The Illusion That Is Marilyn Monroe

Every day another girl looks in the mirror and says to herself wistfully, "I want to be like Marilyn Monroe. I want to light up the world, I want to be beautiful, I want to be a woman no one ever forgets." Marilyn is the guiding angel that inspires  them to live their Hollywood Dream. Her mystique acts like a beacon to their sensitive, longing souls. She's the shimmering, seductive Anima of Tinsel Town. 

If you look carefully at Monroe's career it quickly becomes apparent that Marilyn worship isn't about her actual achievements as an actor. I'll go out on a limb and say that although she was certainly good at what she did, her versatility and depth as an actor isn't all that impressive (unlike her fellow legend James Dean). 

Don't get me wrong, I'm not a hater. I enjoy watching Monroe do her legendary thing as much as anyone. But what's most enthralling about Marilyn isn't her acting, it's her presence, her ability to emanate something radiant and unique, her ability to transform into a Goddess.  

Norma Jean Baker, the troubled, ambitious girl who was tossed from foster home to foster home, was the first and best Marilyn impersonator. Norma Jean conjured Marilyn from archetypal elements of beauty, sexuality and desire. Although many have tried to recreate the formula they've mostly fallen short.

To be fair, I haven't seen (the otherwise talented) Michelle Williams try to bring Marilyn to life in the latest silver screen offering, but judging from the pictures, trailer and clips, Williams strikes me as yet another actress playing dress up. No Marilyn emanation at all. Naomi Watts is supposedly next in line to march in Hollywood's endless Monroe parade.
If you want to see a Marilyn's Marilyn check out Suzie Kennedy channeling the diva. She pulls it off so well because she let's go of being a great actress. She just moves herself aside and let's Marilyn manifest. 


Many aspiring actresses who look to Monroe for inspiration are drawn to the power of the symbol, the adulation she evokes, the tragic power of her story. But if they're serious about the craft of acting they'd do well to be inspired instead by actors like Meryl StreepHelen Mirren or Marilyn's former roommate, Shelley Winters. It might be terribly seductive to be a Goddess but it's also fraught with peril. Mythology is peopled with those who draw the wrath of the gods when they try to be like them. And the goddess of sex and love - Aphrodite - is known to be particularly cruel when a mortal steps into her territory. 

It's said that "whom the gods would destroy, they first make mad". Thus, it comes as no surprise that once the fragile, emotionally scarred Norma Jean had completed her transformation into The Sex Goddess Marilyn Monroe, she spiraled into depression, addiction, bitterness and despair. Her destruction was part of her myth. No matter how talented the Celestial Marilyn was, her human self was a nightmare to work with. By the end she was viewed in the industry as an irresponsible, royal pain-in the ass who was as out-of control as that modern trainwreck, Lindsay Lohan

But, with her physical death, Marilyn Monroe was finally free of the neediness, pain and frustration that had been locked in the flesh and bones of Norma Jean Baker. Without the weight of human frailty she was able to achieve her greatest ambition and take her place among the Immortals.

Here is an excerpt from Marilyn's last interview that gives a candid glimpse into her troubled state of mind near the end of her life.

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