Lee Siegel: Unsexing Marilyn

Marilyn by Milton Greene, 1956

On the New York Review of Books blog, the critic Lee Siegel argues that while Marilyn is America’s most famous sex symbol, her sexuality is often swept under the carpet. While Siegel makes some interesting points, this ‘oversexed’ portrayal of Marilyn is ultimately as limiting as the sanitised representations he criticises, and adds little to our understanding of her true sexual identity.

“She was in thrall to her sexual nature. As she once said: ‘We are all born sexual creatures, thank God, but it’s a pity so many people despise and crush this natural gift. Art, real art, comes from it. Everything.’ Yet this ‘gift’ had another, punitive dimension. Her preternaturally powerful sexual instincts were her first, her primal addiction. She turned to drugs—just about every imaginable type of drug—and to alcohol in hopes of replacing one type of dependency with another. But the orphan’s need for love seemed too powerful, and sexual gratification was perhaps the only way it could—fleetingly—be appeased.’

 

Larry McMurtry on Marilyn

Larry McMurtry is an American novelist and screenwriter. Many of his stories have been adapted for film, including Hud, The Last Picture Show, Terms of Endearment and Lonesome Dove. In the latest issue of the New York Review of Books, McMurtry reviews three of the latest Marilyn-related books: Fragments, Maf the Dog, and MM: Personal.

“She was almost always photographed smiling, her lips slightly parted, her skin aglow with an aura all its own, and yet there was usually a curl of sadness in her smile: sadness that just managed to fight through; sadness that was always considerable and sometimes intense…Of the three books under review, easily the most accessible is MM—Personal. Marilyn Monroe, particularly during the decades of the 1940s and 1950s, was arguably the most famous woman on earth…Read together, the three books remind one of what a lot went out of American life with the passing of Marilyn Monroe; the important thing about her was her spirit, not whether she went to bed with a president and his brother.”

Read the article in full here