When Are We Going To Stop Fetishizing Marilyn Monroe?

junkyardarts August 18, 2012 1
When Are We Going To Stop Fetishizing Marilyn Monroe?

It seems like every month we find new nudie pics of Marilyn.  New postcards or letters she wrote.  Some new first-hand account of her devious behavior.  Her jealousy.  Her rising star.  Her depression…

No, scratch that.  We don’t talk about that.  Because a woman desperate to be loved who eventually killed herself isn’t as sexy as whether or not she was totes jelly of Liz Taylor.

It seems that everyone is pretty aware that Marilyn was a troubled soul.  Every acknowledges that she was depressed.  Desperate to be loved and essentially molded her career around the hopes that she would find something or someone who would hold her close.  Love her as a person and not as a sex symbol.  And yet, she is still fetishized.

I guess it’s easy to do.  She put herself out there as a sex symbol, why not treat her as such?  Appreciate her as an American Icon?  Certainly the allure of the beautiful woman with humble beginnings becoming a movie starlet is appealing to young women, who remain the biggest consumers of products hosting her image.  Of course, the total decimation of the woman’s personal autonomy is a a story that is overlooked by youth, and sadly a story that follows so many young women around as well.  I’d like to imagine that maybe this continued obsession with Marilyn is because so many young women see and understand the wants and needs that Marilyn had and her desperation for acceptance and respect.

But I’m pretty sure the fascination is due to Authentic Brands Group and its partner, NECA, who own the rights to Marilyn’s likeness.  I’ve written about the acquisition before.  Since 2010 they have been shitting out stories, ads, branding, etc with Marilyn’s face plastered all over it.  SMASH, the tv show about a theatre trying to get their production of Marilyn on Broadway.  The countless Vanity Fair covers and articles.  The Marilyn Twitter feed.  The Marilyn Facebook page.  Fucking spas. Thanks to the ultimate dead-celebrity whore machine, “Marilyn Monroe ranked third last year in Forbes’ annual list of top deceased celebrity earners, generating $27 million and coming in behind Michael Jackson and Elvis Presley. It was a comeback for the actress, who had fallen off the list the previous two years.”

Thank goodness!  What would we have done had we let her soul rest?  Imagine the companies that wouldn’t be making millions off her likeness, how they would suffer if she wasn’t still so popular?  The horrors.

“Our aim has been to clean up the brand,” Salter said, with a shift away from “souvenir-type stuff” and toward what he calls the mid-tier luxury business. Current partners include Dior, Dolce & Gabbana, MAC Cosmetics and Marilyn Monroe Cafes, a group of high-end coffee shops.

Because nothing says class like a high-end coffee shop, amirite?

So at what point do women stop seeing Marilyn as endorsing these products and realize that a woman who committed suicide because no one took her seriously despite her talent is being used to shill garbage to the masses?  That lipstick you’re buying with her face on it isn’t the color she wore, it’s a brand designed to make you think you too can have a piece of her. Same with that eyeshadow.  That spa treatment.  All manufactured to get young women to believe they are something special.  Believe that they can have a piece of Marilyn to themselves.

At what point is there nothing left to go around?  How tacky a product can one make with Marilyn’s mug on it does it have to be for people to say ‘ooh. Wait a second.  This is garbage’? Or ‘I think I’m buying into a sham’? The exact image this woman tried to overcome in her life is being used to sell products that she may or may not have even wanted to when she was alive.  Unfortunately for Marilyn, nothing is sexier than a broken woman!  And that face can sell a whole lotta coffee.

Perhaps I’m just overreacting, considering it is the job of advertisers and brand developers to create buzz around their products.  To use the most convincing tactics and imagery to get people to buy their stuff.  Marilyn is an easy image to sell.  People are real open to spending money on trash with famous people slathered on it.  Maybe my problem is really with the people who buy into it.  Maybe I’m just protective, for no real reason, of Marilyn as a person.

In general, I guess I’m just sick of the fable that has become this woman’s life – it’s no longer (maybe it never was?) a cautionary tale to young women to love themselves instead of looking for love in other places or from other people.  To be strong in oneself rather than relying on others to create a barrier for you.  She is a story of a pretty face with big tits and blonde hair who giggled her way into our hearts rather than one of a woman who was thoughtful, intelligent and deep who desperately tried to show it and the world refused to see her that way.

And I can’t think of a sadder story to base a line of products on, really.

ArtDaily / Silobreaker /

One Comment »

  1. Adam August 22, 2012 at 10:32 am -

    It’s an interesting point of view. I think Marilyn is fascinating/alluring/exotic because you don’t really “know” Marilyn as a person. She has a couple interviews, some quotes here or there, but I think she’s so interesting because of the quantity of photographs. It’s like the opposite of reading a novel; you have the images and you can fill in the words.

    She very much had a full life, romance, intrigue, travel, and unique experiences. I can see this as being appealing to a young woman. One of the most interesting people of the 20th century.