Friday, June 14, 2013

Was Marilyn Monroe Dumb?

That is for you to be the judge of. Your notion of "smart" is completely different than mine, and I also adhere firmly to the idea that there are different varieties of "smart."  Could Albert Einstein dismantle a car and put it back together?  Would Teddy Roosevelt been able to create software? Did Aristotle know how to construct a paper airplane?

My co-worker and I were walking out of the coffee room today and noticed a girl with a tattoo on her leg and this co-worker turned to me and said "I love retro stuff... but I hate Marilyn Monroe."
Excluding the fact that this tattoo was the famous over-the-shoulder of Betty Grable, and not Marilyn (I didn't have the heart to correct her), it was interesting to hear the stereotypes of dumb blonde coming out of her mouth.
She asked if I had ever seen Some Like It Hot (DUH ONLY ONE OF MY TOP 3 FAVORITE MOVIES) and went on some story about how the director hated her because she was so stupid (that oft-told story of Marilyn's line with the drawers we've all heard).

I let her rant on for a bit and didn't say much because it's obvious she knows nothing about Marilyn the person and everything about Marilyn the icon, and heard some behind-the-scenes factoid and immediately judged her.  Which is too bad, but c'est la vie, so is the way of the celebrity.
Also, it is interesting to note how much more common it is for women to deride and judge Miss Monroe, more so than men...

I did tell this co-worker that Marilyn created the Dumb Blonde stereotype herself, and not as a mirror of her true personality.  It takes a quick-witted character actress to do that (why do you think they kept casting her in that role? Because she came up with it and was damn talented at it).
And she was troubled.  People think of her as a lush that offed herself, but frankly she could have ended up in the gutter at age 14 and she was one tough broad who used her looks to get somewhere and in turn was used by Hollywood.  They used her all up.  But what a life!  What a legacy!

About her brains--she was not formally educated and this was a sore spot for her, but she fought the big studio system of the 1950s and won, that takes guts and smarts. If Arthur Miller married her, she couldn't have been dumb. At parties held for great novelists of the time, they marveled that she held her own among them, despite her dyslexia and mental illness (which is now believed to have been bipolarism... I know, diagnosis post-mortem is ridiculous, but nonetheless insightful).
She also aspired to improve her intelligence, and the ambition to learn is wasted on dummies.
She was well-read and studiued
I'm not saying she was this incredibly profound, astute mind crushed under the wheel of her profession, but girl had gumption and reason.

We've just got to keep the balance--don't label her as a stupid pretty face, and don't assume on the other end of the spectrum that "if she had lived" she would have cured cancer or something.
Like I always say, educate yourself and make your own conclusions. Read her book, listen to her interviews, watch her films.  It is daunting, but Joyce Carol Oates' Blonde is incredible.

Did I mention she read Ulysses? which is one of my life goals?

“Imperfection is beauty, madness is genius and it's better to be absolutely ridiculous than absolutely boring.” 

“When it comes down to it, I let them think what they want. If they care enough to bother with what I do, then I'm already better than them.” 

“I've never fooled anyone. I've let people fool themselves. They didn't bother to find out who and what I was. Instead they would invent a character for me. I wouldn't argue with them."


  1. That first quote does not belong to Marilyn Monroe but to Timothy Leary.

  2. Indeed-- sharp eye! I did not attribute it to Marilyn though--pulled the image from the net, the quote is highly applicable.

  3. There's no record of Marilyn being a lush or a junkie. The only drugs she took were sleeping pills which was a habit imposed by her film studio who wanted its top actress "well rested" for filming. (A fairly common practise for that era.) I've read many MM biographies and from I gather, she was a woman who didn't like mediocrity and tried to be the best she could be despite having crippling insecurities. She didn't use her childhood or background as an excuse for being ignorant and set about changing that herself. When other starlets were out partying, she was taking night classes in Literature at UCLA. She may not have been a MENSA candidate but she was street smart and book smart. Women who pick on her do so out of jealousy. They see in her a luminous, almost ethereal, quality they'll never attain.

  4. Say what you want, she may have been intelligent and brave and that is admirable. But i still don't like her, as she gives me an impression of a girl who likes to "play dumb". I don't like it when people play games like that, especially if they play dumb. Not to mention all the crap quotes that she said, which are not only ridiculous in themselves, but are made even more retarded by teenage girls who post them. She was bitchy, she was slut, and she died because she overdosed. I don't see her as nothing more except a person, though pretty intelligent, is psychologically deranged and ultimately an idiot. And the fact that she died of overdosing testifies that she wasn't so strong after all. She was weak enough to run to such cowardly escape tactic such as suicide. She is a living (now dead) example that intelligence without things such as Will, cause and such, only gives you an ability to bitch around more majestically than an average person. All the admiration for her is exaggerated.