Whether you’re a baby boomer or younger, is it okay to feel sexy? If the answer is yes, you have an icon to thank. Who was it? BoomerCafé contributor Marcia Barhydt’s answer is, Never Mind Barbie, What About Marilyn?
We early (a.k.a. “leading edge”) Boomers are old enough to remember the blonde bombshell that was Marilyn Monroe. Born in 1926, she was hot hot hot in everything she did. Her personal life was often even steamier than the sexy roles she played in movies.
When Marilyn died in 1962, just 36 years old, we early Boomers were 16 and Marilyn Monroe had left her mark on what we were learning about being sexy. She was a part of freeing us from our 1950s Victorian morals and roles.
Barbie, who needs no introduction to Boomers, was born in 1959, making her a bona fide Boomer. Barbie was a sex symbol of the 60s and 70s, the first doll ever with a real figure, as in ‘not flat-chested,’ oh my! Our daughters loved Barbie as we did, and had no idea who Marilyn was. Marilyn shaped our lives; Barbie shaped our daughters’.
Marilyn Monroe was overtly sexy and capitalized on her sexiness. It may be closer to the bone to say that Marilyn was required to capitalize on her sexiness. Although there had been Hollywood sex symbols before her, none of them did it with such panache and success as Marilyn.
Barbie was sexy, but in a rah-rah-cheerleader way, with a hip, popular, teenager image to cover up her innate sexiness. There’s nothing like subliminal advertising to sell, especially when you’re selling to a group of sub-teens and tweens.
I am not a Barbie fan, although I’ll admit that my daughters played with Barbie just like other little girls. She is a Boomer; Marilyn is not. And Barbie continues to influence girls today. Marilyn? Not so much.
Dr. Susan Albers wrote about this in Huffington Post. “In some ways, she (Barbie) may have actually helped women to start practicing otherroles, besides being a mother, earlier in their life. Barbie could do anything — travel, work, or play. Girls were not trapped into one role as a mother as was the case when they played with baby dolls.”
There were even Marilyn Monroe Barbie dolls! Barbie emulating Marilyn — surely that’s a topic for Barbie’s therapist’s couch?
Although Marilyn was an example of how innocence can be manipulated by those less than honorable, she showed us early Boomers that a poor brunette raised by a single mother can become the top star in Hollywood. Spirit and determination do pay off.
Being sexy was a very new thought for many of us in the 1950s. Marilyn Monroe showed us that it was okay to be sexy, even okay to flaunt it, and especially okay to own our sexiness. She ignored all of our tsk-tsking about her escapades and, in spite of her messed up personal life, she continued to show us that it wasn’t so bad after all to be a sexy woman.
One doll, one live woman; Barbie, and Marilyn. They both make me wonder if women in every generation learn their sexuality from an icon. Who was your idol?
© Marcia Barhydt, 2012
Read Marcia’s website … click here.