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> The Sin Of The Woman, Essay on Marilyn
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Robby
post Apr 18 2018, 02:03 PM
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Real Name: Robby

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I recently acquired this booklet written by Dutch author Connie Palmen. It is titled De Zonde Van De Vrouw (The Sin Of The Woman). It's an essay written for the 2017 edition of the Dutch Boekenweek, which had as its theme "forbidden fruits". It featured portraits on four women who lived extraordinary and unconventional lives (that's what the "sin" means in the title). The other three women in the booklet apart from Marilyn are Patricia Highsmith, Jane Bowels and Marguerite Duras. Here's a translation of the essay on Marilyn, which has only been published in Dutch and German. Regarding the contents, make of it what you will. There are some evident factual mistakes in the text. (Please forgive the lousy translation, I ran it through Google Translate and corrected some obvious errors, but left the rest intact)

Marilyn Monroe 1926-1962

It is September 15, 1954. New York City. On Lexington Avenue, at 52nd street, a scantily clad, high-heeled blonde steps on a subway grate to cool herself by the underground air. The moment the subway train passes, the wind blows up her summer dress. Cooing with delight she pushes the fabric down to hide the sight of her bare thighs and underwear.
Real, and yet unreal.
Not only the running camera of Billy Wilder betrays that the woman is playing a part and that the trailer of the movie The Seven Year Itch is being shot here, what makes it unreal is that it is two o'clock at night, that there are about 1500 shouting spectators and hundreds of photographers behind the crush barriers, that it's not a rushing underground subway train that blows up the dress, but a man with a machine and that the woman steps on and off the grate for about forty times and always shows the same joyful enthusiasm, as if the rising air stimulates and surprises her for the first time. Nothing is real. The only thing that could possibly be real is the pleasure of the woman. She pretends it to be a pure sensual pleasure, the cooling air on her lower body, but what she really loves are the cameras, the thousands of eyes that are aimed at her, the men who whistle and applaud as soon as her underwear becomes visible and roar: higher, more, one more time. The woman in the white dress is Marilyn Monroe. And Marilyn Monroe only exists when people are looking at her.

Between the 1500 spectators there is just one person who looks at her differently, whose gaze does not create Marilyn Monroe and makes her shine, on the contrary, it is the jealous gaze of the man who really loves her: her second husband Joe DiMaggio, America's most famous ex-baseball player. He finds it unbearable to be one of the thousands of spectators with whom he has to share the image of his cooing, half-naked wife, and walks away. Although Joe DiMaggio will continue to play an important role in her life, this is the end of a marriage that has not even had the chance to endure 'a one year itch'. The camera that creates Marilyn Monroe, is destroying her private life.

A few months after the shooting of the trailer, a 55 feet high image of a broadly smiling Marilyn Monroe hangs down the walls of the Loew's State Theater on Broadway. She tempers the elongated wavy pleated dress as if she's not controlling the fabric, but her own sexual desires. A few blocks away, the real, living Marilyn Monroe is listening attentively to the acting lessons of the legendary Lee Strasberg. She tries to be a part of a group of pupils who want to learn the so-called Methoc Acting at the Actors Studio, a way of acting in which personal experiences and individual emotional memory are used to play a theatrical part. Strasberg believes that the actor must become the character, and that is what Marilyn wants to learn. In order to achieve his goal he tries to bring her into contact with her real self through exercises and he advises her to go into psychoanalysis so that she can more easily use true emotions for her acting. Even though she has a few films unde rher belt, and receives thousands of letters a week, she has no confidence in her talent. She is tired of being owned by 20th Century Fox and being cast by the moguls as the stupid blonde or the sex goddess. She left Hollywood that had made her a star. She relocated to New York to become a serious actress. You could say that she's trying to escape Marilyn Monroe. You could say that she wants to become a real person.
I believe that the drama of Marilyn Monroe hides behind this desire to become a real person, to find a self that exists apart from a public image. In one of her last interviews she uses the metaphor of a house: I'm trying to find myself, and the best way to achieve that is to prove to myself that I am an actress, and that is what I hope to do. My work is important to me. It has always been my only solid ground. It seems as if I have built a whole superstructure without any foundation. But the foundation is being worked on.
To understand what her desire to become an actress really means, it is important to realize that there is a distinction between a star and an actress. A star is its own creation, a conceived and created character that functions in the public domain, and manipulates the image of itself through the media. Being an actress is a profession. Work. Talent. The admiration that you harvest as an actress is deserved. And is therefore real.

The biography is the literary genre par excellence that constantly faces the philosophical question of the difference between reality and fiction. Are the collected facts about a human life enough to shed light on that life, to truly understand it? Is there truth about a person? Do you have an identity if you are sitting at your kitchen table alone? If you are not seen? If you are not defined by the gaze of others?
For me, Marilyn Monroe is the primal example of a woman who raises all these pressing questions regarding identity. Everything in her life revolves around the royal couples of philosophy: real and unreal, fact and fiction, truth and lie, body and soul. The wonderful thing about writing biographically about the unreal child Norma Jeane Baker, who became one of the most famous stars in the world, is that the writer is as puzzled as the woman who is the subject of his biographical study: the riddle of identity.
Marilyn Monroe succumbed to the search for the true Marilyn Monroe. She wanted to know who she really was. I'm afraid I'm a fantasy product, she said about herself. I know women who have a lot less self-awareness.

Marilyn Monroe was born on June 1, 1926 as Norma Jeane in a hospital in Los Angeles. Her single mother, Gladys Pearl Monroe, baptized her with the surname of her first husband, Jasper Baker, but mentions Edward Mortenson as the father on the birth certificate. Mortenson is the name of the man to whom she is still legally married but of whom she has been living separately for some time and who cannot possibly be the child's father. With Baker she has two children who she lists as dead. In reality, Baker kidnapped the boy and the girl after the divorce to keep them as far away from their mother as possible. The birth certificate of the woman who will become Marilyn Monroe already contains so many fabrications that it almost seems an omen. Even her second name is written incorrectly. She will be an illegitimate child for the rest of her life.

The unstable mother, who is later diagnosed as a paranoid schizophrenic, can not take care of her daughter and when Norma Jeane is two months old, she brings the child to a strict religious foster family, fundamental Christians who raise her with a judgmental God, sin of carnal lust, and with church instead of cinema. The world of Hollywood is the world of seduction and sin.
It is the beginning of a youth in which it is unclear to the girl to whom she belongs. The mother in the foster family says to her that not she, but the red-haired woman who visits her occasionally is her real mother. In her mother's house there is a picture of a man with a thin mustache, and he is, according to Gladys, her father. In a photo album she places a picture of Clark Gable, of whom she imagines is her father, because he looks like the picture in her mother's bedroom.

When Norma Jeane is seven, Gladys plucks her out of the relatively safe environment of the foster family and tries to take care of the child by herself. Nervous and irritable as she is, she flies up as Norma Jeane leafs through a book because she finds the sound of the rustling leaves horrible. It does not take long before Gladys completely collapses and is admitted to a psychiatric institution. Her best friend, Grace, is appointed as guardian and from that moment on she cares for Norma Jeane. Just like Gladys used to, Grace works at the studios. As often as she can, she takes Norma Jeane to the cinema, to the forbidden world of make believe. When Grace meets a man, she is forced to take the nine-year-old girl to an orphanage. Grace must drag Norma Jeane inside. Norma Jeane screams that it is a mistake and that she is not an orphan. The only thing that helps her endure her stay at the orphanage is Grace's prophecy that she will become famous one day. The imagination of a brilliant future as a star keeps her going. For the child, who grew up with a vengeful God, fantasizing is like fantasizing about Sodom and Gomorrah, but only through the imagination of sin can Norma Jeane flee a grievous reality. She already knows what all women know who crave a different life than the usual: if she behaves as she should, she will not get anywhere.
In the coming years she will do everything that God has forbidden; she'll sleep around, she'll swallow immense quantities of uppers and downers, will drink liters of champagne every day, and like every woman who violates social laws and violates the prohibitions, she expects one day to be punished for her sins. And if there is no father and no God to punish her, she will do it herself.

Cees Nooteboom once wrote that a great love begins with the desire to have one. You can say the same thing about stardom. Because desire also has its own logic and history, we can understand the dreams regarding stardom of the child Norma Jeane. The beautiful, shy, stuttering girl only knows a fantasy father, pseudo-parents, a pseudo family, pseudo-security. No house becomes a home, every form of security is provisional, because the family is not real but surrogate, and she can be removed out of the surrogate family at any time. She does not know why she is not good enough to stay somewhere. Gradually, Norma Jeane must feel like a worthless object, a soulless thing that you can dispose of as soon as you no longer like it. According to Norman Mailer that is also the attitude she develops towards herself at a young age: she lives with great fear that she will throw herself away. Yes, she knows that one day she will commit suicide.

Norma Jeane is a child who barely dares to move, who is afraid to make noise, constantly adapts to a new environment and only looks at others to see if she's good enough, whether they like her enough, or whether she's pretty enough, sweet, good. When, before her twelth year, she is sexually assaulted twice, she must have formed the tragic blueprint of her existence: if she is wanted, it is a sexual object.
If you want it, you can have it.
For Norma Jeane, life changes dramatically when, around the age of thirteen, she suddenly blossoms into a beautiful young woman, and through the attraction of her body she discovers power and desire. Men and women look at her. If there is no love to be gained in your life, then you satisfy yourself with attention. It is Faustian barter with the devil, which irrevocably leads to destruction. Most adolescents discover their own desire around this age, undergo the confusing and powerful sensation of a body that becomes sexually aroused. They learn the sweet pleasure and the bitter torment of desire for the other, and are thus initiated into the drama of psychic and physical dependence. But for the young girl who will become the star Marilyn Monroe and an icon of feminine sensuality, the change of her body is not a moment of self discovery, not the important rite de passage that provides insight into the ability of one's body to enjoy pleasure. As for every star in the making, only one question is important to her: with what do I have an effect on others? Discovering with which means you can exercise power on an environment is the only way out of powerlessness or the gaping gap of shortage. Every talent is developed to compensate for a lack, to make it invisible, to suppress it.
Around her thirteenth year Norma Jeane discovers how her body arouses desire in others. She knows how to shine. The star is born. Sex is the way she can use to draw attention to herself. She plays a limitless availability, and she does so with a swing of refinement and childish innocence, as if she can not do anything about being so beautiful, so feminine, so attractive. She doesn't belong to anyone and thus belongs to everyone. I know that I did not belong to the public and the world because I was talented or even beautiful, but because I never belonged to anyone or anyone.

Even before someone gives her a new name and baptizes her as Marilyn Monroe, the star is born as an offshoot of the fatherless, illegitimate child Norma Jeane. From the day she discovers the power of desire, the young girl invents the seductive child-woman, the sensual seductress, a symbolic, imagined personality that she conjures up every time she has to tempt someone to love her, or, if that is too much to ask, to admire her appearance.
Everyone else is public.
All eyes of the world are photo cameras and the camera turns her into Marilyn Monroe. I always felt like I was a zero, she said, and that the only way I could be someone was, well, to be someone else. That's why I wanted to act.
The drama of Marilyn Monroe is that Marilyn Monroe is her greatest acting achievement, but she had to get rid of the real woman who played her. The reality of Norma Jeane was unbearable. In her New York period she dreams one night that she is operated on by Lee Strasberg. The anesthetic was administered by her psychiatrist and her husband Arthur Miller waits in the hallway. When Strasberg cuts her open, expecting to find a lot, she turns out to be completely empty. The only thing he finds is fine sawdust.

How can you trust a look that you know you have manipulated? How can you trust the love of the masses if you know that it is the love for an illusion, for a role you play, an image that you have created? Monroe wants to get to know the woman Marilyn Monroe plays, and she understands that the only way to the highest knowledge - that of ourselves - is through someone else and that we only discover who we are through love. A spouse is there to make you feel real.

When Arthur Miller meets her again in 1955, four years after being introduced to her and having to tear himself away from her spell to save his marriage, the original body of Norma Jeane has been considerably modified to perfect the image of Marilyn Monroe. Having listened to others, her hairline has been moved up, the jaws have been narrowed, some cartilage has been removed from the tip of the nose, the teeth have been leveled, the hair bleached an unlikely blond hue. She has learned to wiggle, knows exactly how to lower the eyelids to conjure up a so-called sultry look, she has practiced in a radiant smile that nevertheless does not show too much gums; she has reduced her voice in tone, followed singing and dancing lessons, and improved her diction. It takes an average of five hours to create Marilyn Monroe in full uniform, with the right haircut, sufficient layers of pancake, artificial eyelashes, eyeliner, mascara, eyeshadow, lip contours and lipstick. Marilyn Monroe is a role, a character she has created, an image. Even without make-up she can turn Monroe on and off like a wind-up doll.
Fame transforms a real person in a character in the life of an anonymous mass. Men who come near her want to touch her, sometimes very rudely so. They think probably think that it just happens to your clothes, she says about this invasion.

On June 29, 1956, the writer and the star wed. They both live off fiction: the playwright by creating roles for others, the star by playing her own creation, a fictional character called Marilyn Monroe and that she has sometimes described as a veil she carries over Norma Jeane. Just as her birth certificate was an omen for a fabricated existence, Arthur Miller's marriage proposal was an omen for a love that was doomed to fail. As she projects her deep desire for authenticity on this future husband, he uses the camera to announce his marriage to America's most famous woman. After being examined by the McCarthy commission on suspicion of communist activities, he is interviewed at a press conference. In front of the whole of America he announces that he will marry Marilyn Monroe. He only forgot to ask the real Marilyn first. That she, through the camera, the instrument that proved to be, even more than a father and mother, her creator, she must hear that she will become the wife of Arthur Miller. The writer married the star, a woman of her imagination, andhe did not know what to do with the suffering and troubled woman who sought protection in this character.

In 1960, when her marriage with the author after four years is virtually over, but both still have to pretend as long as she plays in The Misfits Roslyn Taber, the role he has written especially for her, one of her former directors finds Marilyn crying on the premises of the Paramount studio, where the last recordings of the film were shot. I have been playing Marilyn Monroe all my life, she sobs, and she says she feels like she's imitating herself every time she does. She had hoped that love would make her real. When I married Arthur, one of my fantasies was that I could free myself from Marilyn Monroe through him, but instead the opposite happened. I just could not handle it anymore. I had to run off. I did not want to play a scene with Marilyn Monroe anymore.

No one could free Marilyn Monroe from Marilyn Monroe, so eventually she did it herself. On August 5, 1962 she is found dead in her bare bedroom. Next to her bed are empty pots containing sleeping pills she had taken. Less than three months before her suicide she sang 'Happy Birthday' to John F. Kennedy in a crowded Madison Square Garden. Because she was a notorious latecomer, she was erroneously announced a number of times that night. When she finally got up the stage, in a tight-fitting dress, the master of ceremonies announced her with a comical: Ladies and gentlemen, the late Marilyn Monroe.
The passed on, abused, abandoned child had just turned thirty-six. The millions of eyes that created Marilyn Monroe were not enough to convince Norma Jeane Baker of her right to exist. Almost fifty years later, the dress she wore in the famous metro scene from The Seven Year Itch is just as iconic as the star itself. In 2011 the dress is sold as a saint's relic at an auction in Beverly Hills for $ 5.6 million. In the end it did happen to her clothes.

This post has been edited by Robby: Apr 18 2018, 03:32 PM
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