Sunday, February 21, 2016

Core Response #3 If Marilyn Monroe Were Famous Today

In his article on Grace Kelly and Marilyn Monroe, Thomas Harris writes about the many publicity outlets to construct a star's image.  He mentions magazines, radio, TV, and newspaper, but today, social media is by far the biggest outlet of constructing a star image.  This made me wonder what Marilyn Monroe's star image would look like today and if her fame would look the same in today's world.  Perhaps today's equivalent to Marilyn Monroe is Kate Upton or Kim Kardashian who are also seen as male sex symbols.  Kate and Kim's fame show that a Marilyn Monroe figure could achieve fame in today's world, but not of the same type.  Looking at Kim Kardashian for example, she is known for her sex appeal, but she is considered a lower class of celebrity than that of say Angelina Jolie because she came to fame in a non-virtuous way.  In the same sense, Kate fits the Monroe image of a dumb blonde because she came to fame through modeling and flaunting skimpy outfits while seductively eating hamburgers.  For Monroe, her portrayal as a dumb blonde became an endearing quality that helped to make her beauty almost less intimidating, as seen in Gentlemen Prefer Blondes and increased her objectification.  Today, sex symbols can be portrayed as unintelligent and still be sex symbols, but their portrayal as unintelligent does not make them more appealing.  Just look at Miss America pageants.  While Monroe's image was built to be a sex symbol, she did participate in high-culture through films such as Some Like it Hot which is critically acclaimed.  If Monroe was a star today, high culture opportunities might not be available to her and she probably would take the route of Kim or Kate who are considered more B-level (or in less glamorous words, trashy) stars who have not been able to modify their role to ascend into high culture.

Today, men are still the main audiences for Upton as with Monroe but because Upton has become famous in a distracted society with social media, her overnight fame is not sustainable because Americans are already on to the next sensation.  Social media means there is increased demand on our time and attention.  Monroe may have just been a short-lived phenomenon if she came to fame today.  Additionally, with the internet, publicists have less control over the image their clients represent.  It is harder to portray someone like Grace Kelly as the girl next door or Monroe as the ideal playmate Harris describes when the reality is that no person fits one stereotype perfectly.  The internet makes it easier to dig up information about a celebrity that contradicts their constructed image or that reinforces an image, making it harder to change.  Outlets like Twitter and Facebook allow celebrities to have more of a personal and perhaps true and unfiltered image.  Or, the illusion of Twitter being an outlet for self-expression could be exploited to make it seem like celebrities really are like their constructed images.  Either way, it is interesting to think about what Marilyn Monroe's Twitter account would look like and if it would help or hurt her ability to gain audience acceptance in a different role- constructed or not.

1 comment:

  1. I really love what you have to say about this topic. I completely agree that it's an intriguing shift that has taken place in terms of the construction of a star's image. As I was reading the Dyer Heavenly Bodies assignment for this week, I was considering the little autonomy Marilyn Monroe is said to have had in the release of the original picture which sparked her fame and the continued little control she maintained over the construction of her image. Most of what was distributed about her was carefully curated by the studios to project a specific image of her as a star, not Monroe herself. With the influence of social media and the Internet today, stars like Kim Kardashian have direct control over their literal images which in turn construct their figurative images as stars. Kim Kardashian can post pictures on her Instagram every day and completely control what is distributed of her, choosing images which perpetuate her desired celebrity persona. Sure, paparazzi take plenty of pictures of celebrities and celebs have less control over that, but they still maintain power in this relationship and are usually active participants in this exchange. However, it is fascinating to consider that Kim Kardashian's fame came about in a manner similar to Marilyn Monroe's in that the event that sparked her worldwide fame was not only out of her control, but against her wishes. Although it is unclear about the circulation of the nude image of Monroe, Kardashian's sex tape with Ray-J was not something she wanted released. Yet, it ended up initiating her as a household name and an eventual autonomous star. Last year, Kardashian arguably reached the ultimate level of autonomy by curating her actual image with the release of her book of selfies, Selfish. She took the pictures, she chose the pictures and she distributed the pictures. What a turn around.

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