Why is the world still captivated by Marilyn Monroe even though it has been over fifty years since her death?
Most think of Marilyn and picture the iconic sexy bombshell with a heartbreaking past as Norma Jean, and an equally tragic, but glamorous, adult life.
Yet there seems to be something about Marilyn that is so identifiable that it resonates with people today. We see someone striving (and in her case achieving) cultural ideals of physical beauty, internal brokenness and hurt, and the desire to better oneself and the hope of healing. Marilyn exemplifies all of these qualities the American public may still see in themselves, but taken to the extreme in all areas. Very beautiful, very broken, and very hopeful.
She becomes so identifiable that we relate to her almost as a friend. So, it is no wonder when someone attempts to claim they identify with Marilyn in the media or take on her likeness in a project they, without fail, will fall so short of our expectations. We begrudgingly look upon the work of others knowing they will not be able to attain what we have created in our own minds. Although, the credit for that creation is owed to Norma Jean Baker who gave us all the image which is Marilyn Monroe.
On my 30 before 30 list, I decided I wanted to visit Marilyn Monroe’s grave. It was simple curiosity about someone who died so long ago, yet is still such a part of American culture.
I finally visit the small cemetery in Westwood a couple of days ago. There were no grand decorative statues surrounding it like some of the others. It would have blended in with the other names on the wall, except Marilyn’s name stood out because it was covered with pink and red kisses given by visitors and fresh yellow roses adorning the standard vase.
Even her grave was so telling about how the public perceived her and how she wished to be perceived. I wonder if there are any real lessons that we as a society can take from this story- so well-known, but if we are honest, not really known at all.