Marilyn: A Sex Symbol’s Anger

A scene from ‘The Misfits’

In an intriguing article for the feminist magazine, Bust, author Dana Burnell suggests that Marilyn’s reputation for ‘difficult’ behaviour  was a manifestation of her suppressed anger at the Hollywood system’s exploitation and disregard of her talent.

“The sense of watching a trapped butterfly permeates her best performances; it’s the quality that the starlets set up to compete against her were missing. They might have had more professionalism, but they lacked Monroe’s self-lacerating perception. That Monroe was angry, there can be no doubt. All of her actions speak to it: The lateness, the passivity, the pills and the booze, the relationships. The paralyzing depressions that are the rage of those who feel they are not allowed rage. The pills just damped down the anger and became the only thing that killed it — and her. For only half a moment did fame do what she thought it would, and make her happy.”

Patient Remembers Payne Whitney

paynewhitney

Marilyn was briefly committed to New York’s Payne Whitney Psychiatric Hospital by her analyst, Dr Marianne Kris, following a severe depressive episode in 1961, but was so disturbed by the experience that she called upon ex-husband Joe DiMaggio, who demanded her immediate release. She then spent six weeks recuperating in another hospital.

Author Steven Gaines has described his own five-month residency at Payne Whitney after a suicide attempt in 1962 when he was just fifteen years old, in an interview with Michael Musto for Out magazine.

“You thought Payne Whitney was going to be basically a fancy hotel.

I was shocked because it turned out the first week you go there—this is why Marilyn Monroe signed herself out—you go on the seventh floor and there were 24 patients, and a lot of them were in shock therapy and very ill. They put me in a quiet room, and I was kicking the door, so they shot me up and put me in a padded cell the first night. But the third floor was entirely different, and I spent most of the time there. That was very much like a hotel.

But very regimented.

Yes. You had to have breakfast at a certain time, make your own bed, and have therapy every day.

When Marilyn died a year and a half after her release from Payne Whitney, how did you react?

When it happened, I was in the hospital. Everybody was so upset. We thought, ‘This isn’t gonna work.’

So you were allowed to walk out of the establishment, but not go home?

Right. When you got to the fourth floor, you were allowed walk privileges. On the fifth, some people even went to work and were allowed to go home for weekends. At my grandfather’s shop—a corset emporium that also sold a full line of women’s clothing—my grandmother would say, ‘She’s a Friday customer.’ That would mean the mental home let you out for the weekend.”

Inside the Mind of Marilyn

Kalb

In her new book, Andy Warhol Was a Hoarder, health writer Claudia Kalb looks ‘inside the mind of history’s great personalities’. The first chapter is devoted to Marilyn, whom Kalb believes may have suffered from Borderline Personality Disorder, as she explains in an interview with the Huffington Post. (Marilyn was never diagnosed with a specific mental illness, though some authors have speculated that she may also have been bipolar, or manic depressive.)

“Biographers and commentators have long struggled to make sense of Monroe’s contradictory personality. The actress ‘yearned for love and stability,’ and yet often lashed out at those she cared about.

‘What is clear is that Monroe suffered from severe mental distress,’ Kalb writes. ‘Her symptoms included a feeling of emptiness, a split or confused identity, extreme emotional volatility, unstable relationships, and an impulsivity that drove her to drug addiction and suicide — all textbook characteristics of a condition called borderline personality disorder.'”

‘Secret Life of Marilyn’ Trailer Unveiled

11037307_10153162863785259_5329757299694033020_ncropEntertainment Weekly has posted a trailer for the upcoming mini-series, The Secret Life of Marilyn Monroe, on their website today. To be aired on the US cable channel, Lifetime, on May 30-31, the drama is based on J. Randy Taraborrelli’s 2009 biography.

While the scenes between Kelli Garner (as Marilyn) and Susan Sarandon (as her mother, Gladys) look interesting, it seems to exaggerate their closeness. And while Marilyn certainly battled depression, to equate her experiences with Gladys’s far more severe mental illness (she was diagnosed a paranoid schizophrenic, and spent much of her adult life in psychiatric hospitals) is rather misleading.