Marilyn Monroe, from her true name Norma Jeane Mortenson, was born June 1st 1926 in Los Angeles, from unknown father. Young Norma soon found herself transferred from one foster house to another, as her mother had been declared both mentally and financially unstable. In order to be freed from state care, she married in 1942, at the age of sixteen. During World War II, she worked in a factory where she was discovered by a photographer, who encouraged her to start a career as model. So as to fit the demand, she dyed her hair in blond. From model, she rose to be an actress and gained a certain notoriety.
It is around this period that she changed her name for Marilyn Monroe: the nice, flowing sound of the name, due to alliteration, made it easy to memorize and the double "m" should bring her luck. But luck didn't come in a first time and she soon found herself without employment. In 1949, she accepted to pose for nude photos. In 1952, while her career had taken a new start, she avoided scandal by making a famous interview, in which she explained she had done it to pay the rent. This raised sympathies and attracted attention, so that her celebrity increased. From now onwards, she became a public figure, playing in some major movies.
Nevertheless, towards the end of her life, she adopted an unstable behaviour and developed an addiction to drugs, alcohol and medication. She was found dead August 6th 1962. The result of the autopsy is "acute barbiturate poisoning" and the doctors concluded to suicide, though many rumours of murder circulated.
Marilyn Monroe: an icon
The reasons of Marilyn Monroe's success and posthumous status of icon in American culture may be due to some extent to this mysterious death. But much more significant is what she embodied: at a time where the model of the decent housewife was still dominant, she represented the sexual revolution on the march. It should be remembered that the magazine Playboy had been recently created and was one of the first to make use of Marilyn's nude photos. Marilyn's numerous husbands and lovers, as well as some daring scenes in the movies she played in, contributed to make her a sex-symbol.
Marilyn Monroe is also the symbol of the glorious age of Hollywood and conveys with her all the glamour and fascination it involves. Nostalgia for this sparkling epoch undoubtedly explains part of her current success. Furthermore, her rising from poor orphan to superstar is the embodiment of the American dream, so that she has been used as a kind of propaganda for American culture and way of life.
Her image is thus widespread, thanks to advertisement, consumer goods and even art (for example, her pop art portrait by Andy Warhol). The more we see it, the more firmly her status as icon is established. The more she is an icon, the more her image will be used. Consequently, it is possible to conclude by saying that Marilyn Monroe won't be forgotten for a while.