Fighting for the Real Marilyn

Marilyn by George Barris, 1962

Immortal Marilyn president Leslie Kasperowicz gave a powerful speech at the memorial service marking the 55th anniversary of Marilyn’s death earlier this month. You can read the full text here.

“Once upon a time, a false story about Marilyn could only be spread as fast as paper publications could disseminate; and tabloid stories were easily recognizable as fake news. Today, a fake news story about Marilyn spreads in seconds across the globe, and just as quickly becomes ‘fact’ as the tabloid source is obfuscated in the anonymity of the internet share, reblog, ReTweet. The reputation of the source hardly matters anymore. Her true story is lost in the clickbait sensationalism, and I do not know this Marilyn Monroe.

When last I stood here, Photoshopped photos of Marilyn were rare and easy to spot. Today, a new fan’s first image of Marilyn is as likely to be a fake photo as a real one; the fakes so widespread that even Google images has a photoshop in the number one spot for results. Marilyn’s head is seen on the bodies of others, she is shown with people and in situations that never happened in her lifetime; she is seen brandishing guns, throwing gang signs, covered in tattoos. And I do not know this Marilyn Monroe.

Fake quotes spread around the world so fast and so thoroughly that when searched, she is the only source to be found. Inane, vague, and utterly ridiculous statements are attributed to her, she is turned into a talking head for what a new generation thinks of as inspirational words she would never, in reality, have spoken. And I do not know this Marilyn Monroe.

Our Marilyn Monroe is more than an icon, more than a brand, more than a name, more than a character. Our Marilyn Monroe wanted only to find love, to be respected for her work, to be treated with dignity, to be an honest and realized human being – to be treated as such, and to work at being an actress. She was not a joke, no matter how hard some tried to make her one. And she was worth more as a human being to those who love her than her glamorous image ever earned after her death.”

Fake James Dean/Marilyn Image Debunked

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In a post debunking fake, Photoshopped images, Gizmodo’s Matt Novak points out a frequently circulated image of Marilyn, supposedly with James Dean. In fact, she was photographed alone by Ed Feingersh in 1955, smoking a cigarette on a balcony overlooking a New York street. The photo of Dean appears to have been taken while filming East of Eden. While the two iconic stars have often been compared, actually they only met on a handful of occasions and were not close friends.

‘Why Marilyn Photoshops Are So Damaging’

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Taken by Philippe Halsman in 1954, this photo shows Marilyn sorting through prints from a recent collaboration, and deciding which shots to approve or discard. She took her image very seriously, and as Immortal Marilyn staffer Marijane Gray explains in a new Buzzfeed post, would most likely have taken a dim view of the Photoshopped images that now proliferate on social media.

“With the internet age comes technology used to fool people. Whether it’s a false headline or a photoshopped image, it serves no purpose other than to say ‘gotcha!’. Unfortunately for Marilyn fans, the last few years have shown a trend for creating images with Marilyn’s head or face photoshopped onto someone else’s body. What’s the harm in that? Not only is it incredibly disrespectful to Marilyn, who took pride in her body and worked hard on her figure, it’s disrespectful to the poor woman who’s had her head chopped off and replaced with Marilyn’s.

Photoshopping pictures of Marilyn are muddying the waters for newer generations of her fans. They’re putting in her in situations that never actually occurred, obscuring her history and her true self. They’re presenting an image of her that is completely false and if it continues in this fashion we may lose entirely who she really was.”

Myth-Busting: Marilyn and JFK

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Over at Buzzfeed today, there’s a helpful visual guide to some of the more persistent myths (including auction hoaxes and faked photos) about Marilyn’s alleged romance with President John F. Kennedy, and her performance of ‘Happy Birthday’ at Madison Square Garden in 1962.

“The so-called relationship between Marilyn and JFK has taken on a life of it’s own and has spawned a cottage industry of books, newspaper articles, rumours and conjecture. Contrary to what Google or Pinterest will tell you, there are only three photographs of Marilyn and JFK in the same room together. Any other photo purporting to be them is a FAKE.

Contrary to rumour Jackie Kennedy didn’t decide to stay away because of Marilyn’s presence. She didn’t care for these big political fundraisers and had always planned to be participating in a horse show elsewhere.

Rumour has it that Marilyn was drunk and her actions while performing were wildly out of control. Not true. It is also good to remember that this was a political fundraiser for the Democratic party. It wasn’t exactly an intimate dinner. Marilyn was one of many people performing at the fundraiser and she didn’t even close the night.

Marilyn Monroe is probably the most iconic movie actress in the world. She is also the most maligned. Not a month goes by without a lurid story being splashed across the tabloids and the internet. And everyone knows if it’s on the internet it must be true right? Wrong. With a little research (something biographers seem to be lacking) you can uncover the truth.”

The Perils of Photoshop

Marilyn by Ed Clark, 1950
Marilyn by Ed Clark, 1950

False Images = Faulty Facts‘, an article posted by John Greco on his excellent Twenty-Four Frames blog today, takes a look at the problem of Photoshopped images. This photo of Marilyn alone, taken by Ed Clark at Griffith Park in 1950, was interpolated into a Richard C. Miller picture of James Dean and Elizabeth Taylor relaxing during filming of Giant in 1955.

While it may seem like harmless fun, these images are too often taken as genuine, and are circulated around the internet – thus rewriting a small slice of history. With so many misunderstandings about Marilyn already in existence, these pictures are witlessly damaging her legacy.

Art and Myth: Alison Jackson’s Marilyn

Photo by Alison Jackson, using lookalikes
Photo by Alison Jackson, using lookalikes

Over at Mental Floss this week, artist Alison Jackson‘s photograph of two lookalikes impersonating Marilyn Monroe with President John F. Kennedy topped a list of ‘10 Internet Lies That Just Won’t Die.’ Of course, Jackson’s work is not intended to deceive – it’s an artistic interpretation of the fantasies so many of us harbour about the rich and famous. However, many people do believe her photos of Marilyn to be real and cite them as proof of an MM-JFK affair. And many others have since ‘Photoshopped’ Kennedy into photos of Monroe and vice versa, giving no indication that the images are fake. In fact, only two verified photos of the alleged lovers have ever been published, and both show them among the company of others.

Alison Jackson
Alison Jackson
Alison Jackson
Alison Jackson

tumblr_muoc1wrabQ1szxilso1_500 UPDATE: Jackson’s first, and most intriguing image of Marilyn was taken in 1999, with lookalike Suzie Kennedy crossing a Paris street alongside a Princess Diana impersonator, both carrying shopping bags. The image was created just two years after Diana’s death. Part of its charm is that unlike the Kennedy shots, it cannot logically be mistaken for a ‘real’ photo (Diana was born in 1961, just a year before Marilyn died), and is therefore pure fantasy. The picture is included in a new French exhibition focusing on paparazzi photography, reports The Observer.

Airbrushing, Then and Now

“You know what? I want to look as good as the pictures I see in magazines, but it’s not going to happen. This is how it has always been, and this is how it will always be. We are all smart enough human beings to know that the images we see in magazines or on album covers aren’t real. The fact is that we don’t want to see imperfections, we don’t want to see reality. If I watch a Marilyn Monroe movie I want to see her looking stunning, and in those days it was probably worse than it is now because they actually retouched the negatives so that no bad pictures could ever be seen. I grew up admiring those idealised images, and those women were Barbie dolls compared to what we are looking at today…’

Kylie Minogue

Photo montage by Tiina at Everlasting Star