MY WEEK WITH MARILYN: Commodification, Frailty and Injustice

In an exchange of a few weeks ago about a recently dead star, I made the comment that I stand by: "If you consider a person a God, when they fall to the ground they are a Monster." People, in general should just be people; just equal.  To be considered more or less than a person is an injustice.  Marilyn Monroe was a woman who was frequently treated more or less than a person and so unjustly.   In her youth as a foster child, she was less. In her stardom, she was more. Approaching her death she was less again. 
My week with Marilyn (Michelle Williams) is based on two books by Colin Clark. It is adapted for the screen by writer Adrian Hodges and director Simon Curtis. The film shows Marilyn as frail and dependent.   It is under these circumstances that she spent time with Colin Clark (a young gofer for Sir Lawrence Olivier during the period when movie The Prince and the Showgirl was being made.
Smart people do not tolerate injustice well, when trapped they will chew off their paw to get out of a trap.  History is replete with examples, among them Marilyn Monroe. Until fame changes, its price won't. Fame is unsustainable because, in the language of Bioethics, the people who make fame use people as a commodity.  This commodity model is a slave model. When one slave dies the fame industry buys another.
Norma Jean Baker was 36 years old when she died.  Any college student with interest in child and family psychology could understand how Norma Jean Baker came to be found dead in August 1962 from probable suicide.  She was set up for the fall through rejections and abuses during her early years, followed by rejections and abuses during her years of fame. 
The Norma Jean Baker well depicted in the My Week With Marilyn was frail, vulnerable and misunderstood by all but a "lackey."  There is also an homage to Marilyn Monroe in The Help (Taylor, 2011). In this film it was also "the help"   that understood and protected her.  In both films she was married to a man she loved, but feared would not love her if he knew her truths. In both films she was pregnant but unable to be a viable mother. In both films she turned to working class people for support; her acting coach, production assistant, body guard, maid.  The outcome in The Help homage to Marilyn Monroe would have been so much more a better fate than the one actual befalling the real woman. Accuracy in historical biographies often takes a backseat to narrative, but these threads of Marilyn's reality stream through all her biographical leads.
Marilyn Monroe, though often reflected as dependent and frail, lived a dichotomous life. She supported and identified with working class and poor people. She was allied to significant forces in the left political and art movement; Arthur Miller, the Actors Studio as cases in point.  She openly supported   banning nuclear bombs, racial equality, human and civil rights. Her personal sexuality was in the feminist vein.  Further, she abhorred the HUAAC, just as openly as she embraced her causes. As a star, her job was to be a sexual commodity, yet as factory worker her photos are thought to have been a part Rosie the Riveters' evolution.  In her personal life, her fertility was at odds with her sexuality and her love relationships tenuous.  This woman's life was a perpetual double bind of competing interest.
Bioethical Conflict is considered irresolvable. If resolvable, it likely was not a real conflict.  Norma Jean Baker was caught in a real ethical conflict. Like many famous people, she died without resolution: Wealth and Fame, allowed her to do good. Fleeing Wealth and Fame would doom her to the poverty of self and finances from which she came.  My Week With Marilyn  is a road map to and for the fallen star.
My Week With Marilyn. (35 mm) directed by Simon Curtis. USA. The Weinstein Company. 2011. (101 min)

The Help (35 mm) directed by Tate Taylor. USA. Touchstone Pictures. 2011. (146 min)

The Prince and the Showgirl (35 mm) directed by Lawrence Olivier.  USA.
Warner Bros. 1957 (115 min)


September Williams, MD-Writer said...

This is a note from HC:
...I watched my week with Marilyn, really enjoyed your piece on it in your blog...Also, last nite, on dvd i watched Eve's Bayou...1997 film..i really enjoyed the way it was made..thought the framing was superb, the way actors used thei eyes to express emotions...I was wondering what your opinion was of the film...i read several critiques from the 1990s, seems many critics did not like the movie...bringing into question also the issues of race..
I just wrote a chapter for a book on art and aesthetics...the chapter is about movies and medical ethics...it was a challenge, but fun...