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Marilyn Monroe: A woman turned image

Everyone with a Facebook account has stumbled across some image of Marilyn Monroe with an inspirational quote next to it. Something along the lines of, “If you can’t handle me at my worst, then you don’t deserve me at my best” or “Give a girl the right pair of shoes and she’ll conquer the world.”

The Internet has never been the most truthful thing, and these posts are no exception. A good chunk of these inspirational quotes aren’t actually from Marilyn Monroe.

Sometimes they’re confused with the words of another famous person, or perhaps they’re unknown. At the end of the day, they’re not Marilyn’s sayings. But why do people want these words to come from Marilyn Monroe? Wouldn’t any other source be just as satisfactory?

Perhaps it’s because she was once seen as the peak of femininity. She used multiple red lipsticks to achieve her world famous pout and her hair was impossibly blonde. In interviews and movies, she captured audiences with her breathy voice and charisma. People, both then and now, either wanted her or wanted to be her.

Well, what they really wanted was the image of Marilyn Monroe, not the real-life Norma Jean Baker. Monroe was very much an image and something that was impossible to achieve. Baker was a woman who struggled with many issues, with drug addiction and relationships with men who didn’t take her seriously.

Fame was another issue that she struggled with. The constant media attention and rumors about her life exhausted her. She hated the fact that people assumed what she did and felt simply because of the image that studio executives thrusted  upon her.

Nothing sums this up better than this actual quote from Monroe: “People had a habit of looking at me as if I were some kind of mirror instead of a person. They didn’t see me, they saw their own lewd thoughts, then they white-masked themselves by calling me the lewd one.

I wonder how she would feel if she saw that even today, people are presenting her in a false light. Portrayals of Monroe, or Baker, still place the sexy icon over the tragic woman with many flaws. I suppose that people like that image of impossible femininity. The kind that makes a woman sexy all the time, with no trace of imperfection.

But as she noted, that image is falsehood, and it’s impossible to achieve. Over 50 years have passed since her death, yet the world is still fabricating the reality of Norma Jean Baker. So, the next time you see a fake Marilyn quote pop up on your timeline, remember that it might not be something that the real woman wanted.


Reese Bentzinger is a student at the University of Missouri-Kansas City earning a journalism major and a history minor. In her free time she enjoys reading history books, rewatching Gilmore Girls, and traveling. She plans on graduating in 2020. Insta: @reese_b_
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