How a Fake Marilyn Quote Inspired a Meme

Social media has spawned many ‘fake quotes‘ wrongly attributed to Marilyn. One of the most ubiquitous, shown above, ends with the line, ‘If you can’t handle me at my worst, then you sure as hell don’t deserve me at my best.’ This quote cannot be sourced to any biography or interview, but it remains inexplicably popular. While more reputable publications now acknowledge that is dubious, it is still commonly linked to Marilyn. Recently, a more humorous take on the infamous quote has spawned a popular meme, albeit with the line slightly altered to ‘If you don’t love me …’

Among many celebrities joining in on Twitter are Smash star Katharine McPhee, and that most famous of Marilyn fans, singer Mariah Carey…

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.


Lady Gaga’s Blonde Moment

Lady Gaga responded to criticisms of her alleged weight gain via Twitter last night, sharing a photo of Marilyn with this quote, accompanied by a message from Gaga: ‘And thank to my fans who love me no matter what, and know the meaning of real beauty & compassion. I really love you.’

The supposed MM quote has been circulating on the internet for a few months.  However, it’s 100% fake, as Size Zero wasn’t introduced until 1966, four years after Marilyn died.

Feminism, Body Image and ‘The Marilyn Meme’

Marilyn Monroe was celebrated for her ‘hourglass figure’ and was defiantly curvy in an era when most women didn’t consider gym membership a necessity.

While I’m glad that women feel empowered by Marilyn’s body confidence, there is a danger in turning her into something she wasn’t. Monroe watched what she ate and exercised, like actresses today.

This is one reason why I don’t much care for the internet memes which proclaim Marilyn’s body type as ‘hotter’ than other slimmer women, often contrasting her healthy shape with unflattering paparazzi shots of modern celebrities, some of whom may suffer from eating disorders.

I find it cruel to champion one woman’s body while mocking another. It is true that many women feel pressure to be thin, but this does not justify picking on slimmer women as unattractive.

‘The Marilyn Meme’ is now the subject of an article by Heather Cromarty, published at Shameless, a feminist magazine aimed at young women.

For the most part, I agreed with Cromarty’s argument, but she let herself down in the last paragraph with her one-sided, ill-informed view of Marilyn:

“The Monroe Meme seems about the furthest thing from healthy. This is a woman who abused alcohol and sleeping pills later in her life, this is a woman who (probably) died due to depression. But, hey, as long as someone thinks she looks good, I guess that’s what matters.”

I’m not saying that Marilyn didn’t have her issues with addiction and depression, but she also had many positive qualities and achieved a great deal in her life.

By condemning her because of the personal problems she faced, Cromarty under-estimates Monroe and the many women who admire her – not just for how she looked, but for all that she was.