Marilyn Monroe

by admin - December 4th, 2017

By Hoang Vo

“The most widely recognized sex symbol of the fifties was Marilyn Monroe”, who was born Norma Jeane Mortensen on June 1, 1926 in Los Angeles, California (Dunar 252). Monroe’s modeling started when a journalist photographed her as part of an Army promotion, “demonstrating women’s contributions to the war effort” (Low). In 1946, Marilyn signed a contract with 20th Century Fox to begin her new career as an actor. “With an attractive figure, appealing face, and a voice and walk that exuded sex, she had multiple roles that typecast her as the dumb blond, whose innocent remarks were loaded with innuendo” (Dunar 252). Shortly after taking over the film industry, Marilyn Monroe “radiated sex on the screen”.

Marilyn Monroe quickly blended in the American culture in the 1950s. There were many things that Monroe could be remembered for, “her iconic status as a sex symbol, her marriages [to Arthur Miller and Joe DiMaggio], and even her death, which some speculate that it was not simply a case of suicide, but murder” (Low). However, Monroe embedded her iconic figure to the people after she starred in 29 films and being in many magazine covers. A scene from one of the most popular romantic comedies in the fifties, The Seven Year Itch (1955), “Monroe stood on a subway grate as the air from below lifted her dress in what became one of the most memorable film moments of the decade” (Dunar 252).

As part of being the sex symbol of the fifties, Marilyn Monroe revolutionized sex openness to the public. Prior to this time period, sex was viewed as an unappropriated act and often kept as secrets. However, Monroe and other popular sex figures in the fifties such as Hugh Hefner helped reshape the image of sex. In 1953, Hefner published his first issue of the Playboy magazine ever, and it featured a nude photo of Marilyn Monroe. Has it not been Monroe’s picture on the front cover, would the magazine find the success that it has?

“Locating Marilyn as one of many features of American popular culture would set up expectations of how we perceive her role as a celebrity, where often, news that are shocking, sensational, and popular, are what we most probably would be interested in reading and learning about, as we think about Hollywood, Marilyn, and her private life” (Low). It is not surprising that our most popular memory of Marilyn stands as an extension image of sexiness and full of sex-related symbol. As we reminisce about her and think about her contribution to the American culture, we can think of what would the conversations surround sex be like without her existence. Would we be able to discuss sex freely on a given platform, would we receive sexual education classes in schools?

It is certain that Marilyn Monroe broke the standard social norms in the fifties with the idea being that it is acceptable now to talk about sex. Monroe reformed sex from being viewed as dirty and shameful to being viewed as normal and part of life. “When we recollect her life, we perceive Marilyn as one of many symbols of American popular culture” (Low). Her beauty and intelligent image continues to inspire Americans to this day.

Works Cited

Dunar, Andrew J. America In The Fifties. Syracuse, N.Y., Syracuse University Press, 2006.

Low, Kelvin E. Y. “Memories in Context Via Cyber Reminiscing: The Case of Marilyn Monroe.” The Qualitative Report, vol. 8, no. 4, 2003, pp. 607.

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