Keith Badman wrote a flattering article for the Huffington Post about Marilyn Monroe’s enduring legacy, asking the question of why does her image and star quality still remain, even some 50 years later. He praises her intellect and her trail blazing career in Hollywood – making note of her attempts at controlling her image and taking on the studio system.
Of course, whenever Monroe is discussed her early tragic death inevitably comes up – this is when Badman’s article turns to the standard, by-now-a-cliche song of how we should be grateful for one thing: at least Monroe died young preserving her beauty and radiance forever – that way, the public would never have to see an aging Monroe. His words exactly were:
“Dying so young is of course very, very sad, regardless of who you are, or what profession you’re in, but in Marilyn’s case it certainly helped preserve her legacy. Unlike so many of her female contemporaries who carried on perhaps a little longer they should have and were seen aging, becoming progressively less glamorous before our very eyes, try finding a flawed, unflattering image of Marilyn. You can’t. You will not chance upon a picture of her anywhere looking old or gaunt. Ever. Her image is forever locked into that of a fresh, vibrant, beautiful young woman and never as a has-been, an actress deemed past her prime. Her tragic early death propelled her into that special category of eternal beauty, and that is something I’m most relieved about.”
Badman’s relieved that in spite of Monroe’s death, her status as a sex symbol won’t be hindered because she died at her physical peak. I’m sorry, but whenever I hear this, I have to stop my eyes from rolling so hard, because I’m worried I’ll strain some muscles or something back there.
Is there a moment when we’ll stop lionizing dying young? Badman’s essentially saying that in the end, it’s a good thing that Monroe died when she did, because otherwise she wouldn’t have to suffer the indignity of appearing middle aged and then elderly.
Excuse me, but I would just like to point out that even if a woman is goddess-beautiful like Monroe, she still has other important attributes, that will survive any physical degradation – like her mind, her intelligence, kindness, etc.
As a Monroe fan, I of course, admired her great beauty – but guess what? There’s more to her – she was a really funny lady – I mean Lucille Ball/Carole Lombard funny. Don’t believe me? Well, then you should catch her in The Prince and the Showgirl or Some Like It Hot; those movies proved that Monroe was not only dishy, she was a genius at being funny. This comic talent was growing (it’s not a coincidence that her most assured performances were in her later career – they relied more on technique and skill than just simply star quality), and it would’ve developed wonderfully, and as a result, Monroe could’ve been a wonderful character actress and comedienne in her old age, even if her looks were to fade.
And by the way – who said they would necessary have to fade? That’s another thing, I’m a bit cheesed off – older women can be very beautiful, even if one accounts for personal taste: Cybill Shephard, Candice Bergen, Diana Ross, Lauren Bacall, Sophia Loren, Gina Lollobrigida, Jane Fonda, Catherine Denuve, Danielle Darrieux, Raquel Welch, Joanna Lumley, Carmen Dell’Orefice, Isabella Rossellini have all matured and aged into evergreen beauties – just because one has wrinkles, gray hair, and a little more weight, does not mean that looks have faded – it just means that the good looks have been changed.
It’s an old-fashioned kind of sexism to wish for beauty to remain frozen at 30, as in amber. The reality is beauty changes and evolves as the person who possess that beauty becomes older.
There’s no real consolation or “silver lining” to the death of a starlet, no matter how gorgeous she was when she died.