Our Fixation With Marilyn Monroe Reveals Our Desire For Fifties Morality

Marilyn Monroe made historical past once more in March of this yr when her portrait offered for $195 million, greater than another work by a Twentieth-century artist at public sale. Sixty years after her dying on the age of 36, Monroe remains to be one in every of society’s foremost icons and is usually imitated by at present’s most influential celebrities.

Take Billie Eilish for one. Eilish rocked the Met Gala final yr with a deviation from her traditional road fashion to a Marilyn Monroe-inspired ballgown, solely to be topped on the 2022 Met Gala by Kim Kardashian carrying (and reportedly ruining) Marilyn Monroe’s iconic gown that she wore when she sang “Happy Birthday” to President John F. Kennedy.

2021 introduced us a brand new documentary of Monroe, and this spring Netflix aired one other documentary that includes interviews with Monroe’s internal circle. Now, Netflix is releasing yet one more movie about Monroe, “Blonde,” starring Ana de Armas in September.  

To sum it up: we love Marilyn Monroe.

Monroe had all of the elements by which to make her an enduring star — a rumored scandal with JFK, early standing as a intercourse image, and an early dying. But there’s another part that perpetually mounted Monroe’s place because the north star in at present’s file of fallen lights: She lived within the Fifties.

Our tradition’s fixation with Marilyn Monroe flows largely from the dichotomy between her picture and her period. Monroe was a intercourse image in a Hollywood wholly unknown to the trendy viewer — one which condemned actors filming in the identical mattress, onscreen kisses of greater than three seconds, foul or sexual language, and so forth. Studios didn’t drop the strict manufacturing code till 1968.

Hollywood of the ’50s marketed want, not intercourse. And there’s one thing about this forbearance to a contemporary age with no modesty that pulls us. There’s one thing alluring about not baring all. Marilyn Monroe is a intercourse image, however solely as a result of we by no means watch her have intercourse.

Modern intercourse symbols are tougher to seek out. Women like Megan Fox, Rihanna, and Kim Kardashian are our trendy equivalents however they mix in. They fade right into a tradition of sexual license and develop into recognized for his or her abilities or wealth. Promiscuity is simply too basic now to determine one within the corridor of fame. They don’t evaluate with Marilyn Monroe, and everybody is aware of it.

What actually makes Monroe a intercourse image is the society of the ’50s.

As such, Monroe is the symbol of a neighborhood we secretly admire however don’t really need. The one which seemed down on divorce and sleeping round and medicines and had by no means heard of “trans.” We suppose we’ve liberated ourselves from this period’s ethical limits, and but after we take a look at a lot of our in style movies and TV exhibits, we discover ourselves going again to what we left.

“Downton Abbey: A New Era” was simply launched final month. The second season of “Bridgerton” dropped this yr. “Persuasion” is coming in July so as to add to the movie and TV adaptions of Jane Austen’s works which have been making financial institution for the final twenty years. “WandaVision” in 2021 was a shorter attain again in time however one simply as well-loved with the viewers.

Though we deny it, we discover a neighborhood set of values interesting. It brings collectively as a substitute of dividing like “your truth, my truth,” and it rewards endurance, dedication, and arduous work in contrast to the trendy staples of social media, porn, and video video games.

Community requirements are interesting to us, sure, however not definitely worth the work. We would possibly need the results of the ’50s neighborhood requirements and of the inflexible ethical code of Jane Austen’s world and the aim, respect, and chivalry of its inhabitants, however we additionally need overt sexualization. And want trumps intercourse is a tough promote.

So, we take replicate the neighborhood of conservative eras, and we expect it’ll be higher if we put some intercourse in it. We take the profession of Marilyn Monroe, sprinkle in plenty of smut, and we get “Blonde,” the primary authentic Netflix movie to achieve an NC-17 score. We take the societal norms of Regency England, throw in obscene quantities of nudity and we get “Bridgerton.”

We suppose these hybrids will make us joyful. And they do entertain — Bridgerton is the #1 most-watched English-speaking present on Netflix. And but we betray ourselves with each nod to Marilyn Monroe. Something’s unsuitable, we really feel it. We consider a home with no partitions isn’t any home, however we ditch the one factor that separates a person from an animal — his morals — and suppose we’ll be happy.


Beth Whitehead is an intern at The Federalist and a journalism main at Patrick Henry College the place she fondly excuses the surplus quantity of espresso she drinks as an occupational hazard.

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