Monday, February 22, 2016

Core Post # 3 There's Only One Marilyn Monroe

To be honest, I've never cared much Marilyn Monroe. As a brunette, tomboy, academic, and hater-of-wearing-dresses...Marilyn and I don't have much in common. I just never understood what all the fuss was about. So she's pretty...big deal.

But she is a big deal. Sixty years after her death, we're still talking about her, studying her, comparing other actresses and singers to her...and all this song and dance ends with the same cadence: there's only one Marilyn Monroe.

In SID, Thomas Harris stated "Modern publicity methods decree that the screen star be known to his or her potential audience not only through film roles but also through fan magazines, national magazines, radio, television and the newspapers." That "modern" by the way, refers to publicity methods circa 1957. We can now add the internet, social media, and video games to Harris's list. He goes on to credit the motion picture industry, specifically Hollywood publicists, for creating the "public personality" for movie stars. Marilyn Monroe is a textbook example, a blueprint, for Hollywood's public persona system. Her bubbly personality traits, mannerisms, and lifestyle easily found their way into her films. I remember thinking, "does she ever play anything but a blonde bimbo?!" No. And now I know why.

Many stars and their publicists don't have the luxury of creating and maintaining a specific image thanks to advancing technology and the explosion of social media. In Marilyn Monroe's case, her public image was calculated and positioned against someone like Grace Kelly. As Harris identifies it, Kelly is the ideal mate, and Monroe is the 'playmate.' And all of Monroe's movies from Gentlemen Prefer Blondes  to The Seven Year Itch to Some Like It Hot, reinforce that image. 

Stars today are certainly publicized, advertised, and most definitely exploited (poor Kesha). But social media gives them the ability to still assert some level of independence and self expression. Marilyn Monroe had no such luxury. She was who her studio advertised her to be...and any time she deviated, it was a scandal. 

Today, stars have more freedom to decide who they want to be and express themselves, but it comes at a high price. Internet criticism is nearly instantaneous. Celebrity scandals will continue to come and go, young blonde bimbos will come and go...but there will always only be one Marilyn Monroe.


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