55 Years Ago: The Many Meanings of Marilyn

Marilyn in ‘Let’s Make Love’, 1960

Academic website JSTOR Daily is exploring its archive for perspectives on Marilyn’s enduring fame, featuring quotes from Susan J. Hubert, Gloria Steinem, Lois Banner and Lore Segal (whose essay, ‘Sexy and Her Sisters’, was also published in the 2002 anthology, All the Available Light: A Marilyn Monroe Reader.)

“Marilyn’s mature comedies trust us to have internalized both myths, so that our expectations can be at once satisfied and mocked. In Let’s Make Love, sexy Marilyn is so sweet and good, she sympathetically coaches the newest member of the cast, who has been hired because he looks so much like the millionaire the play is going to make fun of. Luckily for the plot, her innocent decency keeps her from catching on to the fraud: her protege is the actual millionaire, hanging around to make love to her. But Marilyn’s specialty was to conflate the good girl and bad girl into the one and only Marilyn. It is the neatest trick.”

Yona Zeldis McDonough on Marilyn

Yona Zeldis McDonough, who edited the 2002 anthology, All the Available Light: A Marilyn Monroe Reader, has also written fiction and non-fiction for adults, and books for children. She spoke recently about her thoughts on MM’s enduring legacy:

“You edited a highly praised collection of essays about Marilyn Monroe. Why were you initially drawn to this project and why do you think Marilyn has held such a fascination for her fans? Will you go see the new film My Week with Marilyn?

YZM: She is that forever compelling combination of beautiful and damned. Her Cinderella-like transformation from unwanted orphan/abused foster child to Hollywood star fulfills a very powerful fantasy so many of us seem to have. I have mixed feelings about the new movie; MM’s presence was so incandescent on screen that I see no need to watch someone impersonate her.  Yet the film will add to the discussion in some fashion and I suppose I will succumb.” The Children’s Book Review