Finding Marilyn: Mary Ann Lynch

Old Town, Quito Equador, 1997

On International Women’s Day, here are some works by the artist Mary Ann Lynch, who has been photographing Marilyn in unusual places for many years. She hopes to publish her work in time for the 50th anniversary of Monroe’s death in 2012.

Also today, Marilyn Monroe is listed among the 60 Most Influential Women of the 20th Century by the Open University.

Flea market, Paris
New York Post, 1994

Greer on Warhol’s Marilyn

The feminist author and art critic, Germaine Greer, has analysed Andy Warhol’s Marilyn in The Guardian.

“Drawing and painting are fun, and most people like doing them, especially if they are considered good at them, but they are not art until they acquire separateness. A recognisable likeness of a celebrity will be artless, unless it acquires its own position in relation to all the other images of that celebrity and celebrity itself. Andy Warhol refined the image of Marilyn Monroe till it was almost insubstantial, a hieroglyph in place of a likeness, with neither age nor identity nor expression. It may seem the diametric opposite of the most famous portraits of history, but it isn’t. The portraits that survive have outlived their subjects and taken on a life the subjects could never claim. Those pictures exist in their own versions of the wandjina/Warhol zone.”

In her most famous book, The Female Eunuch (1970), Greer wrote of Marilyn:

“It still comes as a surprise to most people to learn that Marilyn Monroe was a great actress, most pitifully to Marilyn herself, which is one of the reasons why she is dead.”

‘Fragments’: MM Fan Review

Writer and MM fan Stephanie Nolasco has reviewed Fragments for the Elevated Difference website.

Fragments gives us a glimpse of a woman who was used and misused many times over. Finally, we have the truth of who really was one of the twentieth century’s greatest icons … It’s certain that loyal Monroe fans will instantly fall head over heels for Fragments … There are still many unanswered questions, yet Fragments ultimately reveals how Monroe was a curious, hopeful and passionate woman willing to overcome the many obstacles that came her way by trying to take control of her fate.”

Read Stephanie’s review in full here

Marilyn’s Internet Quotes: ‘Consider the Source’

Photo by Ben Ross

“I’m selfish, impatient and a little insecure. I make mistakes, I am out of control and at times hard to handle. But if you can’t handle me at my worst, then you sure as hell don’t deserve me at my best.”

This quote has been attributed to Marilyn countless times on the internet in recent years. However, I have never been able to find the source: not in any biography, memoir or interview.

Therefore, I consider this quote to be dubious at best. However, a writer at Gender Agenda has posted a feminist critique, no less, entitled (with no apparent irony) ‘Women Who Just Don’t Get the Point.’

“If you haven’t heard this quote before then you must acquaint yourself with all the right people. The women who use and adopt this quote (it is almost invariably women), I am sure, do it in the spirit of GIRL POWER. Women do this, and like this, and act like this; and, if you can’t deal with it, then tough. Women get emotional, women can be erratic – and if you won’t handle our cons then you can’t get our pros. I think that this detrimentally misses the point of feminism, which I believe to be gender diversity, equality and acceptance.”

As I was unable to log into the site, I could not point out that this quote was probably not said by Monroe. However, I see that another reader has commented, quite eloquently, on the matter in hand.

“While I think that you fundamentally have a good point, I would disagree with you on your assessment of Monroe’s quote; I don’t believe that there is any sort of broad base for the quote, it is intended to be entirely personal. Monroe was known for having personal issues, at the same time as being the most desired woman of her era.

In the same way as I might comment on my own personal problems, we do not assume this to extend across all of male-dom. If I say I have issues with anger, or drink, or self-esteem, or the colour blue, I am not taken as the mouthpiece of all men, all Asians, all scientists, or any other demographic. This is reflected in the structure of her sentence-’I’; it appears more as an affirmation of self-worth, if you cannot cope with the negative aspects of her character, then she has no reason to let you experience the side of her that she likes and appreciates. People desired the ideal of Marilyn Monroe, but her quote indicates a refusal to grant them this ideal, if they didn’t want to/couldn’t handle having the real, 3D, human, Marilyn Monroe, née Norma Jeane Mortenson, at the same time, as irrevocably intertwined were the two.”

Jill Clayburgh 1944-2010

Actress Jill Clayburgh has died aged 66. She starred in films such as Portnoy’s Complaint (1972), Gable and Lombard (1976), Semi-Tough (1977), An Unmarried Woman (1978), and La Luna (1979.)

She was known for playing strong, liberated women, and once told reporters, ‘There was practically nothing for women to do on the screen in the 1950s and 1960s. Sure, Marilyn Monroe was great, but she had to play a one-sided character, a vulnerable sex object. It was a real fantasy.’

In recent years, Clayburgh has appeared in television dramas including Nip/Tuck and Dirty Sexy Money (with Donald Sutherland.) She married playwright David Rabe (The Firm) in 1979, and they had three children.

Jill Clayburgh died of leukaemia after living with the disease for two decades. Her final film, Love and Other Drugs, opens in the US later this months and also features Jake Gyllenhaal and Anne Hathaway.

Mariella’s Marilyn: ‘Blonde on Blonde’

Photo by Rupert Hartley

Broadcaster and journalist Mariella Frostrup has told the Radio Times that after presenting the BBC Radio 2 series Blonde on Blonde in 2009 (profiling three iconic blondes, Doris Day, Diana Dors and Marilyn Monroe), made her realise how little the ‘dumb blonde’ stereotype has progressed over the years. (Unfortunately, Blonde on Blonde is not currently available on BBC i-Player. It was an interesting series, despite some factual errors. If it is repeated anytime I will mention it here.)

The broadcaster, 47, said she “would have thought twice” about going blonde at 16, when her father’s death left her grey, if she had “known then what my shade of choice suggested to the world”.

“Few women may be born blonde but that hasn’t stopped it becoming a noun. In blonde world whether you’re a brain surgeon, a lapdancer or an oligarch’s wife, it’s all the same. Blonde is the description – anything else merely informs us of the variety. Pinch me if I’m living in the 21st century.”

Of famous blondes like Monroe, Frostrup commented:

“Beneath the make-up and beyond the studio publicist’s spin a sorrier bunch of women you couldn’t stumble across… like so much else in their lives their most celebrated asset, their platinum locks, were fake. Perhaps it was the shadow of that deception, one of the many required to qualify as screen sirens, that saw so many of their dreams end in tragedy.”

According to Frostrup: “Being blonde means never saying you don’t understand unless you want to be predictable. Being blonde means always trying to tell the blonde joke first.” She added: “Our roots are often only skin deep and, despite assumptions to the contrary, proven side effects don’t include brain impairment.”

She cited Meryl Streep, Hillary Clinton and the pop singer Lady Gaga as examples of women who combine blonde with brains. And she quoted Dolly Parton, who famously said: “I’m not offended by all the dumb blonde jokes because I know I’m not dumb – and I’m not blonde either.”

It’s not the first time Frostrup has spoken out about sexism and ‘blonde prejudice’. “Men are hideously predictable,” she told the Radio Times back in 1998. “They all want blondes with big breasts. Men expect a sweet, cute blonde and get me. They have a problem with women who are bright and good-looking. Women, on the other hand, would welcome the combination in men, given the opportunity.”