Remembering the Radical Politics of Marilyn Monroe – OpEd – Eurasia Review
June 1, 2022 was Marilyn Monroe’s 96the birthday. Although our neoliberal age of hyper-commodification has only reinforced her image as a sex symbol, the political dimensions of Monroe’s life tell a different story from underground radicalism. Born in 1926, outside of Los Angeles, California, USA, Monroe grew up as a working-class child during the Depression years. She spent her childhood moving back and forth in foster homes in Los Angeles, living for a few years with her mother who had picked her up until the latter was taken, watched by her daughter, to a mental institution. audience. When Monroe was sent to an orphanage at the age of nine, she said she was not an orphan, since her mother was still alive – an argument she repeated constantly throughout her life. .
Monroe’s traumatic childhood is something that is easily overlooked by people. His rise to fame in the world of cinema was quickly interpreted by the pro-bourgeois ideologues of his time as clear evidence of the “rags to riches” narrative. But Monroe was completely opposed to this romanticized erasure of the extremely real deprivations she faced due to the structural injustice of the capitalist system. In 1962 she wrote in his notes, “The lack of constant love and attention. A distrust and fear of the world resulted. There was no benefit except what it could teach me about the basic needs of young people, sick and weak “I have a great feeling for all the persecuted in the world.”
When Monroe – as a poor starlet – was invited to Hollywood parties as a sex object to ogle, she felt disgusted by the card games the men played, where they casually risked thousands of dollars. “When I saw them giving each other hundred or even thousand dollar bills,” Monroe said. noticed“I felt something bitter in my heart. I remembered how much twenty-five cents and even five cents meant to the people I had known, how happy ten dollars would have made them, how a hundred dollars would have changed their entire life…I remembered all the sounds and smells of poverty, of the fear in people’s eyes when they lost their jobs.’ This lifelong identification with the proletariat was reflected in Monroe’s lifestyle.
After his death, the total value of his clothing and personal effects was estimated at $690. Instead of owning multiple mansions – a common practice among Hollywood stars – the first home Monroe ever owned was a modest little place in Los Angeles, which was still under construction at the time of her death. This devaluation of the cultural and material universe of the rich was the result of his ability to think critically about his own social environment. However, such thinking was contrary to the objectifying way it was portrayed in the movies. Her cinematic persona involved the strategic separation of sexuality from intelligence, from brain beauty, giving rise to her widely held perception of “dumb blonde”. Like Abbie Bakan elaborate:
“She was consistently cast in roles so naive they were unintentionally funny, roles in which she led men into unusual antics, pushed them beyond their normal controls. The characters she played were normally celibate, prizes up for grabs at the end of movies by conquering males; usually she was working-class, portraying the Hollywood mystique of uneducated animal instincts that middle-class “intelligence” women could not to offer so freely, and universally incapable of depth, intelligence, or growth.Marilyn Monroe was almost never allowed to play the kind of role she—and millions of working-class women—hoped to achieve in the real life. It was the “fame” she had earned.
The stifling nature of Monroe’s Hollywood career meant that she was naturally drawn to counter-hegemonic political positions that promised to liberate humanity from the alienating effects of capitalism. She openly defended Communist Party members who were under investigation by the House Un-American Activities Committee during the McCarthy period. For her, the following reason was enough to associate herself with members of the Hollywood Ten and victims of the lawsuit like Arthur Miller: “They are for the people, aren’t they? “. In 1955, she applied for a visa to travel to the Soviet Union, after which the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) began monitoring her.
According to FBI records, Monroe was in close contact with Frederick Vanderbilt Field – an American leftist residing in Mexico, who had been disinherited by his wealthy family due to his radical views. Several months before her death, she took a trip to visit Field in Mexico. In his autobiography, “From Right to Left,” Field admired Monroe’s strong commitment to the cause of human liberation: “She told us about her strong feelings for civil rights for black equality, as well as her admiration for what was being done in China, her anger at the red -baiting and McCarthyism and his hatred of (FBI Director) J. Edgar Hoover.
In 1960, Monroe became a founding member of the Hollywood branch of the Committee for Sound Nuclear Policy; that same year, she was elected as an alternate delegate to the state’s Democratic caucus, where she unambiguously declared his pro-Castro views on Cuba. Monroe’s sympathy for anti-capitalist and anti-imperialist struggles stemmed from the oppressions she faced. In a conjuncture characterized by the beginning of the civil rights movement, Monroe linked her commodification by media moguls to the racism black people were fighting against. It was, she said“easy to understand the slave system when you have gone through the star system”.
Christine, a young black woman whom the Manchester goalkeeper journalist Bill Weatherby met at a party in the Southern States in the early 1960s, declared that Monroe was the only white woman she truly respected. “She was injured. She knows what the score is… I could never relate to another white movie star. It was always white people doing white things. The famous black American writer James Baldwin also identified with Monroe. When Monroe was asked how her social status as a white and blonde sex symbol would impact her reception among black people, she replied, “I don’t want to be the symbol of anything. Black people can sometimes see through appearances better than white people.
On issues of sexuality, she was equally progressive, willing to question Hollywood’s prioritization of heterosexuality as the only legitimate form of love. Years before the emergence of the queer movement, she defended gay actor Montgomery Clift against harassment and ridicule from the press: “People who are not fit to open the door to him laugh at his homosexuality. What do they know about it? Labels – people love to put labels on each other. Then they feel safe. “No sex is bad if there’s love in it.”
Today, as sexual commodification continues to present Monroe as a docile body destined for capitalist consumption, it is imperative to emphasize the emancipatory orientation of her life. Far from being a stupid blonde, she was a woman from a proletarian background deeply aware of the brutal way in which capitalism suppressed universal desires for common fulfillment. In order to hide this crucial aspect of its personality, the bourgeoisie wants us remember “Monroe…like a cheesecake smile and cleavage.” This utterly dehumanizing portrayal of Monroe must be replaced with a holistic perspective that insists on pursuing his continually suppressed aspirations for active revolution against the passive structures of capitalism.