‘Glasses, Marilyn and Me’

Over at Bad Reputation, a light-hearted look at women, glasses and the movies of MM:

“In The Seven Year Itch, the protagonist imagines his secretary throwing off her (tailored) jacket, throwing out her hair and losing the glasses, to reveal ‘I’m a woman! I’m flesh and blood!’

The weakness myopia is seen to connote in men is generally considered more attractive than the dowdiness it suggests in women – ‘You don’t think they make me look like an old maid?’ worries Marilyn-Pola, through her Dame Ednas, in How to Marry a Millionaire – and millionaire-seeking once again in Some Like It Hot, Marilyn hopes ‘her’ man will have glasses. ‘Men who wear glasses are so much more gentle, sweet and helpless’, she says. Indeed, there’s even a sense here that a man with glasses becomes less frightening or powerful, less brashly ‘male’. The only disadvantage for Marilyn is that when she kisses the one she finds, his glasses steam up.

But perhaps she has something when, in Gentlemen Prefer Blondes she asserts to her (bespectacled) groom’s disapproving father – who sees right through her gold-digging tricks – ‘Don’t you know that a man being rich is like a woman being pretty? You wouldn’t marry a woman just because she’s pretty but, my goodness, doesn’t it help?!’.  If a woman’s face is her fortune, best not to cover it with glasses, eh?

But actually, I think the time has come to take that as exactly the nonsense it is. Seeing is sexy. Wear your glasses with pride.”

Feminism, Body Image and ‘The Marilyn Meme’

Marilyn Monroe was celebrated for her ‘hourglass figure’ and was defiantly curvy in an era when most women didn’t consider gym membership a necessity.

While I’m glad that women feel empowered by Marilyn’s body confidence, there is a danger in turning her into something she wasn’t. Monroe watched what she ate and exercised, like actresses today.

This is one reason why I don’t much care for the internet memes which proclaim Marilyn’s body type as ‘hotter’ than other slimmer women, often contrasting her healthy shape with unflattering paparazzi shots of modern celebrities, some of whom may suffer from eating disorders.

I find it cruel to champion one woman’s body while mocking another. It is true that many women feel pressure to be thin, but this does not justify picking on slimmer women as unattractive.

‘The Marilyn Meme’ is now the subject of an article by Heather Cromarty, published at Shameless, a feminist magazine aimed at young women.

For the most part, I agreed with Cromarty’s argument, but she let herself down in the last paragraph with her one-sided, ill-informed view of Marilyn:

“The Monroe Meme seems about the furthest thing from healthy. This is a woman who abused alcohol and sleeping pills later in her life, this is a woman who (probably) died due to depression. But, hey, as long as someone thinks she looks good, I guess that’s what matters.”

I’m not saying that Marilyn didn’t have her issues with addiction and depression, but she also had many positive qualities and achieved a great deal in her life.

By condemning her because of the personal problems she faced, Cromarty under-estimates Monroe and the many women who admire her – not just for how she looked, but for all that she was.

31 Days of Oscar

The New York Post reports on 31 Days of Oscar, TCM’s countdown to this year’s Academy Awards by screening a special program of classic movies – including Some Like it Hot (February 1st) and Let’s Make Love, which though not one of Marilyn’s more successful films, earned Oscar nominations for its impressive soundtrack; BAFTA nominations for director George Cukor and Yves Montand; and a Golden Globe nomination for Best Musical/Comedy.

The Mystery of ‘Blonde Heat’

Over at The Asian Age, MM collector Scott Fortner, and Richard Buskin – author of Blonde Heat, discuss Monroe’s ‘mystique’:

“Women admire women like Marilyn for being strong and independent. Marilyn took charge of her own career and refused to be bullied by men at the big studios. Men desired her for obvious reasons, and many men also fantasise that, had they had the chance to befriend or have a relationship with Marilyn, they somehow could have saved her and she would still be alive today.”

Going Places in Red Lipstick

Over at Salon, Larissa Zimberoff asks, ‘What is it About Red Lipstick?’

“When I read about why women wear lipstick I see words like: sexuality, rebellion, deception, arousal. I see a dangerous woman in a black and white movie…Was I like those women? Did I have what it took to wear red — or would the red wear me?

Red-lipsticked women are women who make history: Marilyn Monroe, Elizabeth Taylor, Grace Kelly, Lucile Ball, Paloma Picasso and Isabella Rosselini to name just a few. Stage actresses began the trend, wearing red lipstick so they could be seen from the back of the theater. In black-and-white movies they wore red lipstick because, in the absence of color, it was the quickest way to convey a deep, dark lip. Lips that meant business.”

Defining Marilyn: Reel Vs Read

Writing in the Chicago Tribune, Julia Keller argues that a novel like Joyce Carol Oates’ Blonde offers more insight into the real Marilyn than a movie like My Week With Marilyn ever could.

While both these examples may have their merits, neither is a wholly satisfying portrait of Marilyn. Perhaps the closest we’ll ever come to her true essence is not through outside interpretations, but the words and images she created herself.

“The fault lies not in our movie stars, but in ourselves — in, that is, the profoundly complex and endlessly shifting nature of human beings. To capture the richly dynamic essence of any individual requires the only medium that’s up to the challenge:

Novels.

Sitting in the dark at a recent showing of ‘My Week With Marilyn’, I was struck by the inadequacy of film as a way of conveying the boundless mystery of a real-life personality. A movie can do many things well: It can dish up terrific, gravity-defying action scenes. It can create worlds that never existed and make them uncannily plausible. It can act as a sort of prosthesis for the imagination, supplying spectacular colors and highfalutin visual hocus-pocus.

But what it can’t do — even when it tries its best — is get to the essence of a single human soul’s journey across time.

For that, you need a novel. You need the slow, methodical unfolding of a story. You need the gradual accretion of events — happy ones, tragic ones, mistakes and triumphs and accidents and turning points. A novel can deliver, one by one, the people who move in and out of any life. It can spurn the superficial. It doesn’t have to take anything at face value.”

Rihanna’s Monroe Portrait

Pop star Rihanna – who has been sporting an MM-style blonde wig of late – commissioned this portrait of Marilyn (made from 65,000 Swarovski crystals), for her new Hollywood home. It is based on a haunting 1954 photo from Milton Greene’s Ballerina session.

Artist Claire Milner tells Haute Living, ‘I tried to capture some of the complicated and contradictory aspects of Marilyn – the glitter and the public façade, the sadness in the eyes.’