You may love Ayn Rand or you may hate her, or you may be more or less indifferent, like me, but for anyone who doesn’t have his or her head up his or her butt, this is obviously one of the very best essays ever written about Marilyn Monroe.
Nobody ever had a more sordid childhood than Marilyn Monroe
To survive it and to preserve the kind of spirit she projected on the screen–the radiantly benevolent sense of life, which cannot be faked–was an almost inconceivable psychological achievement that required a heroism of the highest order. Whatever scars her past had left were insignificant by comparison.
”When I was 5, I think that’s when I started wanting to be an actress. I loved to play. I didn’t like the world around me because it was kind of grim, but I loved to play house and it was like you could make your own boundaries. It’s almost having certain kinds of secrets for yourself that you’ll let the whole world in on only for a moment, when you’re acting.
No one else could project the glowingly innocent sexuality of a being from some planet uncorrupted by guilt, who found herself regarded and ballyhooed as a vulgar symbol of obscenity, and who still had the courage to declare: “We are all born sexual creatures, thank God, but it’s a pity so many people despise and crush this natural gift.”
She preserved her vision of life through a nightmare struggle, fighting her way to the top. What broke her was the discovery, at the top, of as sordid an evil as the one she had left behind–worse, perhaps, because incomprehensible. She had expected to reach the sunlight; she found, instead, a limitless swamp of malice.
It was a malice of a very special kind. If you want to see her groping struggle to understand it, read the magnificent article in the August 17, 1962, issue of Life magazine. It is not actually an article, it is a verbatim transcript of her own words–and the most tragically revealing document published in many years. It is a cry for help, which came too late to be answered.
“When you’re famous, you kind of run into human nature in a raw kind of way,” she said. “It stirs up envy, fame does. People you run into feel that, well, who is she–who does she think she is, Marilyn Monroe? They feel fame gives them some kind of privilege to walk up to you and say anything to you, you know, of any kind of nature–and it won’t hurt your feelings–like it’s happening to your clothing. . . . I don’t understand why people aren’t a little more generous with each other. I don’t like to say this, but I’m afraid there is a lot of envy in this business.”
“Envy” is the only name she could find for the monstrous thing she faced, but it was much worse than envy: it was the profound hatred of life, of success and of all human values, felt by a certain kind of mediocrity–the kind who feels pleasure on hearing about a stranger’s misfortune. It was hatred of the good for being the good–hatred of ability, of beauty, of honesty, of earnestness, of achievement and, above all, of human joy.
She was an eager child, who was rebuked for her eagerness. ”Sometimes the [foster] families used to worry because I used to laugh so loud and so gay; I guess they felt it was hysterical.”
She was a spectacularly successful star, whose employers kept repeating: “Remember you’re not a star,” in a determined effort, apparently, not to let her discover her own importance.
And she was a brilliantly talented actress, who was told by the alleged authorities, by Hollywood, by the press, that she could not act.