“While Jin Ge is my legal and formal name, my family calls me Mengmeng, a pet name chosen by my mother, after the American actress Marilyn Monroe, known in Chinese as Meng Lu. Mengmeng is an almost absurdly soft complement to Golden Ax: Meng means ‘dream.’ My mother named me after Meng Lu for one reason only: She wanted me to be beautiful …
I knew little about Marilyn Monroe and didn’t care to know more, wrapped up as she was in the confounding model of womanhood that was my mother. Perhaps I resented my mother, not just for imposing a standard of beauty on me but for picking an impossible one: Did she really believe her skinny Chinese daughter could grow up to be a blonde bombshell? It wasn’t until years later, when I stumbled upon an image of Monroe in Vogue, with a bright-orange X over her naked body, that I began to wonder about the woman behind the famous face. Was the image my mother idealized as constructed as the immigrant’s idea of the American dream?
After all, ‘Marilyn Monroe’ was a fiction. Norma Jean Baker, a wholesome brunette, was born to a schizophrenic mother and an unknown father and spent her childhood in and out of California orphanages and foster care. When her legal guardian moved out of state, she married at 16 so that she wouldn’t have to return to an orphanage. Eventually she divorced her husband to pursue modeling and acting, bleached her hair, and took a more memorable name.
My mother didn’t know any of this when she named me Mengmeng. In a way, my mother’s ignorance was Monroe’s own doing. The actress was so talented at reinvention that she disappeared into her own image. But [Bert] Stern’s photograph, taken in 1962, just weeks before she died from a barbiturate overdose at the age of 36, hints at the layers between fiction and reality … she had asked to see the images before they went to print. She returned them half destroyed: with bright X’s over the ones she did not like … For Marilyn, the desire to be seen was perhaps never closer to the desire to disappear.
Of course, my mother’s obsession with beauty was never just about beauty. When she left her hometown at 15, she was ridiculed for her country clothes, her accent, her field laborer’s dark skin. In Shanghai, where city folk looked down on outsiders, she’d tried hard to blend in. Her preoccupation with fashion was also part of an effort to erase the peasant girl she no longer wanted to be. In many ways, immigrating to America was the culmination of her self-creation.
It was also the beginning of many years of hardship. In Shanghai, my mother was a practicing physician, but in America she had to start over as a lab tech and research assistant, eventually redoing years of grueling residency. My parents raised me on students’ salaries while sending money back to their families in China. We lived below the poverty line; somehow, my mother had won a new life where she was once again the poorest of the poor. Meanwhile, her heavy accent and unfamiliarity with societal norms meant she had to work twice as hard to prove herself. Again she studied the ways of those around her: how Americans dressed, how Americans talked, how Americans laughed easily with people they barely knew.
But wasn’t this what she wanted all along? Assimilation, the process of becoming an American, assumes, to some extent, the erasure of who you were before. This is what I see in the photograph and the X: an act of obliteration that is simultaneously an act of creation.
For Norma Jean—perhaps for many of us—the drive to become oneself is inescapably intertwined in the dissolution of that same self.”
Zimbelism, the 2015 documentary about photographer George S. Zimbel’s 70-year career – including his iconic images of Marilyn filming the ‘skirt-blowing scene’ for The Seven Year Itch on a New York subway grate – will be screened tomorrow at The SLab in Beijing, China.
Some Like It Hot gets another free screening tomorrow night (August 28) at 8 pm in The Pearl, a cabaret bar in Shanghai’s Hongkou District.
Marilyn’s estate is suing a Chinese merchandising company for $22 million over a botched licensing deal, The Blast reports.
“According to court documents obtained by The Blast, the estate says they reached a licensing agreement with Alba Longa Concepts in 2016. The deal called for the production and manufacturing of a ‘line of defined consumer products, including sunglasses, watches, luggage, bags, leather accessories scarves, footwear, apparel, dinnerware, drinkware, barware and flatware, in China.’
The estate says the deal was to run for 10 years and promised them a ‘Guaranteed Minimum Royalties’ payment of $1,000,000 the first year, $1.5 million the second, and $2 million for each year thereafter.
According to the suit, the estate says they had the right to terminate the deal if they breach the contract by not making a scheduled payment within 10 days of being served notice that a payment is overdue.
Here’s where the big money comes in: Marilyn Monroe’s estate says that the deal provides that in the event of any breach by Alba Longa Concepts, all ‘Guaranteed Minimum Royalties’ payments for the length of the contract would become immediately due.
Monroe’s estate says Alba Longa Concepts breached the agreement on December 1, 2016 when they failed to make a payment. The estate says over the next year, they notified Alba Longa Concepts several times about the breach, but nothing was done.
Now the estate is suing, claiming they are owed $18.5 million for the missed royalties payments, plus another $4.48 million they claim they are owed in missed payments related to licensing the trademark.
They are seeking the money they are owed, plus 1% interest per month.”
This 8-metre sculpture of Marilyn surrounded by a Christmas wreath at a shopping mall in Dalian City, China is pictured among the Photos of the Day in The Guardian.
Marilyn’s iconic role in Some Like It Hot is referenced in Georgian filmmaker Zaza Urushadze’s The Confession, which has just premiered at the Chicago International Film Festival, as Daniel Hensel reports for Michigan Daily.
“The Confession follows a preacher, Giorgi, and his assistant, Valiko, as they fill in at a church in a town after the local preacher dies. They bring with them American DVDs and a projector to show in the church, believing that if the townspeople come for the movies, they’ll come to church.
The film series begins with Some Like It Hot, the 1959 Billy Wilder classic with Marilyn Monroe, leading a number of the villagers to note that one of the women in the village, a music teacher named Lili (Sophia Sebiskveradze, My Dad’s Girlfriend), looks an awful lot like the blonde bombshell herself. And sure enough, though she is far from identical, Lili’s styled platinum blonde hair makes a compelling case. Lili and Father Giorgi become friendly, with the preacher encouraging her to come to a confession, where she notes not her sins but rather her place in the village: since her husband’s death, many men lust after her, but she’s not interested in loveless sex.”
Meanwhile, Seward Johnson’s giant sculpture, ‘Forever Marilyn’, is featured in Angels Wear White, a new film from Chinese director Vivian Qu, the Straits Times reports.
“The sexual assault of two 12-year-old girls sets off a harrowing chain of events in the film Angels Wear White (2017). Despite the premise, there is nothing lurid or sensationalistic in Chinese film-maker Vivian Qu’s second directorial feature.
In the film, contemporary society is fraught with dangers and temptations for the young given the corrupting force of money. Qu says: ‘When everything is up for sale, how can a young girl find the right answer for herself and move forward? This has all gotten a lot more complicated.’ She was calling from London where the film was being screened at the BFI London Film Festival.
Qu notes that there are seven female characters in her film, including a giant statue of screen legend Marilyn Monroe. Though they are at different stages of life and have different attitudes towards it, she is essentially writing about women.
But it is not a reductive portrayal along the lines of ‘men are bad and women are to be pitied’. Qu says: ‘We are already in the 21st century, and yet the value of women is something that has not been been really thought about.'”
Ahead of the November sale at Julien’s, some of Marilyn’s personal property was showcased for Chinese collectors in Beijing on Tuesday, Louise Watts reports for ABC News.
“Around 800 items to be auctioned come from the estate of Lee Strasberg, the famed American acting coach who became a father figure to Monroe. The money will go to his widow, Anna. Other items come from the collection of David Gainsborough-Roberts, a major collector of Monroe’s costumes.
The hundreds of items include dresses and outfits, the negligee she wore in the movie Niagara and the green and black-sequined leotard she picked out herself from a studio wardrobe to wear in Bus Stop. There is a tube of her ‘non-smear’ Revlon lipstick in Bachelor’s Carnation shade, the shoes she wore to marry playwright Arthur Miller, and the pair of costume earrings that she wore to the premiere of The Seven Year Itch.
Then there are the personal notes, crayon drawings and watercolors.
Lee Strasberg’s son, David, said that he, his mother and brother found many of the items in suitcases and closets about six years ago during a clean-out, including one trunk he’d been throwing his football cleats on for years that turned out to contain some of Monroe’s personal writings.
Some items up for auction have never been seen by the public before. They include a first-edition hand-bound 1957 volume of her third husband Miller’s plays dedicated to Monroe, and a letter from a member of the Kennedy family.
Among the quirkier items are a receipt for a bottle of champagne, her 1947 contract with Twentieth Century Fox and a recipe for stuffing jotted down on a slip of paper with an insurance company’s letterhead. Her final checkbook shows her payments to the window cleaner, her maid and the New York Telephone Co. She paid $200 to herself marked as ‘cash for trips.’
‘Marilyn kept everything. She was a hoarder,’ said [Martin] Nolan. ‘She bought a pound of butter, she bought a bottle of tonic water she kept the receipt. It’s incredible. We have a pair of strap sandals that she wore when she was Norma Jean, probably 1943, 1945. And all the money she made and how famous she became and she kept those.’
Although Western movies were banned in China during Monroe’s heyday, her pop culture image and aspects of her life are well-known among many Chinese.
Darren Julien, founder and CEO of Julien Auction’s, said about 40 percent of their client base are Chinese collectors interested in Western pop culture, and particularly Monroe.
‘A lot of people relate to her because she had actually a very difficult life in a lot of ways. She never had a lot of money, but she captured the hearts of so many people around the world,’ said Julien.”
“There was a very unique quality about Marilyn. She was a sex symbol but there was a sweetness about her that was very compelling. There is no one like her. It was not only her beauty, but her vulnerability that made her special. It was often said Marilyn was great with still photographers — and she was. She didn’t see stills as being a waste of time. She enjoyed the still camera, perhaps more than motion.”
Chinese artist Chen Ke has mapped the different stages of Marilyn’s life in her debut gallery show, ‘Dream-Dew’, at Hong Kong’s Galerie Perrotin until June 25, Samuel Spencer reports for BlouinArtInfo.
“Whereas previous artists have focused on Monroe as an image or icon of a certain era of Hollywood glamour, Chen’s paintings focus on Monroe as person, a woman with hopes, history, and dreams.
For example, in ‘1932 Los Angeles 6 Years Old,’ 2016, Chen shows a young Monroe in the flower garden of a house straight out of an early 20th century American landscape painting. The image is put into question, however, by Monroe’s shadow, which seems to suggest she is posing against a backdrop rather than a real landscape, and by the fact the image is totally removed from the reality of 1930s America, with young Monroe’s blonde hair and clean blue dress at odds with our images of the Great Depression.
Chen’s idea to paint Monroe’s dreams and real life came from the Chinese character translation of ‘Monroe’, which literally means ‘dream of dew.’ As the artist puts it in a statement, ‘Dream refers to Marilyn’s dreams, also the American Dream, the Hollywood Dream…the large paintings represent dreams of Marilyn’s childhood, youth, adulthood and an imaginary old age,’ while ‘dew is the real, as opposed to dreams.'”
And finally, here’s part of a personal statement from the artist, Chen Ke:
“A Marilyn Monroe in her teens catches my eyes right away. Innocent and alive, slightly withdrawn and shy, with brightness and darkness like shadows in the sun, the girl was none of the sexy icon she would later be…
In Marilyn’s case, the success of dream pursuit and its attendant life force in the end, are no match for the dark influences planted deep in her unfortunate childhood, making her sad ending a kind of fatalism. In watching her strivings all along, we as knowing viewers can’t help feeling tragic for her, just as we would for Sisyphus who endlessly pushes the rock to the mountain top.”
Two Chinese students have created a giant portrait of Marilyn from snow over two days at the Changchun University of Technology in Jilin Province, reports the Huffington Post.
The Mini Marilyn brand, launched last summer by ABG – the official licensing arm of Marilyn’s estate – is heading to China, reports the Wall Street Journal.
“Chinese film company DMG Entertainment has struck a deal with brand-development firm Authentic Brands Group LLC to develop projects for Mini Marilyn, a cartoon version of the late American actress. The two companies plan to develop the character for film, merchandise and in forthcoming retail and entertainment projects, said Dan Mintz, DMG’s chief executive and co-founder. He declined to disclose the financial details.
The companies are betting that Mini Marilyn, a cutesy cartoon version of her blonde bombshell image, will strike it big with Chinese audiences the way that characters like Hello Kitty and Mickey Mouse have.
While Marilyn Monroe isn’t a household name in China, Mr. Mintz said most Chinese consumers know ‘Meng Lu,’ Ms. Monroe’s Chinese name, and are familiar with the image of her holding down her white dress in the film The Seven Year Itch.
They also hope Mini Marilyn will have appeal beyond China. ‘This is a global play,’ said Mr. Mintz. ‘When you look at Marilyn and the figure that she is, no one comes close. Everyone knows her.’
DMG hopes Mini Marilyn will pull in women, who are driving the box office in China and in the U.S, said Mr. Mintz. While there’s little data breaking down China’s movie audiences by gender, e-commerce giant Alibaba Group Holding Ltd. said that growth of its online movie tickets is driven by women. In the U.S., 52% of moviegoers are women, according to data from the Motion Picture Association.
Mr. Mintz said Mini Marilyn will come to life in short previews over the next few months and then eventually in feature films, TV shows, short form digital content, video games, mobile apps, music and live venue attractions.”