‘The Secret Life of Marilyn Monroe’: Sex Icon and Icon for Mental Illness

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Secret Life of Marilyn Monroe

Though no one knew all of Marilyn’s secrets, Lifetime has now worked to bring them to the forefront, with their two part series, The Secret Life of Marilyn Monroe. After the first part aired on Saturday night, there were many things that viewers saw about Monroe’s life, from her status as a sex icon to her love life with different men, and as the show continues for the second part, more is sure to be revealed (though it is just a different take on information that has already been released to the public). However, one of the most important backstories of The Secret Life of Marilyn Monroe, could be the history of mental illness that Monroe faced during her lifetime, as many years later, the world is in an age where mental illness is starting to be a topic of focus, and one which is beginning to see a bit of light.

The Secret Life of Marilyn Monroe covers the sex icon’s life, which briefly highlights the fact that Monroe should have actually been an icon for mental illness. Though back in those days, mental illness, was not as openly talked about, and though the show in no way infers that Marilyn was crazy, it becomes apparent through her hidden secrets of being addicted to pills , drinking, and having rough relationships with men, including her being committed to a mental hospital, at one point, deeply effected her mental state. The show Beyond the Headlines: Marilyn and Her Men, also shown on Lifetime, states that at one point she was spiraling out of control, and that her friends, including Frank Sinatra were worried about her. In the end her death ruled suicide caused the world to wonder how something could happen to someone so loved.

However, the fact was that, according to Lifetime’s Secret Life of Marilyn Monroe, Monroe felt very alone and unloved, constantly seeking affection. With a troubled past, she started out feeling as though she did not belong anywhere, and dreamed of the day that she would belong everywhere. Born to a mother who was unstable and who was committed several times, she became a child to foster parents, and married the neighbor early on in life to get away from foster care. This is when she began trying to get into Hollywood, a move that her husband did not approve of. This was only the first husband she had, as Monroe moves from man to man and movie to movie. However, the real tragedy is her troubling history, mentally.

Lifetime claims that Monroe was deeply afraid that mental illness was genetic. As that is what is widely believed today, it could be very possible that that is why Monroe suffered. Lifetime sources claim that even Monroe’s grandmother and grandfather had suffered from mental illness. However, as she became very use to men holding her high on a pedestal, her trouble with them really effected her, as well. In addition, with Monroe being a sex icon, the persona that she created when getting into Hollywood, she eventually despised how the public saw her, getting tired of men trying to lure her into bed, which could possibly be another reason why she may have suffered from mental illness, as featured in The Secret Life of Marilyn Monroe.

Upon being committed to the Payne Whitney Psychiatric Clinic, under the pseudonym Secret Life of Marilyn MonroePayne Miller, for addiction to pills, Monroe was unable to cure her addiction as she was saved when ex Joe DiMaggio had her released, but as The Secret Life of Marilyn Monroe features, her fight against a possible mental illness continued. As her mother was in and out of mental hospitals for Schizophrenia, many now believe it could have been possible that Monroe suffered from the same. But whether or not Marilyn was crazy, it is clear that she was having problems in life. As the public, back then, only saw her as a beautiful women who had it all, perhaps being able to see the problems that were going on in secret could have kept her alive.

As her troubles began to unravel, as she forgot lines after popping pills on The Seven Year Itch, became initially fired from Hollywood Studios during Something’s Got to Give, and was described as a pill-popping mess while filming The Misfits in the Nevada desert, it should have been clear to many that she was suffering on the inside, behind her mask of beauty. However, instead Marilyn died on August 5, 1962 without anyone really knowing just how bad she hurt (Her death was ruled a suicide even though it was later claimed that the CIA killed her, which was ruled a hoax). Monroe was long held as a sex icon, appropriately as she created the persona and lived it out, but now she should also be held as an icon for mental illness, as her story featured on The Secret Life of Marilyn Monroe is a sad one that really brings to light what can happen in people. Mental illness effects many, even those who are not Hollywood actresses, but discussing it openly and creating awareness can help prevent tragedies like Monroe’s.

Opinion by Crystal Boulware


Lifetime: The Secret Life of Marilyn Monroe

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Secondary Photo Courtesy of the Lifetime Documentary The Secret Life of Marilyn Monroe