NPR logo Is Marilyn Monroe the Original Celebutante?


Is Marilyn Monroe the Original Celebutante?


As we discussed in The Most today, Lindsay Lohan appears nude in the new issue of New York magazine. The photo shoot is a re-creation of Marilyn Monroe's famous nude "Last Sitting" session from 1962, six weeks before her death. The mag even got the same photographer, Bert Stern, and did it at the same place, the Hotel Bel-Air in California.

The link between Monroe's premature death and Lohan's trouble with various substances hasn't been lost on anyone. One comment on an LA Times blog said:

What people fail to see is that Marilyn Monroe was just the Paris Hilton, Lindsay Lohan and Britney Spears of the '50s & '60s. If she was around today, she would be in the tabloids everyday.

Many of us think of Marilyn Monroe as being elegant and glamorous while we consider Hilton and Lohan to be trashy. But think about it. Monroe wasn't famous for her acting talent, she was famous for being a sex symbol. She traveled in high falutin' social circles. She had relationships with various and sundry men, including Joe DiMaggio and John F. Kennedy. (How did Arthur Miller get on that list? I guess he was Marilyn's K-Fed.)

Sure those beaus are classier than Rick Salomon, but folks can't get away with presidential affairs like they used to. (At least they can't get away with them forever.) Monroe's allure was due in part to the fact that we didn't know everything about her. If we had, she probably wouldn't have seemed so glamorous.

In short, I'm inclined to agree with the above comment. If Marilyn Monroe were around today, she'd be less Scarlett Johansson and more Lindsay Lohan. What say you?



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I gotta say, I'm with Dan on this. It's true that Marilyn is underrated as an actress, but it's hard to remember that before her life turned to crap, Lindsey Lohan was a promising comic actress herself. She was genuinely really good in both that remake of FREAKY FRIDAY with Jamie Lee Curtis as her mom and, of course, MEAN GIRLS.

Paris, on the other hand, is Dagmar at best.

Sent by Stewart | 10:58 AM | 2-20-2008

I don't know if Lindsey Lohan is the best comparsion. When I think of a modern day Marilyn Monroe I think of Anna Nicole Smith. I do agree that if Marilyn Monroe was around today she would be just as much of a tabloid top seller as Britney Spears, Anna Nicole Smith or "Brangelina".

Sent by Cristin Reyes | 11:16 AM | 2-20-2008

let sadly used and abused beautiful dead nudes rest in peace...we live in gory times...we've paid a dear price for progress and the total loss of privacy...your point may well be true but i'm trying to deal with the present and there seems to be so many more dangerous injustices out there for the media to zoom in on....and don't be messin with my fantasy memories of the past!!!!

Sent by jay | 11:32 AM | 2-20-2008

The great difference between Monroe and Lohan/Hilton is that Monroe did not thrive on flaunting her drug and drinking use. She was ashamed of those flaws. She was devastated when Arthur Miller portrayed her character in "The Misfits" as a drunk mess. Monroe had enough common sense to know that using drugs was not a good thing to share with the public. She had much more grace and class than the current celebrities.

Sent by Liz | 5:14 PM | 2-20-2008

well said liz. thank you for making that point. it makes me and mm feel that truth. thanks.

Sent by jay | 6:04 PM | 2-20-2008

Liz, you make a very valid point, but I have to wonder whether the difference is simply the celebrity in question, or whether the environment is also a factor. Is it really true that Lohan and Hilton "flaunt" drinking and drug use? Lohan got busted for DUI. That's not flaunting. The difference is, at least in part, back in Marilyn Monroe's day, if she got pulled over drunk, the cop probably gave her a ride home and we never found out about it. When she went out to the Rainbow Room and got drunk, it didn't end up on the cover of the newspaper. I don't necessarily accept your implication that today's celebrities are unaware that "sharing" this behavior with the public is a bad thing. That assumes they make the choice to share. I think today's celebrities don't have a choice in many instances. Don't get me wrong, I'm not defending Lindsay Lohan and Paris Hilton, but I think that if you put Marilyn Monroe in 2008, and if her every move was watched as closely as others' are watched today, she'd come across very differently.

Sent by Dan Pashman | 6:22 PM | 2-20-2008

BUT............she was not in 2008 and that is your answer...perhaps we need not be watched so closely...although some would call that progress...i call it though someone held the exactly right way to behave in order to be acceptable...perhaps there is no exactly right way for each person and certainly let's try not to put a person of a diffrent era into our time...what for...when frankly there was much more civility and respect during mm's time than there is now...thank you dp, it is an interesting discusion to ponder..........

Sent by jay | 7:19 PM | 2-20-2008

Dan, while I see your point, I still have to say that Monroe is different from the current celebrities for a couple of reasons. I find that the celebrities that we are talking about are more famous for their partying than for their "careers" (in quotes for the Hilton sisters). Monroe, while not a great actress or singer, tried to become one and was constantly working. While she did party, she was constantly in public view for her work. Also, the tabloids and constant media attention certainly plays a part in bringing to the forefront issues that used to be "behind the scenes." However, Monroe's time was completely different. Women were treated differently and expected to behave in a certain way. Tabloids today are much harsher with female celebrities than male celebrities (perhaps because those issues sell better). Even if there was constant media attention back then, I do not think that Monroe would have been portrayed as a drunk, drug-user. Therefore, she is in a different class from the current celebrities and we will always remember her differently.

Sent by Liz | 8:00 PM | 2-20-2008

Arthur Miller was a brilliant playwright.

Sent by B. Stewart | 9:17 AM | 2-21-2008

I'm not convinced that Marilyn Monroe would look any better in the tabloids than any other female celebutante today. From the information we have she led a life that now and days is very accepted and almost expected of celebrities. We didn't have the same insights to Marilyn's life as we do for any celebrity today. If something happens with a celebrity with todays technology it will be on the internet within minutes. Celebrities are tracked and followed and hounded and everything is out there for the world to see. It just wasn't like that during Marilyn's time. We don't know what really happened behind closed doors or where she really frequented or who all she was romantically linked to. That information isn't as readily accessible as it is for today's celebrities. I would love to believe that she was completely different from celebrities today who we see everywhere but as history reads she isn't any different. Drugs, drinking and sex. Her acting and singing are generally overlooked for her looks and modeling. She will always be remembered for several different reasons but I don't think her acting will be one of them.

Sent by Cristin Reyes | 11:46 AM | 2-21-2008

What is better, the extreme freedom of choice about how to live now combined with the likelihood of it all being seen by everybody, or the romanticized and shaming dishonesty of Marilyn's times? What are we if we justify what Marilyn went through by the thrill at a simple upskirt it allowed us to feel?
Marilyn is compared with Lindsay and Paris, but it is Britney who is coming closest to meeting Marilyn's fate.

Sent by Michael Wengler | 12:36 PM | 2-21-2008

I believe that the comparison of MM to Lohan or Hilton is way off base. MM pulled herself up by the boot straps. She was not born with millions of dollars at her disposal nor was she acting at young ages. She went through a plethora of foster homes due to her mother being institutionalized to a mental ward while her father was never around. MM took what she had (the only thing she had), good looks, and used that to propel her career. She won several Golden Globes, and her movies were nominated for numerous awards including the Oscars. She had more class in her pinky than Lohan, Hilton, and Spears together.

Sent by Maggie | 1:11 PM | 2-21-2008

I am just so sick and tired of hearing people writing and always comparing Lindsey/ Hilton to Marilyn Monroe. If Marilyn were alive she would not like it and she did not even like it when other girls including Jayne Mansfield who would constantly copy her original style. Marilyn is just being herself and Lindsey and the rest need to fine their very own style.

Sent by Sandi | 11:12 PM | 7-18-2008