The Importance of Not Misquoting Marilyn


The mainstream media may be finally waking up to the fact that not all quotes attributed to Marilyn are genuine, if Mary Grace Garis’s latest article for Elle is any indication. (However, the piece is remarkably similar in some aspects to Marijane Gray’s ‘Misquoting Marilyn‘, published back in 2012.  You can learn more about Marilyn’s words of wisdom – real, and fake – at Immortal Marilyn Quote Unquote.)

“In all seriousness, during my search I came across an interesting response to a journalist about whether she had writers prepare material for her interviews. In this 1956 article from the Saturday Evening Post, Marilyn vehemently asserted that she refused to sign her name to that kind of falseness. In her own words: ‘This is wrong, because when I was a little girl I read signed stories in fan magazines and I believed every word of them. Then I tried to model my life after the lives of the stars I read about. If I’m going to have that kind of influence, I want to be sure it’s because of something I’ve actually said or written.’

I still don’t 100% get the Marilyn Monroe thing, but I can admire that she was a glamorous, titantic force, with undeniable charisma and a slew of memorable lines. She used her power to support the civil rights movement, which was huge at the time. She fiercely stuck to her brand, even while it probably ate away at her soul. And I think it’s only fair that we pause before trying to attach that brand to something she probably never said, especially knowing how her icon status makes her a huge role model for so many people.” – Mary Grace Garis, Elle

Marilyn, the Internet and ‘Role Model’ Syndrome

In recent weeks, two articles have been posted online, suggesting that Marilyn is a bad influence on young fans. Firstly, Jenna Sauber’s ‘Marilyn Monroe Not a Positive Role Model for Today’s Women’, published at K-State Collegian; while on Thought Catalog, Charlotte Green writes, ‘Young Women, Please Stop Idolizing Marilyn Monroe.’

If nothing else, the similarity of these posts show that these concerns are hardly original. Their sentiments have also been echoed in more offensive, ‘slut-shaming’ memes. It doesn’t help that a lot of these prejudices are based on unconfirmed rumours and misattributed quotes.

Firstly, I think it’s a mistake to set up celebrities as role models. They are only human, with flaws like everyone else. But secondly, as the meme posted above illustrates, Marilyn had many admirable qualities and achieved a great deal in her short life. And thirdly, young people aren’t as dumb as they’re sometimes labelled. They are perfectly capable of forming their own opinions. Fourthly, I believe that most fans respond to Marilyn’s warmth, intelligence and talent, and not just the glamorous image.

To understand the real Marilyn, and why she still has such a strong impact on our culture, I recommend reading a reputable biography (such as Michelle Morgan’s MM: Private and Undisclosed), or Marilyn’s own writings, My Story and Fragments. And for starters, try Marijane Gray’s article, The Underestimation of Marilyn Monroe.


Leigh Wiener’s Photos Go Digital

Marilyn: A Hollywood Farewell, published in 1990, is one of the most sought-after books on Monroe. Just 500 copies were printed, and second-hand traders now sell it for £500 upwards.

It features the photos of Leigh Wiener, who photographed Marilyn and whose pictures taken in the days following her death and at her funeral are now iconic in their own right.

However, if you have an iPad or Android, you can now purchase a digital copy at Amazon for just £7.91. Unfortunately, it is not available in book form as yet, or for Kindle.

Marijane Gray has interviewed Wiener’s son, Devik Wiener, for Immortal Marilyn.

“Devik Wiener wanted to bring to all Monroe fans what only a select few had ever seen and has thrilled Monroe
admirers by releasing a downloadable version of this notable book. With the advent of digital technology, the images
are even more striking. ‘Dad’s images were  printed 22 years ago,’ Devik says.  ‘While the book looks nice, it was
printed from enlargements Dad produced. The new edition has high resolution scans from original negatives so you
see detail you couldn’t see in first edition thanks to digital technology.'”

MM Fan Speaks Out on Fair Use

Photo by Yury Toroptsov, Marilyn and I, 2010

Marijane Gray, who has written several articles about Marilyn, was interviewed by Elisa Jordan for The Examiner recently, and spoke out about ABG and Facebook’s treatment on Monroe’s fans – and in particular, the mass deletion of non-profit tribute pages.

“It would do a lot to restore public opinion of them if they admitted they were wrong about what constitutes a copyright violation and left the non-commercial tribute pages in peace. There are enough people out there selling fake autographs, fake memorabilia, putting Marilyn’s face on cheap junk … go after them, not the people who want to look at photos or have a chat about her.”

Facebook and the Ownership of Marilyn Monroe

Photo by Harry Snowden

In the light of recent events in which ABG – who handle licensing matters for Marilyn’s estate – have had non-profit, fan pages deleted from Facebook – Marijane Gray has investigated the subject in an article for Yahoo! Voices, speaking to fans and legal experts on copyright and fair use.

‘Authentic Brands Group would do well to heed an actual quote from Marilyn: “If I am a star, the people made me a star.” Well, the people still love their star, and love her so much they will rebel against what they see as the commodification of her. Marilyn was viewed as a cash cow in life, never getting the respect she deserved, and it is a great tragedy that 50 years after her death nothing has changed.’