Reviewing Beyoncé’s recent Coachella performance for Vox, Constance Grady argues that the singer is a truly iconic star because she embodies and resolves a specific problem of our time, with an interesting reference to Marilyn:
“One of the things that separates a star who will fade from an icon who will last is this: Icons can reconcile a major cultural paradox through the power of their images. A star is a person onto whom the rest of us project all of our fantasies and fears, so when the star is able to resolve one of those fears, to make us feel that it is meaningless and insignificant just for as long as we’re looking at them, we love them for it. We turn them into icons.
Marilyn Monroe is the prime example here. Marilyn was both pure sex and pure innocence at once, in a time that was profoundly anxious about sex and women’s bodies. You didn’t need to be worried about whether sex was corrupt or dirty when you looked at Marilyn because she made sex feel innocent just by existing as Marilyn.
Today, you might think of Angelina Jolie, who is both a sex symbol and a mother figure, or Oprah, who is both our wise, empathetic, and selfless best friend and a brilliant businesswoman mogul: They have resolved a contradiction that we don’t like, and because of that, we love them.
The Bey Paradox does the kind of work that made Marilyn Monroe an icon. It takes one of the major questions our culture frets over — Should women be naturally beautiful/good at their work/perfect in general? Or should they take pride in working hard and earning their perfection? — and it answers, yes. Both. Natural perfection and high-maintenance perfectionism, both at the same time.
Beyoncé dreams it and works hard, and then she wakes up flawless. That’s what makes her Queen Bey.”
Biographile has interviewed Dr Lois Banner, author of Marilyn: The Passion and the Paradox. Asked which celebrity today reminded her most of Marilyn, Banner replied, ‘I’m thinking. Angelina Jolie, maybe, because she’s smart and she’s tough. Britney Spears, Paris Hilton, they’re sort of dumb. Marilyn was never dumb.’
Over at Flavorwire, a look back at past depictions of Marilyn in popular culture, in anticipation of Michelle Williams’ upcoming movie role. Pictured above is Catherine Hicks in the TV movie, Marilyn: An Untold Story (1980.)
I would also nominate Theresa Russell’s portrayal of ‘The Actress’ in the 1985 movie, Insignificance; Madonna in her ‘Material Girl’ video and ‘Homage to Norma Jean’ photo shoot; Drew Barrymore’s George magazine cover shot from 1996; and Angelina Jolie’s recreation of Monroe’s 1961 session with Douglas Kirkland.
In your opinion, what are the best – and worst – portrayals of Marilyn around? Or can nobody match the sublime MM?
CoversSell.com, who previously named the November’s Vanity Fair, featuring MM, as their cover of the week, report that this issue sold 10% more copies than the average edition last year, though outsold by August’s Angelina Jolie cover.
Vanity Fair also featured Marilyn on the cover of their 25th anniversary issue in 2008, the second most popular issue in that year.
The verdict? ‘Exquisite cover yields exquisite results.’
“My reporter was eager to ask Angelina Jolie about her plans to play Marilyn Monroe when they spoke at Monday’s premiere of Jolie’s new thriller, Salt. According to reports, author Andrew O’Hagan told the Edinburgh Book Festival that the star would fill Marilyn’s shoes in a film version of his novel, The Life and Opinions of Maf the Dog, opposite George Clooney as Frank Sinatra. But Jolie just looked bewildered. ‘Where did all these rumours come from?’ she asked. ‘I haven’t heard a thing about it! I don’t even know if I’d be the best person to play her.’ As to her rumoured co-star, she added, ‘I haven’t even talked to George about it.’ An embarrassed (or incensed?) O’Hagan – whose book contains the memories of Maf, a Maltese terrier given to Marilyn by Sinatra – went so far as to issue a statement about the confusion: ‘Despite what was said in the unchecked stories that appeared in the papers… I made no public statement about Ms Jolie or Mr Clooney… Everything about the film has still to be decided.’ Scarlett Johansson, anyone?”
“‘It’s really funny because I have just heard about this for the first time today,’ Angelina Jolie told Sky News, regarding her rumoured role as MM in an upcoming film of Andrew O’Hagan’s novel, Maf the Dog. ‘It’s news to me. I’m flattered – I suppose!'”
A few years ago, Douglas Kirkland recreated his 1961 Monroe photo shoot with Angelina Jolie, to stunning effect. While I do wonder if Jolie can recapture Marilyn’s fragile charm, she is a gifted actress and Hollywood’s biggest star right now. (Her performance in Life Or Something Like It, back in 2002, drew comparisons to Monroe in some quarters.)
Screen adaptations of two other Marilyn-related books, My Week With Marilyn and Blonde, are also rumoured to be in the pipeline.
Ever since Madonna and Stephen Meisel’s 1990 ‘Homage to Norma Jean’ spread in Vanity Fair, celebrities have been imitating Marilyn Monroe’s style – with mixed results.
“This trend of infinite iterations starts and ends with Marilyn Monroe, the dead starlet that every living starlet wants to imitate. As Lynn Hirschberg notes in a profile of Megan Fox (who has a Marilyn tattoo on her forearm), “Monroe was her own brand before branding existed.” What better way to send a career-branding message, then, than to channel the original tortured personal branding bombshell? Or so the logic goes.
But the Marilyn kabuki act rarely works as intended. Every time I see Lindsay Lohan as Marilyn, I question the troubled starlet’s mental health. Every time I see Megan Fox as Marilyn, I wonder if she’s not just an Angelina imitator, but a LiLo imitator, too. When Nicole Kidman did Marilyn, she looked old. When Scarlett did Marilyn—well, that was actually pretty good. But when Jessica Simpson did Marilyn (via famed Marilyn lookalike Virna Lisi, making hers an imitation of an imitation) it was an unmitigated disaster, lifeless and awkward.
This is what the future will look like if we don’t kill the starlets-imitating-starlets trend now. Starlets, stylists, editors: Start cultivating your own iconic looks. Do something original! Surprise us! Otherwise we’ll all be spinning in tutus in the rain for the decades to come, and between the Monroe imitators flipping their skirts up on the sidewalk, and the Mary Tyler Moore imitators spinning with shopping bags, the streets are crowded enough with pantomimes, already.” – Gawker
Fans in the Everlasting Star community have been monitoring this trend for some time now, and you can look back at the many celebrity homages to MM – the good, the bad, and the downright bizarre – in the member’s forum.