With 2 Comments, Posted under Sweet Ambrosia
Unless you’ve been living under a rock (or completely ignored the Super Bowl) you’ve seen the uber glitsy adverts for NBC’s new show “Smash”. The musical drama revolves around the attempt to create a Broadway musical about Marilyn Monroe -with Katharine McPhee and Megan Hilty battling to play the role.
During the premiere that aired last night there were plenty of Monroe references weaved into the narrative, with women in pink dresses and/or tousled hair, doing their breathiest renditions of the blond icon.
At first, I was torn about tuning in. But as I ventured to see what all the fuss was about – something peculiar happened on Twitter. Womenfolk kept tweeting about how they should’ve cast a chunkier ingenue to play the part.
The general sentiment being:
Marilyn Monroe was a big girl. She was a size 16. Why they got these skinny women playing her?!
Oye. Where do I begin?!
If I had a dollar for every time a woman used the “Marilyn Monroe was fat” line to in some way affirm her own size, or make a provocative statement about our standards of beauty – I’d have enough cash to go on a Lane Bryant shopping spree.
Usually I just cringe (inwardly) and refrain from pointing out the glaring inaccuracies of these sentiments. But thanks to “Smash” last night the misinformation seemed at an all time high.
Let’s break down this myth – once and for all, shall we?
This is false. She was 5’5 1/2″ and weighed between 115-120lbs. When she later fell into a deep depression, she “ballooned” up to a whopping 140lbs *insert sarcasm* That means that even at her heaviest her BMI was 22.9; well below what it takes to be considered overweight.
Myth #2: Marilyn was a size 14/16
This statement is outdated and misleading. Her measurements (as reported by her seamstress who tailored all her clothes) were 35-22-35. In the 1950′s that was considered a size 14 but today she would be considered a 6/8.
Myth #3: Marilyn is a “Plus Sized” role model
Also false. Was she a classic hourglass and curvy as hell? Yes! But was she a big girl? No ma’am. In fact, when people see her clothes at exhibits they are often shocked by how small the garments are.
This urban legend is so wide spread that there was even a plus sized sorority named in her honor called The Monroes o_O. To give you a current point of reference – during her career Marilyn fluctuated between looking like Jennifer Lopez and Amber Rose.
In the past when I’ve had this discussion with folks, women in particular tend to be very angry/annoyed with me when I point any of this out. Which has led me to wonder:
“Why do we need to make Marilyn fat? Why isn’t her being shapely enough?”.
And what I’ve come to believe is that, in addition to being one of the most iconic and mysterious movie stars in history – many of us have also come to use Norma Jean as a defense mechanism; against a society that constantly implies that we aren’t thin, pretty or good enough.
If someone says “Hey you’re gaining weight” – I can see how it would feel good to flippantly respond “Well Marilyn Monroe was a size 16 so kiss my ass!”
But at the end of the day…you shouldn’t have to rewrite history in order to assert your own worth. If you are fly…then claim that. That’s more than enough.
As for my take on “Smash” – the jury is still out. My love of Debra Messing is motivation enough to give it a fighting chance. And it’s definitely more sturdily constructed than “Glee,” which is no surprise since Steven Spielberg heads the list of executive producers.
Check it out for yourself Monday nights on NBC at 10p.m.