fascinate as an “eternal shapeshifter” whose “multiple transformations enable every generation, even every individual, to create a Marilyn that their “corresponds to their own specifications.”

And here, too, the cultural icon’s awareness of time contributes to its enduring legend.

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