The Marilyn Effect

I’m one of those people who’s fascinated with stars from the Hollywood Golden Years. Particularly Marilyn Monroe.  I’m not sure if it’s because she’s dead, yet still so presently depicted in pop culture, or if it’s because I’m drawn to the glamour that her life seemed so saturated in. I’m not alone either. In fact much of the world has a similar fascination – so much that (as announced earlier this morning) a new book will be released containing some of the writings of Marilyn.

Entertainment Weekly reported the following:  

The candle in the wind just keeps burning. Farrar, Straus and Giroux has announced that they plan to release a collection of Marilyn Monroe’s own writings. Fragments will include poems, correspondence, rare photos, as well as reproductions of documents handwritten by the blond bombshell herself. It is set to hit bookstores this fall. The book will purportedly show the seldom seen facets of the breathy pneumatic icon, who was in actuality a whole lot smarter than her coquettish image suggested.

If Marilyn was a star today, I wonder if she’d twitter.  She’s have loads of followers because there are literally hundreds that claim to be inspired by her. Elton John wrote an entire song about her, and Madonna has practically made a career out of copying her.  Actually Madonna is one of many current day female celebrities who sight Marilyn as ‘inspiration.’  Here are just a few examples of Madonna being Marilyn.



As fascinated as I am – and I am fond of her, I don’t see how Marilyn Monroe inspired anything but sexuality and vulnerability. Actually, not even sexuality. I get more sexually inspired by Matt Damon in The Bourne Ultimatum. Or Ryan Reynolds in anything..  

Today’s celebrities are more accountable than stars of the silver screen. Web based gossip sites, women’s magazines and tabloid newspapers have increased the demand for the ‘money shot’ – so today’s celebrities have to be on much better behaviour because you can guarantee the paps will be out in force waiting.

Stars of yester-year had no such pressures. They had their drugs, their affairs, their sex tapes and their rumours of abuse, but with little consequence because none of us knew about it until AFTER their death.  

Marilyn Monroe was one such star. Her father was unknown. Her promiscuous mother was committed to a mental institution. Her grandmother tried suffocating her at age 2. She spent her childhood in a nightmare of abandonment, neglect and rejection.  Shortly after choosing marriage over returning to an orphanage, she was discovered by a photographer and the rest is history.

Marilyn has been quoted as saying: “I knew I belonged to the public and to the world, not because I was talented or even beautiful, but because I had never belonged to anything or anyone else.”

Sad. Don’t you think?

The need for love that she was denied, taught her she didn’t deserve love, so she spent a lifetime looking for it.   Despite years of therapy, she was plagued by fear, anxiety, self doubt, and emotional dependence that often alienated those who were attracted to her. Such feelings of inadequacy became self destructive and led to substance abuse, sexual promiscuity and eventually her death – including enough barbiturates in her system to poison 10 people.Ok, so there are those who believe that the death was a conspiracy of murder because of her affair with JFK and the rumour that she was carrying his unborn child. Maybe – but whatever. Like we’ll ever know for sure.

I think she was a sad and depressed girl who was addicted to drugs, searching for love, and highly insecure. I also think she played dumb – big time. So can someone please explain to me why she is STILL constantly portrayed as a symbol of sexuality and glamour? Have we not all received the memo that being sexy is about being confident and self assured and happy? Again – besides style, what did this woman inspire?

I just don’t get why everyone wants to be Marilyn. Why she is still so commonly imitated and impersonated? Sexy she may HAVE BEEN, and there’s no denying her natural beauty.  But if society today was presented with a personality like that, wouldn’t we all cry ‘desperate bimbo!!!’ (And wouldn’t every dumb woman’s mag be calling her fat?) Despite the fact that she was actually very intelligent, loved reading and much smarter than she let on…  


Wouldn’t we all be sniggering at her and her sex tape (YES, Marilyn has a sex tape) least of all taking her seriously as an actress… Would she still be making hugely successful films, because last time I checked, blonde bimbo types don’t win Oscars.

Playing dumb is no longer cool right? Or do we really still look up to women who do this?  

We so quickly label women like Heidi Montag, Jessica Simpson, Anna Nicole Smith, Pamela Anderson, and even Paris Hilton as empty vessels – bimbos. Yet why does Marilyn walk away with legend status?If you don’t believe me – see below some modern day woman doing their “Marilyn Monroe” stint. 

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See? And there are even more but I think I made my point…  It’s not just Madge. Everyone from Nicole Kidman to the local drag queen has played her.

SoI guess I wasn’t that surprised to see JLO doing this to a late night TV show host in America….

Did Jennifer do this to get her ‘sexy on?’ Why couldn’t she sing as herself – you know J-Lo, sexiest woman of the year for 2 years in a row…? Does being sexy still mean playing the ditz? Are women still luckier with men when playing dumb than if playing the corporate high-flyer?

Pop singer Pink abhors the very thought of women who dumb themselves down.  Referring to her parody of women like Paris and Jessica Simpson in her film clip for Stupid Girls she said, “None of these girls are stupid, they’ve dumbed themselves down to be cute.”

So does it work? And are men really turned on by all this? Have women become socially conditioned to believe sexy = vacant? Is this why women everywhere are gagging to put on a blonde wig, white dress (or bed sheets) and red lisptick? 

Of course if I put this question out there to the blokes, many would tut-tut at the notion that a woman dumbing herself down is a turn-on. Nobody wants to own or be responsible for the Marilyn effect.  

Asking my husband the very question on what makes a woman sexy he replied, “Confidence, intelligence, and just an air of sexiness.” I prodded – was Marilyn sexy?  

“Yes, very sexy.”    

“Why? When she was never portrayed as intelligent or confident?”  

“Because she was gorgeous looking.”  

“So is gorgeousness enough to make a woman sexy on its own”  

 “Not normally, but for her it was.”  

 As you can see, insight into the “Marilyn Effect” is nothing but a blur.  

Me? Well if I was having a photo shoot and could be ‘styled’ as any woman, I’d hands down choose Audrey Hepburn but then the stylist would probably laugh in my face and say, no seriously?  

(Not that she was considered a sex symbol at all – in fact her role in Breakfast at Tiffany’s as Holly Golightly was supposed to be given to guess who? Marilyn Monroe, and the producers were very unhappy with the choice of Audrey as the lead).   

As much as I admire her, Audrey’s pixi-like features are nothing like my own and I just couldn’t pull it off. Maybe Cyd Charise, Bette Davis, Kathryn Hepburn or Sophia Loren… Women who were and are confident, smart, upright, talented… and dare I say it? Sexy!  


If you could be styled and photographed as anyone famous – who would it be?



  1. sonia griffiths · April 29, 2010

    I reckon you could successfully pull off a Sophia Loren. I wish I could but alas right now more likely to pull off the funny redhaired housekeeper on 2 and a half men. Agh Sophia must have lied about spaghetti. x

    • cyclonecindy · April 29, 2010

      You are hilarious!
      You could totally rock Marlene Dietrich.

  2. Tiffany · April 29, 2010

    definitely Audrey for me… she is one of my favourite people!

  3. Dara · April 29, 2010

    Team Audrey for sure…

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