Cannes has selected Marilyn Monroe as the official “icon” of its upcoming 65th Festival–the bombshell is to be featured in advertising for the fest. In a statement printed on Deadline, the French cinephiles noted: ““Fifty years after her death, Marilyn is still a major figure in world cinema, an eternal icon, whose grace, mystery and power of seduction remain resolutely contemporary.”
Well, of course she is contemporary! We can hardly escape her! Before the Oscars at which Michelle Williams was nominated for making her voice all breathy came the Dior ad in which Charlize Theron meets a dazed-looking Norma Jean. Smash is still on (somehow–we thought once we cracked the case on the pilot, it might disappear) and treating its viewers to original songs, weekly, about the life of a tragic icon. Hugh Hefner claimed Lindsay Lohan’s cover shoot in Playboy was inspired by the photos of Marilyn Monroe; the continued travails of Lindsay Lohan seem inspired, to magazine editors and to Ms. Lohan herself, by the life of Marilyn Monroe. There’s very likely a Marilyn cover package brewing at Vanity Fair, once they make one more cycle through the four living celebrities (Clooney-Roberts-Depp-Jolie) allowed on the cover.
“Iconic” is an easy word; perhaps Marilyn Monroe remains popular because the big, bold things she signifies (sex, death, unresolved questions about feminine mystique and female vulnerability, power, powerlessness) do not need any elaboration in order to convey a false sense of authority. They give an unearned authority to the banal or the minor, rather as though this blog post tried to steal Raymond Carver’s symbolic authority by calling itself “What We Talk About When We Talk About Marilyn,” even though it’s been years since there’s been anything to say.