Last Summer, my mother suggested a strange outing: “Will you take me to see Marilyn Monroe’s gravesite? I think she is buried in Los Angeles”.
It turns out Marilyn is buried in a pretty, small and serene cemetery just behind UCLA, a street I passed a million times and never noticed. Her tombstone is simple marble, with only her name and dates of birth and death engraved on it, the only adornments some strangers’ bright red kisses and many flowers. Young people, mainly girls, were milling around, proving that Marilyn’s myth endures.
Had she lived today, Marilyn’s story might have had a different ending. She became famous at a time when beauty, intense sexuality and brains all wrapped in one package were problematic to say the least. Even the men who loved her probably had a hard time embracing all of that, compounded with her inner demons.
It would have been easier today for Marilyn to blossom into the woman she wanted to become than it was then. Easier to figure out who she really was. She knew she could do more in the acting department, she knew she wanted to leave a mark beyond the bombshell character that made her a symbol. Despite her lack of formal education, Marilyn was a voracious reader, with a quick and analytical mind. But the deck was stacked against her then.
The myth endures not only because of the platinum blond hair, the pouty lips, the myopic sexy gaze and the swinging hips – the myth endures, especially among women, because, in her odd way, Marilyn planted the seed of how to be independent, long before women’s lib came around. Ella is right – Marilyn was a woman ahead of her time, who put her money where her mouth was; often quietly, with no fuss, doing what she thought was right, for her and for others. Shame not enough of the world was listening.
Even today, fifty years after her death, it can be sometimes hard for a woman to make unorthodox choices and not be judged for them. Letting our actions speak, though, is still the wisest policy.