George Washington & Marilyn Monroe

I decided to write a blog with nothing to say, and without feeling inspired.

The intention behind things is so important. It’s why most actors suck. You can’t fake depth, heart. 

What will a lack of intention do for this blog post? That is to say, it has no direction as I set out. Something about Marilyn Monroe, I think. But what? 

Yet it is backed by something fundamentally good – the values I sharpened and deepened by writing my first book. Also, I hope, it’s guided by the Providence that George Washington, and others, trust to guide them in the right direction. 

It all sounds a bit effete, though, doesn't it. (Well, I am talking about Marylin Monroe...) Hmm....

* * *

Marilyn Monroe really was Marilyn Monroe, which is to say Norma Jean really was Marilyn, at least partially, and probably fundamentally, deep down. You can slap on a wig or bleach the hair of similarly buxom women from now until Doomsday, but you won’t end up with another Marilyn. The persona, I’m certain, came from something deep inside her.

I started this post as an experiment to see if, percolating below my seemingly blank mind, there was anything worthwhile. My thoughts, even starting with Marilyn Monroe, wind their way again, in a seemingly monomaniacal way, back to The Education of George Washington

Well, okay. Then what? Tie those thoughts together,  Austin, you can do it! OR... Can't you?

Shut up, inner critic. Just, um...let me go with the flow, here, alright? A little confidence, please. Your doubts aren’t useful.

So, um...

If you do what someone else did by repeating his actions, like, say, if you put on a blonde wig or bleach your hair like Marilyn, or if you do the various things George Washington did, you’re not doing what either of them did, fundamentally. Because what they did, fundamentally, was break new ground by responding to something unique and special inside themselves.

If you do what they did, you’re not doing what they did. See? 

(If you don’t see, this is probably a bit above you. Go away.  No offence, just...leave...and, by the way, you can't leave comments at the bottom, there's no place for you to vent your spleen, or salve your bruised ego. No place to criticise me for accepting that you’re not good enough for this blog. Just go away. Thank you.)

Wow, that cleared the room out. What? It’s just you? Way in the back there? Well, one star is worth a billion blown out candles. Does that make sense? Probably not. But I feel a growing confidence we’ll get someplace, soon.

Beyond following his unique spirit, George Washington also benefited from having the thing he called Providence guide him. And even beyond this, he benefited from the ideas and ideals of the ancient world, which were common currency in George Washington’s day. For the barely traditionally educated George Washington, this wisdom filtered into his mind in approximately the same way that reruns of The Simpsons filter into ours. Through the  – vastly superior –  media of his day. 

Specifically, through contemporary intermediaries – Addison’s CatoThe Spectator, etc. 

This is why George Washington was able to navigate a novel, unique, groundbreaking path in his life, with great long term success.  In a better way than Marilyn Monroe was able to navigate her own unique path. Because George Washington, unlike Marilyn Monroe, had a character formed from the best ideas and ideals of the multiple civilisations of the ancient Greek and Roman worlds, along with the personal guidance he felt, every day, from the thing he called “Providence”.

But what's my point? Marilyn Monroe should have read what George Washington read?

It somehow defies our simple, ill-thought-out imaginations, to picture Marilyn Monroe seeking guidance from Cato, or the helping hand of Providence. 

But I’m not so sure. 

Marilyn Monroe married a playwright, studied at The Actors Studio (all from memory - I refuse to do research for a free blog, but I think I’m right about this. If not, my impression, I'm fairly certain, reflects the direction of her choices.) She wanted to be taken seriously as an actress, and, indeed, to be a serious actress. 

Marilyn Monroe had high ideals.

The problem, of course, was that she lived in a society that dangled before her bedazzled eyes cheap simulacrums of the fundamentally good, true, and profound things at which she seems to have been aiming. The Actors Studio was the best she could find, in the limited world she inhabited. But wouldn’t her soul have been lifted higher, wouldn’t she have learned far more profound and fundamentally important lessons, studying Aeschylus through the eyes of...well, Aeschylus, rather than Arthur Miller through the lens of Americanised Stanislavsky? 

It is faintly ridiculous, I suppose, to expect that for all eternity, we should perpetually look back on the ancient world for all our lessons. But I think, at least for the next few hundred generations, these lessons should not be forgotten. 

Maybe they should never be forgotten.

(“Forgotten” in the sense that,  for someone exposed to the “culture” Marilyn Monroe was exposed to, they were all but invisible.)

* * *

Although superficially poles apart, at a more fundamental level, how different was Marilin Monroe from George Washington?

George Washington and Marilyn Monroe have at least a few qualities that are, fundamentally, similar. They were both able to capture the emotions of millions of people. They did things no one before them had done. They seem, in some sense, more than merely human. Some people would think literally, others, metaphorically, that they both have something – souls, spirits? – more...divine, magical? – than most people.

Or, maybe, they simply found something divine and magical inside themselves that most people never even search for.

On the other hand, you might say – and you might be right – that actors and actresses are always going to be relatively f***ed up people. Maybe it goes with the territory.

But I still think Marilyn Monroe would have stood a better chance in life had she lived in a society, or at least...found a book?....that guided her away from the cheap materialistic simulacrums of culture that bombard us every day through our commercial media, and instead found influences that guided her towards something better. She would have faced the world with a bit more depth and breadth, the sort that helped country-born and ill-educated George Washington turn himself into....well, into George Washington. (Who was, in his own way, y'know, a kind of self-designed, pop cultural hero. He had a few theatrical tricks up his sleeves, that he employed the same way Marilyn Monroe employed her blonde hair, both to capture the respect of those near him, and the imaginations of those far away. I don't have my book in front of me now to remind me of the details, and my rule is no research - not even in my own book - for free blogs. But it's all there :D

The Education of George Washington