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Why Is Marilyn Monroe A Hero?

Why Is Marilyn Monroe a hero?
Image Source: it.wikipedia

Marilyn Monroe is a name known to all. It doesn’t matter if you are a classic film enthusiast, a fanatic of Hollywood history, or completely indifferent towards cinema, chances are you know of the legacy Marilyn Monroe left behind.

Typecast into a dumb, blonde role, Monroe was known for being a “sex symbol.” Little was known about her backstory and struggles. To people, she was just a sexy woman with no brains and a job to look appealing to those who feast their eyes on her.

Marilyn Monroe
Image: Wikipedia

Monroe wanted to be given more challenging roles and to be better as an actress, but she did not get many chances to prove herself. Unfortunately, she died in 1962, at the mere age of 36. Several conspiracies are surrounding her death even now, with speculations about whether it was suicide, accident or murder.

So why is Marilyn Monroe a hero? Because she was more than a beauty icon, more than her looks and her “hourglass figure” she is so popularly known for. She was a talented, authentic, and compassionate woman with a traumatic past, leading to her having severe mental health problems. Monroe’s death was untimely, and a shock to the entire world back then. Had she been alive today, she would have been 91 years old.

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Marilyn Monroe Had a Traumatic Childhood And Struggled to Become an Icon

Marilyn Monroe was born as Norma Jeane Baker on June 1, 1926, into a low-income family. Her mother Gladys, though in the picture, was mentally ill (later diagnosed with schizophrenia), and her father, to this date, remains unknown. Norma was sent into a foster home at the age of five because her mother wasn’t fit to take care of her. Following that, Norma moved in and out of the foster system, as Gladys tried to make ends meet.

Norma Jeane Baker
Image Source: Wikipedia

Later, Monroe stated in interviews that she had been sexually abused in foster homes. She recounted such times of trauma at a time when no one talked openly about it, with wonder about how she was able to survive all of it.

Soon after, Gladys was sent to a mental institution, and Monroe was left alone. She was moved into a foster home belonging to her mother’s friend’s aunt, and then an orphanage.

At the age of 16, in 1942, Norma was struggling to find a permanent home. Due to this, she got married to James Dougherty, her neighbor. When he was going overseas for two years, Norma started working in a defense plant, where she was discovered by a photographer, following which she worked extensively and got featured in multiple magazines, despite her husband’s rebuttals.

Marilyn Monroe
Image Source: Blogspot

In the year 1946, Marilyn signed her first contract with 20th Century Fox and divorced her husband, who didn’t support her career. Upon suggestion by a film producer, Norma changed her name to Marilyn Monroe.

With no acting gigs initially, Monroe took a lot of classes for training in acting and dancing. She changed the color of her hair from brunette to blonde to look more appealing. In 1947, Monroe had her first acting role in Dangerous Years (1947) as a waitress. She did a few small parts here and there before Fox deemed her to be “too insecure” to become a successful actress.

But Monroe wouldn’t have it. She slowly edged her way into the industry, befriending people and hosting parties, all the while going to acting school. She modeled relentlessly and even did a nude photoshoot, which later becomes a controversy when she was famous.

Finally, it was in 1950 that Marilyn Monroe gained more significant traction through roles in All About Eve (1950) and The Asphalt Jungle (1950). She was talked about in magazines and tabloids, with people becoming appreciative of this new rising model turned star.

So why is Marilyn Monroe a hero? Because she rose to fame in the face of adversity. In 1953, Monroe did some of her most famous movies-  Niagara, Gentlemen Prefer Blondes and How to Marry A Millionaire. From Monroe’s figure and speech to her acting and clothes, everything was termed overtly sexual, and Marilyn earned the status of a sex symbol.

Monroe Wanted More Diverse Roles, But The Industry Did Not Give Her The Opportunity

Monroe had been typecast as a dumb blond, so much so that she was patronized by male reporters even in interviews, resulting in a feature of her previously done a nude photoshoot in Playboy (without her consent).

Monroe was bullied and harassed by the big men in the industry. She had a fallout with Fox because she wasn’t getting roles that were more diverse and challenging. When they had financial differences over her first contract, Fox openly mocked Monroe to tarnish her image.

So why is Marilyn Monroe a hero? Because she struggled to become known as a talented actor who had a bigger range, and even started her own production company (MMP) and did movies such as Bus Stop (1956) to shed her image.

Marilyn Monroe Had Physical and Mental Health Problems All Her Life

Marilyn Monroe
Image Source: Wikipedia

Monroe’s mother suffered from schizophrenia, a mental disorder, which affected a young Norma deeply. Since she had always been in the foster system with no permanent home, Monroe had a fear she would inherit the same mental illness her mother had. While Monroe was gaining fame, her mother was in a mental institution, and soon committed suicide. Reportedly, Gladys’ death by suicide later left affected Marilyn deeply, and her fear of mental illnesses grew.

Monroe also suffered from anxiety and stage fright. She had to shoot several films takes before she was satisfied with her performance. She would also not be on time on set, or sometimes, would not show up at all. Her contract with Fox Studios also caused her several problems, since she was getting tired of playing the same stereotypical dumb blonde role. Soon, their contract was terminated.

In 1954, Monroe married Joe DiMaggio, an American baseball player. However, their marriage ended soon because DiMaggio was against the image Monroe portrayed in films.

Marilyn Monroe and Joe DiMaggio
Images Source: Wikipedia

There are also claims that he was abusive and too controlling. In Seven Year Itch (1955), where she played the the-girl-next-door, Monroe acted the scene which has now become one of her most famous moments, where her white dress was blown up in front of over 2000 photographers. That was the last straw for DiMaggio, and the two got a divorce.

After a suggestion by an acting coach, Monroe started psychotherapy. She married playwright Arthur Miller in 1956, an unlikely duo that made the headlines. Legend says that when they were filming The Prince and The Showgirl (1957), Monroe came upon a diary entry written by Miller about her, which called her not as smart as Miller’s friends and embarrassing. This left Monroe devasted, setting off her notorious addiction with alcohol and drugs.

Monroe’s new contract with Fox was satisfactory in the beginning, but problems started brewing up again. She wasn’t respected on set by directors because of her detention and unpunctuality. In Some Like It Hot (1959), Monroe reportedly forgot her lines multiple times, thus becoming a source of annoyance for her castmate Tony Curtis.

Some Like It Hot Poster
Image Source: Wikimedia

Monroe’s health continues to deteriorate. Her drug addiction was coming in the way of her shooting. She also had endometriosis, a hormone disorder, because of which she had a complicated pregnancy, which ended in a miscarriage. In 1961, she was hospitalized for depression.

All Monroe wanted to be more complex roles, and she fought for it long and hard. The fact that she refused multiple films by big-shot people in order to be challenged as an actor is one of the reasons contributing to why is Marilyn Monroe, a hero.

The Misfits (1961), Marylin Monroe’s last completed film, starred her and Clark Gable, who died doon after the movie. Monroe reportedly was affected by his death (even blamed by his widow) and went into a deeper state of depression. She was then forcefully admitted into a psychiatric ward, where she stayed for a while, and even wrote accounts in her diary.

In 1962, Monroe attended John F. Kennedy’s birthday party, where she sang “Happy Birthday” for him, sparking rumors of an affair with him or his brother. Three months later, she was found dead in her room, due to an overdose of barbiturate, a prescribed drug of which she took a lethal amount.

Why is Marilyn Monroe, a hero? Because she was an underrated gift that cinema received, and didn’t appreciate enough. Marilyn was named the “it” girl because of the controversies that surrounded her. She was demeaned and patronized by directors, castmates, and interviewers.

She was burdened with an image that she had never asked for. She suffered from physical and mental health problems, along with severe anxiety, due to which she was termed “difficult” on set. Marilyn was a good actor and a good person, and her untimely death meant a loss not only to Hollywood but to the entire world.

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Marilyn Monroe Used Her Fame For Good and Helped Boost Her Friend Ella Fitzgerald’s Career

At a time when female actors were given no importance, blackface was prevalent, African-American people had no screen time or representation, Monroe was not affected by stereotypes. Her friend Ella Fitzgerald, a Black woman, was a famous singer but used to get the opportunity to play only at small clubs, and dreamed of performing at a fancier place.

Monroe and Ella Fitzgerald
Image Source: Wikipedia

When Monroe become acquainted with her in Los Angeles, she made a deal with a prominent club owner that she would sit in the front seat of the audience if he would let Fitzgerald perform on stage. The owner agreed, and thus Ella Fitzgerald’s career boosted, with people such as Frank Sinatra watching her play live.

Monroe later even helped Fitzgerald not be treated differently due to the color of her skin in places she performed. The fact that Monroe stood for equal rights and no discrimination is one of the reasons for- Why is Marilyn Monroe a hero?

Marilyn Monroe was Charitable and Generous

Why is Marilyn Monroe, a hero? Because she was known for being generous. She donated to several charities, benefits, and fundraisers. She notably contributed to causes that were for underprivileged children, having lived a troubled life as a child herself.

She also performed for the troops in Korea in 1954, in chilly weather, an experience she later recalled fondly. After her death, she left one-fourth of her estate to her therapist to be donated further to an essential cause of her choice, which ended up going to a children’s clinic in London.

Marilyn proved, time and time again, through her work and actions, that she was more than the image she was given. She was worth more as an actor than a “sex bombshell,” “sex symbol,” or an “hourglass.” She had severe issues concerning her health that affected her work. Looking at her pictures, watching her movies, and reading about her tragic life invokes fury at those who didn’t respect this honest, sincere and talented woman for her work.

Marilyn contributed to the cinema, that changed the trajectory of Hollywood and the genre of romantic comedy forever. While we remember Marilyn today and admire her beauty and pictures, we should also celebrate her complexities, intelligent mind, big heart, and life, that was full of hardships, complications, and glamour. The world lost her precious soul too soon.

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Liana Yadav

Written by Liana Yadav

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