MARILYN SPECIAL FILE
Do you really know Marilyn Monroe? Rebellious, committed, woman of fights, whistleblower,… On the occasion of the 60e anniversary of the death of the icon of American cinema, Humanity looks beyond all the stereotypes drawn by Hollywood.
Marilyn Monroe, undoubtedly the most famous actress of Hollywood cinema, was she really the pin-up, the sex symbol, the unpretentious blonde known to all? Several books and documentaries today return to this icon, trying to deconstruct the official discourse: his death, his romantic relationships, his legendary beauty. What if Marilyn had participated in the advance of feminism by inspiring the women of her generation?
The actress was one of the first women in Hollywood to call out those who assaulted or harassed her in her lifetime. During the promotion of the film “Gentlemen Prefer Blondes”, one of the most emblematic of her career released in 1953, Marilyn confides in the rape she suffered as a child. Walked from one foster family to another, Norma Jean, her real name, had a difficult childhood. She would have been the victim of several sexual assaults in these different families, but she recounts one in particular: at the age of 8, she was raped by the English tenant of her guardian. Then taking refuge with the latter, she confides her attack to him. The woman does not believe her, and slaps her as a bonus, to punish her for lying about “her best tenant”, according to the account given by the actress.
Hollywood, playground of predators
The same year, Marilyn Monroe took up the pen to denounce the “wolves” of Hollywood. Not unlike the swinging pigs in 2018 and the #MeToo movement. The text of the actress, published in the magazine “Motion Picture”, entitled “Wolves I have known” is, at the time, unprecedented in its genre. Hollywood is described there as a playground for the predators that were the producers and powerful men in the middle: the actress denounces these practices and the silence which surrounds them. Pauline Mallet, film critic, notes that she “speaks with very accurate words, she is perfectly aware of what she is saying”. Going through her story, the journalist feels that “it’s something that worked a lot on her and that she took a long time to express. She does it with a lot of hindsight and a certain maturity.
Excerpt from Marilyn’s text “Wolves I have known”: “He gave me a script to read and told me how to pose while reading it. All poses had to be lengthened, although the words I read didn’t seem call this position…”
A valuable testimony
“When we read this testimony today, it is very telling and frightening: we realize that the Harvey Weinstein affair is only the tree that hides the forest”, states Pauline Mallet, with a disillusioned air. . Under the pretext that she embodied “seductive, independent, comfortable women with their sexuality” on screen, producers or movie men thought she was “available for them”. This testimony, very detailed, is all the more precious: it makes it possible to understand that sexual assaults in the middle do not date from recent years. “Meetings were already taking place in hotel rooms. This point was also raised in the Weinstein case and many discovered this habit at that time. Film criticism highlights the systemic nature of the existence of these predators and their techniques for baiting their prey.
We realize that the Harvey Weinstein affair is only the tree that hides the forest. Pauline Mallet
Marilyn Monroe did not deliver this testimony at random, she was already famous. Pauline Mallet says she discovered this writing after the revelations of French actress Adèle Haenel in 2019. “By mirroring the two situations, it was obvious that you already had to have some involvement in the profession to be able to do it, even if that doesn’t mean it’s easier,” she says. The documentary “Marilyn, woman of today”, directed by Raphaëlle Baillot and Céline Chassé, highlights this little-known facet of the Hollywood actress. Questioned on this occasion, the psychoanalyst Gérard Miller concludes that “the #MeToo movement should put Marilyn Monroe in its pantheon. What she did also made it possible, decades later.”
Feminists before their time
Far from being the only problem for women in Hollywood, predators still have all the power. If some actresses resist them, they are excluded from the most prestigious shoots. However, it is not because they appear in the greatest films, as Marilyn was, that they are paid at their fair value. The star actress earned much less than her male colleagues “while many went to see the films because there was Marilyn Monroe”, recalls Pauline Mallet. Unable to negotiate to her advantage with production companies, she decided to create her own in 1955: Marilyn Monroe Productions. President of the latter, it is an effective way, but unprecedented at the time, to control her destiny and her salary.
Despite these acts, which today could be qualified as feminists before their time, Marilyn Monroe is not presented as such. According to journalist Pauline Mallet, it is difficult to qualify her as such, in particular because “she was not necessarily aware, and this is normal given the time, of all the issues”. She goes on to say that she “sometimes fought for certain contracts even if it meant putting certain actresses aside”. If the parallel with the current fights has its limits, its actions are nonetheless avant-garde and courageous for the time in which they are part.
“Marilyn was a woman, a sex symbol, there was something light in her image. This is why the whole painful, dramatic part of his life was suppressed, even after his death. These cases deserve to be brought back to the fore. “Apart from the fact that it’s Marilyn Monroe, it shows a system that’s been in place for a long time. It has endured because some have taken advantage of it and have sometimes fleshed it out,” concludes Pauline Mallet. An iconic actress who rebelled against the oppressive and sexist system of the 1950s is not trivial. Marilyn Monroe was able to inspire many women, well beyond her acting and her time.