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Lasting Fame -- Writer's Poke #329

(Marilyn Monroe reading James Joyce's Ulysses)

Students of Marilyn Monroe recognize that she was much more than a pretty face.

Monroe created herself. She started from nothing, and she used her natural beauty and charisma to transform her image into one of the world’s most recognized. Even though she played the “dumb blonde,” it was all an act. She was constantly reading, and always learning. She wanted to be a respected actress, and instead of getting by on her looks, she cared about landing meaningful roles worthy of her profession.

Her tragedy, perhaps, is that she became trapped in her own manufactured image. But in this she wasn’t unique, as it is the trap in which most famous people find themselves. What was truly tragic about her life was her inability to find lasting love, although she did experience it, to a degree, with her second husband, Joe DiMaggio. What she was never able to experience was motherhood, and this is what may have caused her to end her own life.

Monroe never had a close relationship with her own family, and her inability to have children of her own probably left her feeling forever isolated and incomplete.

Why is Monroe still remembered fifty years later? Most people don’t study her life, nor do most watch her movies. And yet, people don’t remember her simply for her looks, do they? Is it possible to read and know a person like Monroe by only seeing her picture? Do people connect with her, not simply because of her physical beauty, because her story, captured beneath the manufactured image, somehow breaks through?

What makes fame last? Does the current generation have anyone equivalent to Marilyn Monroe?

“We should all start to live before we get too old. Fear is stupid. So are regrets.” – Marilyn Monroe


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