Marilyn Monroe as a Cultural Icon

April 7, 2017 Cultural

marilyn monroe once said “”If I’d observed all the rules I’d never have got anywhere. ” Marilyn did more than just bend a few rules in her lifetime, she revolutionized them. She not only changed society’s views of sexuality but she empowered the way that woman saw themselves. She overcame adversity and rose to fame as a cultural icon who will continue to influence generations to come. Although she is one of the most recognized figures in the world many people do not truly know the legacy she left behind. As you will learn today she is more than just a sex symbol, she is a heroine that we can all look to as an inspiration.

I have been fascinated with Marilyn Monroe for some time now, and throughout my research I have gained a true understanding of her life and the impact she has continued to bestow on the world. Today I will tell you about the obstacles that Marilyn Monroe overcame, explore her rise to fame, and explain the influence she has had on society and popular culture Marilyn did not grow up with a silver spoon in her mouth, as one would expect of a Hollywood starlet. Her childhood was actually quite the opposite. Marilyn Monroe was born, Norma Jean Mortensen, to Gladys Baker and a father that she would never meet.

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According to “Marilyn’s Early Life” by pop-culture historian Susan Doll, Marilyn spent her early childhood as a victim of her mother’s emotional turmoil until 1935 when her mother suffered a nervous breakdown and Marilyn was separated from her and sent to the Hollygrove Orphan Home. She spent two years there, before being placed into the foster care system, where she recounts being physically and sexually abused. In 1941 Marilyn met who she hoped would be her knight in shining armor when she began dating Jim Daugherty. According to Doll, she finally escaped foster care when the pair married in 1942, two weeks after her 16th birthday.

The couple spent their newlywed year happy and blissfully in love. In 1943 Jim joined the Marines and was shipped oversees the following year. His time away would come to be pivotal in Marilyn’s life and career. Marilyn was no longer the saddened orphan she once was. She managed to triumphed over the hardships life dealt her and Norma Jean was on her way to becoming the Marilyn who would make her a star. Now that we have seen the humble beginnings of Marilyn Monroe I will show you how she rose to fame as the icon she is today.

While her husband was away Marilyn occupied her time, by working at the Radio Plane Company in Burbank, California. Unbeknownst at the time a star was about to be discovered when Army photographer David Conover visited the plant to shoot photographs of women working in support of the war effort. According to “The Secret Life of Marilyn Monroe” by J. Randy Tamborelli, He asked Marilyn if he could shoot her for a spread in Yank Magazine and the shot wound up landing Marilyn her first cover. From there her modeling career flourished, and by the time Jim returned in 1946, Marilyn’s life had gone in a new direction and her marriage fizzled.

As stated in The Secret Life of Marilyn Monroe, she auditioned for the Blue Book Modeling agency that year and was signed when she agreed to lighten her hair, turning her into the blonde bombshell we all know her as. As her modeling career flourished she began setting her sights on acting. After an impressive screen test she was signed to 20th Century Fox. According to “The Many Lives of Marilyn” by Sarah Churchwell, it was then that she adopted the name Marilyn Monroe and her career really began to take off. She was featured in Life Magazine in 1952, where she was described as the “Talk of Hollywood”.

Later that year she was also on the cover of the first issue of playboy, making her the only cover model that wasn’t a bunny. After a number of small roles she finally began to get recognition for her film work in 1953, with her leading debut in Niagara. Following its success she was cast alongside fellow bombshell Jane Russell, in Gentleman Prefer Blonde, where she found her niche in comedy, playing the often flakey blonde. In 1954 s he became engaged to baseball star Joe Dimaggio, their marriage was short-lived lasting only nine months, but the pair did reconcile again shortly before her death.

Now an international star, Marilyn was becoming bored of playing the same roles claimed Chruchwell. In 1955 she moved to New York City to get over her stage fright and study at the Actors Studio with Lee Strasberg. Upon her return back to Hollywood she resumed familiar territory with her role in Some Like It Hot, for which she won a Golden Globe. She seemed to be on top of the world, but then in 1961 Marilyn and her third husband, Arthur Miller divorced and both her personal and professional life seemed to be go into turmoil from there. Her next two films were bombs and rumors of her personal affairs were overshadowing her successes.

Then on August 5, 1962 Marilyn Monroe was found tragically dead, from an apparent overdose of pills. The death was declared a probable suicide but her death remains one the most debated conspiracy theories as many believe she was murdered. But no matter the circumstances Marilyn Monroe lived a life to be honored. She rose from impoverished upbringings to become one of the most famous people in the world. Now that we understand her journey of fame we can begin to understand the cultural influence she continues to have on the world. In spite of her untimely death Marilyn Monroe has maintained a legacy that has carried on for nearly fifty years.

Some may wonder what is so special about her. She was an actress, but most people can’t name three films she was in. She could sing but other than her rendition of Happy Birthday that I played earlier she really never had a hit. Of course she is beautiful, but there are thousands of beautiful stars out there that will never reach her fame. The reason that Marilyn Monroe is such an icon is because every woman not only wants to be her but they can also see a part of themselves in her. She remains the epitomy of a perfect woman, beautiful, sexy, charming, and funny. Yet she is fundamentally human in way that is relatable to us all.

The impact she has had on woman and society in general is undeniable, In the height of her fame she helped woman become comfortable with their sexuality while empowering them to be who they want to be. She accomplished this at a time when a woman’s place was supposed to be the kitchen and women were to be seen not heard. In popular culture from movies, to fashion, and music and books Marilyn Monroe’s persona is constantly recreated as a reminder of magnitude of influence one could have on the world. Though Marilyn’s life was far too short she will continue to maintain an eternal legacy.

Somebody once said that Marilyn Monroe played the best game with the worst hand dealt in the game of life. She navigated through life without any family and very little support, yet managed to make a name for herself as one of the biggest icons of all time. While she faced some personal struggles along the way that many believe lead to her untimely death, she inevitably led everyone’s ultimate dream of a life that is worth remembering. She overcame hardships earlier in life that made her stronger in her rise to fame. Marilyn Monroe is a cultural icon that will always be remembered and forever be missed.


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