Apr 5, 2008

The Star Persona of Marilyn Monroe

Marilyn Monroe is the iconic dumb blonde. She paved the way for dumb blonde stereotypes that still carry a lot of resonance today. Marilyn Monroe wasn’t even a natural blonde (but a redhead). I doubt she had much confliction about the affect that her film characters have influenced American (and international) societies view of blonde females. I believe that her film characters are a little more complicated than they let on. Despite her film characters persistent joy and absent mindedness, I think that they had another underlying layer. The best evidence of this theory is the theme of psychoanalysis found in Marilyn Monroe’s film The Seven Year Itch.

Marilyn Monroe’s characters are able to seduce a man in seconds with her suggestive (many times in a subtle way) gestures. She can put a man in a trance within less than a seconds time. Whether her characters are conscious or subconscious of this is irrelevant (the real Marilyn Monroe was obviously conscious of this). Marilyn Monroe’s characters have the ability to sexually entice any man resulting in her benefit. If it wasn’t for this “tool” of sorts, the success at the very least, would be somewhat weakened. If Marilyn Monroe’s characters had a mean and cold persona than her popularity would wane to some degree.

In the film The Seven Year Itch directed by Billy Wilder, psychoanalysis becomes a weapon. Marilyn Monroe’s character in the film has caused a married man to swoon for her. After just meeting Marilyn Monroe’s character (who is listed as “the girl“), the male protagonist becomes instantly obsessed with her and every little movement she makes. A psychiatrist diagnoses the protagonist with “the seven year itch.” The married man blames the girl for his weak spot and obsession with her. The man believes that everything that happened is the result of subconscious decisions. Somehow the girl seems to have an intuitive knack for knowing what is going on and how to respond. Her beauty has become an engulfing trance inducing weapon just as the vampire in Dracula does when seducing his victims.

Marilyn Monroe wasn’t the first women to use her beauty as a weapon to entice males to the point of complete dominance. German actress Marlene Dietrich also seduces an older man in her film The Blue Angel (among other films) directed by Josef von Sternberg. In the film, a strict and authoritarian like teacher meets a seductive dancer by the name of Lola and doesn’t look back. He quits his job teaching and eventually becomes a circus clown for Lola’s cabaret. Like Marilyn Monroe’s characters, Lola has the ability to make any man satisfy her desires. I can only assume that Lola was an influence on Marilyn Monroe’s characters and her film career.

Marilyn Monroe’s character in Gentlemen Prefer Blondes also knows what she wants. She uses her sex appeal and suggestive nature to obtain what she wants from a rich man. Monroe’s character is engaged to a not so handsome guy. One can only assume she is in it for the money and in the end she marries the suitor. The man’s father disapproves of Marilyn Monroe and he believes that she just wants to get married for money. Monroe’s character states to her suitors father, "I don't want to marry your son for his money, I want to marry him for your money." I found this hard to believe and just as more evidence of Monroe’s cunning sexual persona.

I believe Marilyn Monroe’s characters to be ironic examples of women’s empowerment. Her characters seem to have an objective (whether conscious or subconscious) and carry them out to her benefit. Many viewers just assume that Monroe just plays the role of a dumb blonde, but she is also the one that always comes out on top. The male protagonist in The Seven Year Itch states, “Everything happens for a reason.” Going on that statement, it can be rest assured that Monroe knows how to get what she wants. I wouldn’t necessarily call Marilyn Monroe’s characters feminists, but they do not accept the role of the dominated female (she is the dominator).

The female stars of previous Fox studio films were somewhat different from the roles that Marilyn Monroe played. The film In Old Chicago features the aggressive female played by Alice Faye. She supports herself and is the master of her own destiny. Only a criminally minded Irish American can tame her and turn her into a loving lady. Marilyn Monroe, on the other hand, gives the impression that she is a sweet and innocent girl. In the end, Monroe’s characters always end up dominating the males.

The character of Laura (played by Gene Tierney) in the film Laura (directed by Otto Preminger) is sort of a ghost of intrigue. Thought to be dead at first, Laura reappears and has three men fall in love with her. Three men try to obtain Laura due to their love and infatuation with her. Her alluring power is almost as strong as Marilyn Monroe‘s, but Laura doesn’t need to be sexually suggestive in her way. One of the men even falls in love with Laura while thinking that she’s dead. Laura’s powers are almost supernatural.

There is no doubt that there is more that meets the eye in regards to the character played by Marilyn Monroe. Her success just didn’t appear from her good looks. Monroe’s characters obtained what they wanted anytime they wanted. Marilyn Monroe was an unconventional symbol of female empowerment and success.

-Ty E

1 comment:

jervaise brooke hamster said...

Marilyn Monroe (and all others of her ilk) was only popular because hard-core pornography was not freely available at that time. Sorry if i sound cynical, i`m just being truthful again.