Something's Gotta Give
Four Women Writers on the Lasting Influence of Marilyn Monroe
By Brienne Walsh
I remember the first time I untagged a photograph of myself on Facebook. It was from a Halloween party I had attended in 2004. I was dressed as Audrey Hepburn from Breakfast at Tiffany's, only more disheveled, with my eyes half-closed and my mouth half-smiling, and I was terrified that this image might ruin the illusion that my life was going perfectly fine.
Because in reality, my life was anything but fine. I hated my job, had barely enough money to pay my rent, and still wasn't over my ex. I was miserable. But online, I could be anything I wanted. Using photographs, I could create a person that didn't exist in real life.
At the time, I didn't realize that I was on the cusp of a social revolution, one that would change ordinary people from invisible beings into public ones. Before the all-consuming popularity of Facebook, creating a public self was something reserved for celebrities like Marilyn Monroe, whose carefully constructed identity—made up of countless images of her as the playful blonde, the confident sex kitten, the glamorous movie star—was so compelling that it continues to flourish 46 years after her death.
In 1945, Monroe, then still Norma Jeane Dougherty, was discovered by a photographer. This discovery marked the beginning of the end of Norma Jeane and the beginning of Marilyn Monroe. "I feel as though it's all happening to someone right next to me," Monroe once said of her own celebrity. "I'm close, I can feel it, I can hear it, but it isn't really me."
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