The Post-Modern society has become a society based on the image world of Media. Media which is dominating more and more of our lives, is a major agent of socialization in our age. These women, which we came to learn of primarily through Media, are cultural icons of our age.
It is important here to understand the difference between an ‘Icon’ and a ‘role model’. An icon is a person regarded as a symbol or represents a particular movement or age. Whereas a role model is a person whose behavior is regarded by others as a good example to follow and to be imitated.
The reason why I chose Marilyn Monroe, Madonna and Beyoncé knowles specifically is that I believe that each of them is a cultural icon of her era. Monroe in the fifties, Madonna in the eighties and nineties, and Beyonce in the 2000s. Each of them brought new meaning to the entertainment industry in her way that largely shapes our lives today.
This post is one of three in which I will argue why these particular icons should not be considered as role models.
MARILYN MONROE: THE WORLD’S MOST FAMOUS SEX SYMBOL
Marilyn Monroe’s inspired celebrities all over the world and influenced the future generations, from Madonna in the eighties, Drew Barrymore in the Nineties and Christina Aguilera and Paris Hilton in the 2000s. With hair dyed blonde (or a wig), parted red pout, half-closed eyes, breathy voice and immodestly dressed, Monroe became the ideal image of a sexy woman with millions of male admirers.
The image of Monroe for which she became popular is a complete contradiction to images of her earlier life as Norma Jeane Baker. She got married when she was 16 and worked in a factory during the war when her husband was serving overseas as a Marine. She was later discovered by a photographer and pursued a career in modeling. Her earlier images show how natural her poses, her smile and her clothes were, that typical for women in the 1940s .She got divorced from her first husband and signed a movie contract on the same year, changing her name to Marilyn Monroe and dying her hair blonde.
LEO MCKINSTRY of the Daily Mail described Marilyn Monroe as: “.. almost always played the same shallow role, the ditsy helpless blonde craving masculine attention and protection. She had none of the impressive authority of other Hollywood actresses..”. He further says that “[Monroe] ..wailed about being a sex symbol”:
“A sex symbol becomes a thing. I just hate to be a thing.”
However, she didn’t do anything to stop that. On the contrary, she encouraged that image by her super tight dresses, squeaky voice, and her erotic poses. She was desperate for attention, She’d probably do anything to gain media’s attention: Nude photographs, with tons of makeup and sleeping around to get what she had always dreamed of: fame, money and media attention.
In May 19th, 1962 Marilyn sung Happy Birthday to the American President JF Kennedy who was said she had an affair with. She had sung it breathlessly in a way that emanated desire publicly from Marilyn’s side.
She sexually objectified herself and the women of the generations later to come. She destroyed the view of a woman as a mindful person rather than a curvy object used to satisfy men’s lust. She was obviously all about her body. The first edition of Playboy featured Monroe on its cover. The actress had a long relationship with the magazine, featuring her first-ever nude images.
Sociologist R.W. Connell describes Marilyn as an unreal character. He argues that she showed Emphasized femininity, which is an important compliment to hegemonic masculinity. Emphasized femininity is orientated to accommodating the interests and desires of men and is characterized by ‘compliance, nurturance and empathy.’ She was an exaggerated image that almost became a character coming out of a comic book.
She did not develop herself in different areas of life in order to grow as a person and so when she thought she started to lose her beauty due to her overuse of drugs, She threw responsibility of her personal development on others which might have led eventually to her suicide.
“Sometimes I feel my whole life has been one big rejection.”
Marilyn is a product to men’s desire, and by being subservient to men, she achieved her dreams of becoming rich, popular and sought after by the media. Which is why she is not a good role model for other women and girls. Add to that her addiction to drugs and alcohol to control her high emotional instability and blaming others for any hardships she encountered. (to be continued.)