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Decay and transformation: Marilyn Monroe vs. Marina and the Diamonds

Decay and transformation: Marilyn Monroe vs. Marina and the Diamonds

Marilyn Monroe needs no introduction. Easily the most recognizable female film star of the 20th century, Monroe lit up the screen and enthralled everyone around her during both her time alive and after her death. She was a regular girl named Norma Jean Mortenson who transformed into Marilyn Monroe to further her film career. She’s an eternal sex symbol to the world, but that was only on the surface.

Underneath it all, Marilyn was actually an empty, lonely individual who constantly felt lost and insecure about nearly everything. Old Hollywood tends be glamourized as a golden age because Marilyn was one-of-a-kind, but that era was still destructive in the entertainment industry. The fame monster destroyed Marilyn, who was loved by so many – but not everyone. The idea that people love to watch you fall is very real, especially when looking at someone like Marilyn, who was praised but attacked simultaneously by different people.

The "Electra Heart" tracklist reflects a dark theme among soft visuals.

The “Electra Heart” tracklist reflects a dark theme among soft visuals.

A modern Welsh-born pop artist named Marina Diamandis, who goes by her stage name of Marina and the Diamonds, has made her obsession with American corruption and the idea of Hollywood very present in her work. Her first album “The Family Jewels” revolved around the destructive behaviors in American culture and the popular attitudes regarding the topic. Her 2012 album “Electra Heart” was also the name of the persona she took on to symbolize the four kinds of narrow labels women receive, including Primadonna and Homewrecker. Her promotional content was described as pink and fluffy on the surface, but her work dove deep into the social construct of the ideal 1950’s woman. It dug to the core of the expectations put on women and the pressure they deal with regularly, which only intensifies when they’re in the limelight.

Diamandis explores the double standards when it comes to ego, sex, and love regarding men and women. She basically poses the question, “Why is a confident, strong woman considered vain or crazy, but a confident, strong man is considered confident and strong?” Monroe had a loyal fan base and still does to this day, and she’s generally admired for her sex appeal and charisma. Still, there were people who despised her for those very same reasons, critiquing her for being inappropriate and shallow. Diamandis is in almost an exact situation with her status in the entertainment world, though her work intends to spark conversation about the perception and treatment of women, particularly in media. The backlash she received from her vamped up “How To Be a Heartbreaker” music video was ironic, because she was proving a point: men can use women as sex objects without anyone batting an eyelash, but when a woman does it, she’s a whore and it’s disrespectful. Diamandis is open when she needs to be, but she has never appeared to let the negativity affect her work.

Both women appear to glow on the surface and had/have darkness and doubt hiding underneath. The difference between Monroe and Diamandis is that the latter doesn’t keep her broken thoughts or feelings to herself – she willingly shares them with the entire world in her music. Monroe was discovered to be insecure and dark when she died from an apparent suicide, and even more within the last decade when her private journals and letters were published.

"Fragments" shows Monroe in a vulnerable light.

“Fragments” shows Monroe’s fragile mentality.

It’s almost as if Monroe’s life and the tragedy that ended it was a lesson that Diamandis used to try to prevent something like that from happening again. It really attempts to get media consumers to think critically about the decay that Hollywood stars are almost inevitable to experience, especially so for young women, who are chewed up and spit out at a much faster, gruesome rate than their male counterparts. The proof is there: men are allowed to age and evolve into “veteran” actors while their female peers continue to be replaced by young, fresh faces.

The goal of so many people remains the same: to destroy the Hollywood star. While some are conscious and extreme in their actions and words about it, I think most people subconsciously have this goal without even knowing it. In my opinion, it feels like it’s a mix of disdain, jealousy, and annoyance. We are bombarded with millions of contradictory, overhyped messages to the point that we burn out when it comes to media and celebrity culture. The world is so fascinated with the concept of the celebrity, and the media reports on the mundane happenings of those in the spotlight. To a degree, the media itself plays a hand in destroying the stars – the gossip, tabloids, paparazzi, unflattering photos, rumors, etc. The rise and fall is very present, and the cycle repeats itself with every new slew of talent shooed in each year.

I believe we are made to feel insecure by the media in order to buy into whatever they are selling so they make a profit. The truth is that even Monroe was insecure when she was still Norma Jean, and it only became worse as her fame grew. Diamandis is overflowing with anxieties and worries, a large part of them caused by her own rise to success. It goes to show that as humans, we are all fragile and seek reassurance, but celebrities tend to be labelled – and even label themselves – as invincible, resulting in a lack of pity towards their downfalls.

These two women’s experiences parallel one another in regards to societal pressures and expectations of being a female in Hollywood. Diamandis looks like she will be around for a while to challenge the haters, and maybe it can stand as a testament to the harsh reality of not only being female, but being a female star. Her message, I believe, is clear: Whether we are already destroyed or not on the inside before fame, we will be the ones who use our damage as a tool to strengthen ourselves and others. We won’t be tossed around and broken by anyone or anything anymore.

Cheers to you, Diamandis. Make Monroe proud.

About Izzy Gut

Izzy Gut is a Magazine Journalism major and writer born and raised in the Chicago area who aspires to work in a field that includes creative direction and photography in addition to writing.

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