Book Review: Marilyn—The Passion & the Paradox by Lois Banner.

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Marilyn Monroe as feminist icon? Who knew?

The best-known sex symbol of the 20th century (’cause we all know Beyonce’s got dibs on this century) is easily dismissed as just that, but as Lois Banner’s heftily researched tome on the woman born Norma Jeane Mortensen will attest, Monroe had some radical views for her time, embracing the ideals of the Communist movement, endeavouring to expand her mind even though Hollywood would rather her stick to her dumb blonde schtick, and engaging in activities unbecoming for a woman of her time. Banner is sure that had Monroe lived long enough, she would have been a keen supporter of the feminist movement.

Personally, I have always been an advocate of Monroe as feminist, refusing to take on my mother’s, amongst many others’, dislike of her for her bombshell image. As Banner maps out Monroe’s family history, her life as a sexually abused orphan, her first marriage at 16 to Jim Dougherty, her early days in Hollywood and the way she crafted herself into a star, the reader sees Monroe not as the ditzy Lorelei Lee from Gentlemen Prefer Blondes like so many others did, but as a gifted actress merely playing up to one of the many archetypes (sexy “Marilyn”, comedienne “Lorelei” and the glamourous star of later years [from p. 237]) she was perceived as when it was called for: there was much more to Marilyn Monroe than meets the eye, as is detailed in The Passion & the Paradox.

By interviewing a myriad of sources, some of which only fellow feminist biographer of Monroe, Gloria Steinem, had interviewed before, Banner debunks some common myths about Monroe, including those surrounding her death. By doing so, she delves much further into Marilyn Monroe’s psyche than any other book about her I’ve read.

I’m probably a bit biased, as Banner pretty much reinforces ideas about her that I already held, but if you’re only going to pick up one publication on Marilyn Monroe, let it be this refreshingly modern take on her as a person, not a sexual object.

Image via These Little Words.

The Cultural Politics of Hair Colour in Fiction.

 

From “Betty & Veronica: The Cultural Politics of Hair Colour” by Jeet Heer on Sans Everything:

“… One very common convention of the nineteenth-century novel is the use of two heroines, one dark and one light. The dark one is as a rule passionate, haughty, plain, foreign or Jewish, and in some ways associated with the undesirable or with some kind of forbidden fruit like incest. When the two are involved with the same hero, the plot usually has to get rid of the dark one or make her into a sister if the story is to end happily.”

Related: Betty & Veronica Could’ve Totes Been Bloggers.

Blondes Have More Fun—And They’re Magical!—In Tangled.

Elsewhere: [Sans Everything] Betty & Veronica: The Cultural Politics of Hair Colour.

Images via The Gloss, SFGate, The Film Experience.

Movie Review: Burlesque.

 

“Did you notice the mistake in that movie?” my friend Sallie asked me as we left the cinema.

“The only mistake in that movie was Christina Aguilera’s acting,” I replied.

I went into Burlesque expecting three things: acting so bad it hurt, quality musical numbers and Aguilera’s ’90s strawberry blonde ’do to be cut off once her character made the big time. Well, two out of three ain’t bad. (For those of you who haven’t yet seen the film, the latter point is the one that remains.)

The movie starts out with country Christina (Ali) quitting her job in a bar on a whim, and moving to the big smoke. She notices a burlesque bar one night on a walk through the city; “the best view on the Sunset Strip without any windows”. After seeing the girls perform a number, with Cher at the helm as club owner Tess, Ali begs Tess for a job onstage, but settles for working under bartender Jack (literally; but as if we couldn’t see that coming!) as a waitress.

When the alcoholic star of the show, Nikki, played by Kristen Bell, fails to turn up, Ali takes her place. Nikki is so incensed that she interferes with the music for the set, forcing Ali to use her spectacular voice—which previously no one had heard—to save the performance. Tess then begins to build her burlesque show around Ali.

This is where the film starts to get bearable, as we see more of Christina Aguilera in all her ’40s pin-up/voice-that-brings-down-the-house glory, and less of mousy, weak, annoying Ali.

There are some pretty good musical numbers in the film (a 2011 Golden Globe for Best Original Song doesn’t lie), my favourites being a dance-off between Nikki and Juliannne Hough to “Diamonds Are a Girl’s Best Friend” and one of the only legitimate “burlesque” performances in the film, “Guy What Takes His Time”, where pearls and feather fans are used as props.

Really, though, the only things that saved this movie were Christina’s performances, Eric Dane’s face, Stanley Tucci in general, and Cam Gigandet’s cookie box scene. Google it.

Movies: The Best Movies I’ve Seen This Year.

 

Tomorrow, When the War Began. Check out my review to see how strongly I feel about it.

Desk Set. This 1957 romantic comedy starring Katharine Hepburn and Spencer Tracy takes place in a reference library, and deals with the incorporation of computers to help the ladies in their cataloguing. With a healthy dose of the trademark ’50s slapstick rom-com dynamic and TDF fashion, I loved this one.

Easy A. Again, another I’ve done a review on. While I had high hopes for this one, it didn’t live up to them fully, but it is one of the smarter teen movies in recent memory. On par with Mean Girls, perhaps?

Rear Window. What took me so long, right? I watched this one for the first time last Christmas, and continued the tradition again this holiday season. Grace Kelly is luminous as “his girl Friday” to James Stewart’s L.B. Jeffries, who is the ultimate leading man. Hitchcock at his best.

Toy Story 3. It is unanimous that Toy Story 3 is one of the best movies released in 2010. Perhaps the best of the Toy Story franchise? Nah, my money’s on the first instalment.

Desperately Seeking Susan. So bad it’s good. The fashion is fabulous (on Madonna’s part, anyway) and Her Madgesty is surprisingly likable in it.

Sorry about the dismal effort in this post, but seriously; there were no good movies this year! You only have to look at Sex & the City 2 (which I quite liked, but will admit was baaad), The Expendables and Killers for proof of that.

That’s why I spent a lot of my cinema-going money on the classics, such as Gentlemen Prefer Blondes and Beauty & the Beast in 3D. That counts as a movie I haven’t seen before this year, right? Right…?

Related: Tomorrow, When the War Began by John Marsden Review.

Easy A Review.

Sex & the City 2 Review.

The Expendables Review.

Elsewhere: [Jezebel] Is Easy A The Next Mean Girls?

[Jezebel] I Went to See Killers & It’s All Your Fault.