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Why do people still love Marilyn Monroe?


American actress and model Marilyn Monroe died in 1962, and yet people around the world are still fascinated with her life and work. Here biographer Michelle Morgan explains why Monroe, born Norma Jeane Mortenson in 1926, continues to have such an enchanting appeal…

Over the past thirty years I have given dozens of different answers to the question of why Marilyn Monroe continues to appeal to us, because she appeals to people for many different reasons. Some like her because she was sexy and beautiful; others because she was a funny comedienne. There are people who adore her sensitivity and others who love the way she never stopped trying to make her life more fulfilling. For others - like myself - it is a mixture of everything that makes her so appealing, and the reasons continue to evolve as time passes by.

When I first ‘discovered’ Marilyn, it was 1985 and I was a frustrated teenager who disliked school politics and the way everyone was supposed to think or act the same way, in order to get along. Marilyn’s appeal at that time was as a beautiful lady who was also something of a surrogate friend. She was a luminous figure on the screen and a colourful character in a book. The way she lived her life was very appealing to me. She was a rebel, and someone who went against the grain in an era where women were supposed to know their place and not have an opinion. Knowing how she fought so hard to better her life was both encouraging and inspiring.

That brings me to my next point. Inspiration plays a big role in Marilyn’s appeal to me. Raised as an orphan (though her parents were still alive), she did not let her upbringing put a stop to any dreams she may have had. In fact if anything it made her all the more determined. I had a wonderful childhood with a very loving family, but when I left school and went into a full-time office job, I found myself stifled by the atmosphere around me. I wanted to live my dreams and to create a career for myself that embraced what I actually wanted to do. Marilyn’s fights with the studio and the way she created her own film company encouraged me to never give up. I never did, and after a long time I was able to leave that office and never look back.

Thirty years after first becoming a Marilyn fan, my life has changed dramatically and I am now nine years older than she was when she passed away. Yes this actress, who died eight years before I was born, still inspires and informs my life. So why does Marilyn appeal to me now? Just like when I was a teenager, her beauty and talent are a definite factor, but it goes much deeper than that.

Now that I’m older I can appreciate how Marilyn was trying to push boundaries and change the world. She fought not only for her own rights, but the rights of others too. She was not scared to be friends with minorities and people considered to be ‘different.’ She was tolerant, she was brave and she was strong. Yes she had problems; she could fall into depressions and times of unhappiness, but can’t we all?

Her tragic end at the age of only thirty-six has ensured that her place in the history books is written as a victim, and yet her bravery, courage and individuality are things many of us aspire to. Perhaps in the end it doesn’t matter why Marilyn continues to appeal to us, because whatever the reason, her star continues to shine, and does not appear to be dimming any time soon. 

By Michelle Morgan

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