Quotes to Live By: Marilyn Monroe


Marilyn Monroe is remembered for her Hollywood glamour, fascinating body and famous number ‘Diamonds Are A Girl’s Best Friend’. However, she was so much more: she sustained a fixed and long-lasting legacy that has kept her positioned at the centre of pop culture even today. What then, if anything, can we learn from Miss Monroe?

“Imperfection is beauty, madness is genius and it’s better to be absolutely ridiculous than absolutely boring.”

This is certainly one of my favourite quotes of hers. The message is perfect. We should care less about our image and making ourselves seem perfect to the outside world. We should care less about always having to conform to others’ expectations. Instead, we should promote madness and difference as these make an exciting society filled with unique and carefree individuals. The one issue with society is that, by trying to force everyone to the same image and standards, we make it ‘boring’. The difference of madness is good.

[Warner Bros]

Monroe had several other quotes celebrating difference and uniqueness: “When it comes down to it. I let people think what they want. And if they care enough to bother with what I do, I already know I’m better than them.”. Again the message is about abandoning the judgement and standards that others place upon you, and if they complain then you can revel in the fact that you’re already better than they are.

Monroe also promotes her own distinct brand of feminism. Her infamous “give a woman the right pair of shoes and she’ll conquer the world,” expresses the power of women, even if she did frame it within her own materialist fantasies. She stressed that she did not mind living in a man’s world “as long as I can be a woman in it.” At the same time, though, she reiterates the importance of the chivalry within her idea of feminism: she still wants men to treat women with the romanticism of the 18th and 19th centuries: “The real lover is the man who can thrill you by kissing your forehead or smiling into your eyes or just staring into space”. I think this romance is – even if we don’t admit it – what we all aim for and dream of.

Her words, however, also think about the overcoming and pain of suffering, both in terms of depression and the media industry. Monroe was so honest about her battle with anxiety:

“I restore myself when I’m alone… Happiness is the most important thing in the world, without it, you live a life of depression. We should then all start to live before we get old: fear is stupid, so are regrets.” 

Her words express such an honesty: it seems obvious but happiness is so important and so often we forget to look after ourselves: to ensure that we ‘restore’ ourselves within our crazy and busy lives. Otherwise, we find ourselves old and regretful. Monroe herself committed suicide realising she had not spent enough time ensuring she lived with herself in balance: that she was happy in herself.

[Walk of Fame]

Monroe, however, was heavily critical of the media industry that made her famous: “Hollywood is a place where they’ll pay you a thousand dollars for a kiss, and fifty cents for your soul“. The cynicism here is directed towards the notion of ‘fame’ in media where the person you are is totally forgotten about. You become a body, a pawn within a game of chess, that can be represented however others see fit. At the end of her life, Monroe confessed her sadness that no one knew who she really was: she was just that dumb-blonde. Fame, she insisted, “doesn’t fulfil you: it warms you a bit, but that warmth is temporary”. The notion of fame and the person the media industry makes one become is summed up in one of her later quotes: “A career is wonderful, but you cannot cuddle up with it on a cold night“. Monroe teaches us that the notion of fame that captivates so many, whether we aim to be film stars, media sensations or premiership footballers, is entirely fickle. Monroe seeks to teach us the dark, and lonely, side of fame.

Monroe is a captivating individual: she teaches up about the place of women, fighting anxiety, valuing difference and – most crucially – being careful what we wish for. Fame is an illusion, love and happiness is real.


About Author

Philosopher and Historian and major pop-fan. You can find me listening to most pop in the charts (Beyoncé and Sia are most certainly goddesses), as well as some modern jazz and classical and enjoing the occasional trip to the theatre. I'm also interested in the repurcussions of the representation of sex in modern-day media! And I might be a fan of the X Factor. Sorry, I can't help it...

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