There was a dichotomy that existed inside Marilyn Monroe. When her little white skirt was blown and lifted up in the air, the frenzied crowd that had gathered to catch a glimpse of the star applauded and screamed. At that moment, people saw her transform from a human being into a phenomenon. It became an iconic moment in the history of the entertainment industry. Everybody wanted a piece of Marilyn Monroe, but nobody saw the dwindling hope in the eyes of the starlet. Eyes that were asking for help and a body that was craving to shed off its pretentious covering and expose its real self without the fear of being scorned. Marilyn Monroe had assumed that throughout her life, she would have to hide her real self and only portray a side that the people wanted to see. Nobody wanted to see a miserable girl who was trying to fight her way through every single day. Nobody wanted to witness the deglamorized and mundane struggles of life.
Nobody wanted to accept the fact that a girl who had become the talk of the town had had such a tumultuous past, which she was trying to leave behind. Marilyn Monroe always knew that her public image was something she had created for others. She knew that, in reality, she was Norma Jeane, a girl who sought love and longed for a sense of belongingness. Marilyn, the star, always wanted to imbibe in the fact that the circle of light belonged to her. But Norma wanted to hide from that light. She wanted to reside in a place where nobody could see her. She believed that she was quite good at pretending and playing the part. She assumed that nobody, not even her lovers, could seep through her core and see her darkest desires. Charlie Chaplin Jr. was probably the only man in her life who saw through her real emotions. He made her feel vulnerable. For the first time in her life, she was Norma Jeane in front of a third person. But Norma had a knack for losing out on all the happiness as soon as she found it. She lived her life in the city of sand, where nothing endured for long. The paparazzi captured that infectious smile, but their cameras weren’t able to capture the paranoia that was slowly clutching her tightly. Monroe wanted attention; she wanted to be in the news; she wanted to create a sensation, but Norma only craved validation. Validation from that missing patriarch, whom she had been searching for her entire life. Since her childhood, she had believed that one day her father would return and accept her. But when that didn’t happen, she started looking for him in her partners and tried to substantiate her existence by molding herself in accordance with their expectations.
Marilyn always wanted to immerse herself in a character and explore its depths, but she was never given that opportunity. She was objectified in the industry, just as she was in her personal life, and was only given roles that pleased the eyes but didn’t care much about the soul of the artist. She quenches that thirst by becoming oblivious to her own reality and transforming herself into the role of the perfect partner. On the one hand, there was the dazzling life of a celebrity; that was as ostentatious as it could get. But on the other hand, there was an unsullied innocence that was just trying to scamper in whichever direction it could, to escape from the nightmare of life. Monroe recognized that there were two distinct personalities that resided inside her. She frequently referred to herself in the third person.” Marilyn Monroe” was nothing but an illusion, an idea created by Norma. It was like an alter-ego that had a dual purpose: it kept her real identity hidden and, at the same time, helped her cope with the world around her. The sparkling and superficial lifestyle of Hollywood forced Norma Jeane to become Marilyn Monroe. Norma was a simple girl who wanted simple things in life. There was no place for her in the entertainment industry. On the other hand, Marilyn’s whole life was nothing less than a scandalous affair. She had decided to become an actress in the hope that one day she would bump into her father. She believed that he, too, would be eagerly waiting for her. She feared that one day she would be reduced merely to this illusion and would never be able to find anyone who really understood her. She often couldn’t recognize when she had become and how she had become such an emotionally destitute person. This duality in her nature is quite evident in the scenes when her two worlds come into a state of conflict with each other. When Marilyn was in her home, she often shed off her glittering exterior and became the unadorned Norma. Whenever she used to get a call from any person who belonged to the world of Marilyn Monroe, she felt as if her privacy had been violated. She acted like she was representing this completely different individual and was talking on her behalf. She, very conveniently, dissociated herself from one or the other identity. The root cause of this duality was the traumatic experiences she had in her childhood. She was always blamed by her mother for being the reason behind her misery. She was blamed for the absence of her father. While playing the part of Marilyn Monroe, she often demeaned her own existence and called herself a “blonde.” But in reality, Norma read Chekhov and Dostoevsky. She played the stereotype so well that people were often surprised to know that she was so well-read. Monroe experienced extreme behavioral patterns. She was either immoderately delirious, which made her feel exhausted after a point of time, or she was sparring with her own demons and struggling to deal with her anxiety.
Norma was always hesitant about confiding in others, as people had a tendency to make a mockery of it. Be it her partners or her fans, she gave them what they wanted. She heard them, tried to understand them, and also tried to find some rationale behind their oppressiveness and abuse. But not even once did she try to express her true self. She had kept that side of her personality reserved for herself. Once in a while, she caught a glimpse of that same old girl in the mirror who used to hide in the table drawer and believed that one day her father would return to make things right. But as soon as that happened, Monroe used to bury herself under that forged smile and melancholy that had become an eternal part of her reality. You assume that the most famous girl in the whole world could get whatever she wanted, be whatever she aspired to be, and do whatever she desired to do. But the irony of being Marilyn Monroe was that, though she was the most desired person on the planet, she never ever got what she truly desired. Monroe yearned to be with her father more than anything else in the world. When she wasn’t able to find him, she tried to put her faith in her partners. She begged them to not break her trust. She begged them to not abandon her. She begged them to not make her become Marilyn Monroe and let her be Norma Jeane. But the men in her life, who enjoyed absolute authority vested in them by society, were least bothered about what she was going through, as long as it didn’t conflict with their idea of a perfect woman. As soon as it did, they abandoned her and left her to fend for herself.
Adversity was Monroe’s most faithful ally. It never left her side, no matter what. As she herself puts it, Marilyn Monroe was nothing but a career. She wanted the director to say “cut” and put an end to her horrors. But she realized that sometimes in real life, the nightmares become like an extended take and go on uninterrupted and unedited until the performer’s last breath. Marilyn Monroe knew all about showmanship. She knew how to smile, how to pose, how to entertain. The cameras loved her, but “Miss Golden Dreams,” as she was called often, couldn’t ever make peace with herself. That table drawer where she often used to hide gave her a sense of security that no mansion was ever able to give.
We hope that in a parallel world, Monroe never became the star that she was. We hope that instead of being the brightest star in the sky, she became part of a constellation and felt like she belonged. We hope that she was able to bring the characters of Chekhov to life and come out of her table drawer and see the world in a different light. But most of all, we hope that she gets an opportunity to shed off that heavy baggage from her shoulders and go back to ground zero to start afresh.