I recently watched a Marilyn Monroe movie called Gentlemen Prefer Blondes and was struck by how much I enjoyed Marilyn Monroe’s acting. She was believable in the part she played, an average-wage entertainer looking to marry rich. She loves diamonds and believes money is the panacea for all ills. But despite being one-minded when it comes to money, there isn’t a malicious bone in her character Lorelei’s body. There is a strategizing bone and an air-headed bone, right next to the fibula, but she isn’t cruel or conniving. She made her character believable, which is the focal point of what makes a good actor for me. I felt I could have met this type of person, even in this modern age, walking down the street or at a party.
Now, actually meeting Marilyn Monroe herself, not her character, would be a wholly different experience. I would probably feel inadequate, unattractive, and charmless. At least, that is my first inclination. First of all, I am a brunette and her movie just told me that men prefer the lighter-haired of my sex. Not only that, Marilyn Monroe is known as a ‘sex symbol’,’ one of the most recognizable of our modern times. That is someone whose value is found in their sexual attractiveness and prowess, in their ability to arouse lust and jealousy. In a sense, she is man’s fantasy and woman’s source of jealousy.
And she hated that.
Surprised? Well, I can’t blame her. That life sounds awful. It would be terribly sad to be a ‘sex symbol.’ While reading about Marilyn, I learned of her hard childhood, her rise to fame to become a ‘sex symbol’ in the cinema, and her disastrous life behind the silver screen. No silver lining for poor Miss Monroe. Failed marriages and psychological problems plagued her while her publicized life was glamorous and supposedly sexually fulfilling. She was quoted as saying ‘[b]eing a sex symbol is a terrible burden to carry, especially when one is tired, hurt, and bewildered.’ It’s not a life of happiness to have lust and never love. It’s not a life of happiness to be merely a symbol of someone’s inner desires, an object for others to yearn for and be jealous of.
More than being a ‘sex symbol,’ Marilyn herself desired to be a real actress, but rarely felt that her acting was taken seriously. She took acting classes and tried to rid herself of that ‘dumb pretty blond’ image. She desired her craft to be respected and appreciated, not just her body. Yet, even to this day she is remembered as the woman with her skirt flying up in the air, a thing to gawk at, not to cherish.
Now, I am not condoning many of the life choices Miss Monroe made, career or otherwise. She certainly had a hand in creating and propagating her sex appeal. But, in her own words: ‘[a]career is wonderful but you can’t curl up with it at night.’ A career of selling yourself can’t make you happy, it can’t make you fulfilled. Selling yourself won’t get you that love you desire. Posting that inappropriate picture won’t draw in deep relationships. Concentrating on sex, drugs, and rock and roll won’t help your talents or true self to be recognized and respected. We all desire respect and love. Learn from Marilyn: you don’t get either by selling your body or yourself short.
(All quotes and background information, which would be in footnotes if my computer worked with me today, are from ‘Marilyn Monroe Biography,’ In bio. http://www.biography.com/people/marilyn-monroe-9412123#famed-career)