I recently read a comment on IMDB snarking that only women like Marilyn Monroe as a movie star. Which oddly puts her in the same category as Audrey Hepburn.
I can't remember who joked that only women liked Audrey and men never think about her... maybe Jeffrey Eugenides?. Which was a funny joke because basically it is true. Audrey has a cool exterior, a plausible alibi for any kind of hijinks and a somewhat asexual/gamine element. I can understand that this persona isn't something men would find off the bat appealing. Whereas women love her tongue-in-cheek gently knowing demeanor.
I always thought that what made Marilyn be Marilyn is because of infatuated male movie fans and that she caused jealous rage in female moviegoers. At least it seems that way in the hindsight of the Hollywood publicity machine. But thinking back to my girlhood, watching film with Marilyn in them...I always loved her presence. Most likely because I loved Some Like It Hot as a kid and she was so funny in it. It never occurred to me that I should resent her flirty persona and getting attention from men. As I grew older, I saw her as kind of female Peter Pan figure with a gentle voice covering her streetwise intelligence. Also I could see at times her impatience with the mask she had to wear, that ever ready "naive" flirt act that made her so famous but got in the way of more important acting roles. I can also see some parallels between her and Audrey. Whereas her figure promises bad girl fun, her voice and quick wit have a coolness that is as stand offish as Audrey.
I've also heard it said that the fantasy to be taken, to be swept off the feet is really more of a male fantasy. Marilyn's persona seems to promise this kind of aggression but then she holds back. This is almost the exact opposite of Audrey, who is nowhere near the bombshell beauty of Marilyn but was portrayed as very aggressive romantically in her film roles.
So the appeal of both women does tie into the female experience in traversing cultural landmines of sex and attraction. We know almost at once to be in Marilyn's shoes, we have to be stalwartly poised. But in the comparatively plain brown moth persona of Audrey...anything is possible. Its the dichotomy set up because of cultural sexism and restraints on women's sexuality.
But yes...Monroe is more than likely a girl's girl movie star just like Hepburn.
Labels: commentary, culture, fashion, icons, movie stars, movies, sexism