In Part 1 of this series, I looked at how Michael and Marilyn both had similar, childlike public personas. In part these personas were a naturally ingrained aspect of their natural personalities-and this, in turn, was part of their charm, both in terms of the people who were drawn to them in real life, and the millions of fans whose lives they touched through their art. But in both cases, their personas may have been as much about protecting the real Michael and Marilyn as anything else.
But perhaps a far more interesting parallel is the fact that both Michael and Marilyn, underneath those childlike exteriors, were both sharply intelligent, savvy individuals who knew how the business worked. Interestingly enough, when they decided to make a stand, they were similarly blacklisted by their respective companies and turned on-viciously-by the media. In both cases, making a stand for their artistic rights proved costly, as neither was ever able to quite overcome the irreperable damage done by Fox (in Marilyn’s case) and Sony (in Michael’s case). Painted by the companies and the media as spoiled brats biting the hands that fed them, what we saw in both cases were two superstars from different eras lashing out in ways that heretefore had been totally uncharacteristic of them. And in both cases, a confused public wasn’t quite sure what to make of their battles. In the eyes of both Fox and Sony, it seemed their goal was to keep the two biggest stars, respectively, as compliant children.
As I mentioned in Part 1, I enjoyed the recent film My Week With Marilyn but while the movie itself is entertaining, one of its downfalls is that it continues to perpetuate the myth of Marilyn Monroe as simply a hapless and naive victim of the corporate wheel of Hollywood. In real life, Marilyn not only knew how the wheel worked, but managed through her own smarts to put herself squarely in the driver’s seat!
By the end of 1954 Marilyn Monroe formed her own film production company – it was named Marilyn Monroe Productions.
Marilyn took the big step by publicly announcing the formation of Marilyn Monroe Productions. 20th Century Fox were livid as Marilyn still had a four year contract with them, and they threatened to sue Marilyn – even telling her she would never work in Hollywood again!! She also became the target of cruel jokes in the press and in the Hollywood community.
Marilyn Monroe Productions was established with one hundred and one shares of company stock. The president of the company, which was Marilyn, had control with fifty one shares. She was to star in films selected and produced by Marilyn Monroe Productions. Milton H Greene was the company’s vice president, and he had the remaining shares of stock. He was to deal with all of the business and pay all the bills.
When The Seven Year Itch was released it became a hit at the box office, and 20th Century Fox renegotiated a new contract due to public demand for MORE MARILYN!! By November 1955 Marilyn Monroe Productions was $20,000 in debt.
31st December 1955 Marilyn signed the new 20th Century Fox contract. This new contract gave Marilyn Monroe Productions story, director, cinematographer approval AND a salary increase to $100,000 per picture. Marilyn only needed to make four films over seven years under this new contract. When Marilyn signed this new contract she received a compensation payment of $142,500. Marilyn Monroe Productions received $200,000 for the rights to a screen play that it owned.
The Los Angeles Mirror News at the time stated “Veterans on the movie scene said it was one of the greatest single triumphs ever won by an actress”.
Marilyn’s personal fight for both artistic and financial independence from 20th Century Fox started the collapse of the Hollywood studio star system.
Marilyn signing this new contract was a huge victory which saw people stop laughing, and made everyone take Marilyn Monroe Productions seriously.
The first film made with Marilyn Monroe Productions was 20th Century Fox’s Bus Stop in 1956. The first film made totally by Marilyn Monroe Productions was The Prince and The Showgirl, and this was released in 1957.
In the wake of her production company’s formation and public announcement, 20th Century Fox began a deliberate and very humiliating public smear campaign against her. Some of the incidents described by Susan Doll in her well-written account of Marilyn’s later career on the HowStuffWorks website were just the tip of the iceberg in terms of the dirty tricks 20th century Fox would pull on Marilyn over the next couple of years:
Marilyn fled Hollywood for New York after the partnership came together, leaving Twentieth Century-Fox and Darryl F. Zanuck behind. Once again, she refused to appear in a minor musical that Fox had assigned her. And once again, Fox tried to threaten Marilyn by touting Sheree North as her replacement.
The studio proceeded to make the film, titled How to Be Very, Very Popular, with North in Marilyn’s role and Betty Grable as her costar. Fox, eager to prove that the film could be successful without Marilyn Monroe, virtually flaunted the production in her face.
Nunnally Johnson, who had penned How to Marry a Millionaire, wrote the script, while one of Marilyn’s favorite cameramen, Milton Krasner, was assigned to be the film’s cinematographer. Charles Coburn and Tommy Noonan, two of her costars from Gentlemen Prefer Blondes, were brought in to round out the cast.
But if Fox was convinced it could make a successful Marilyn Monroe film without the genuine article in the starring role, the studio was sadly mistaken. How to Be Very, Very Popular proved very, very unpopular at the box office and garnered only poor to mixed reviews. It remains notable mainly for a wildly exuberant dance number performed by North, and because it was the final film of Betty Grable.Marilyn refused other offers by Fox at this time, in particular the part of showgirl Evelyn Nesbit in The Girl in the Red Velvet Swing — a role that eventually went to Joan Collins. Marilyn disavowed her contract with Fox, leaving the legalities of her actions to her lawyers.
After the defection of its biggest star, Fox released the following statement: “No one can handle her. No one can give her advice. She has always decided everything for herself. We’re getting 200 letters a day demanding we get rid of her, but we have $2,000,000 tied up in this picture [The Seven Year Itch], and we’re trying to protect that.”
By generating bad publicity about her, Fox was making sure that if it couldn’t have Marilyn Monroe, then no other studio would want her.
Hollywood columnists delighted in such mudslinging and printed a number of statements released through the Fox publicity department, including one that must have hit a raw nerve with Marilyn. Hedda Hopper printed this statement, supposedly from an “unnamed” Fox stockholder: “It’s disgusting. She’s had four or five years’ training — enough to produce ten competent actresses — and she still can’t act.”
Marilyn moved in with the Greenes in their Weston, Connecticut, home, far away from the machinations of Twentieth Century-Fox. In January 1955, at the height of the bad publicity generated by Fox surrounding her defection, Marilyn held a press conference in New York to formally announce the formation of Marilyn Monroe Productions, Inc., and her plans to “broaden her scope.”
She complained about the dumb blonde roles she had been assigned at Fox and, after some prompting by reporters, announced she would like to tackle something as challenging as Dostoevsky’s The Brothers Karamazov.
The press seized on that comment to ridicule her ambitions, snidely inquiring which of the brothers she wanted to play. She patiently replied that she would like to play Grushenka, the leading female character.
Marilyn’s remarks about The Brothers Karamazov would be widely misquoted in print over the next few months, with the result (probably deliberate) of making Marilyn look quite foolish. Reporters questioned whether she could spell “Grushenka,” let alone play the role.Over the years, the press had emphasized the sexual aspect of Marilyn’s image to such a degree that they would not allow her to escape her identity as a sex symbol. When she tried, they ridiculed her.
Think back now to every negative thing you’ve ever heard about Marilyn Monroe-continuously late on the set, flubbing lines, being a diva and generally unprofessional and inconsiderate to those working with her, etc. The press, spearheaded by the Fox smear campaign, continuously churned out these stories until they became accepted as “fact.” For awhile, Marilyn was able to successfully navigate the negative publicity with a series of film triumphs that made her the most financially succesful and powerful actress in Hollywood-Bus Stop, The Prince and the Showgirl, The Seven Year Itch, etc. But sadly, over time, her insecurities over the negative publicity led to a kind of self-fulfilling prophecy in which she seemed to become the very thing Fox had portrayed her as-for example, debilitating insecurity that led to insomnia; severe insomnia that in turn led to increased drug use; drug use that in turn led to the sort of erratic behavior that then forever would be attached to her name. And so, one can start to see how the mechanism works its insidious evil, regardless of however much our society’s tendency to “blame the victim.”
Now let’s turn our attention to Michael. Since I have to assume that most of my readers who come here are MJ fans already well aware of Michael’s battle with Sony, I won’t spend too much time on the details of how the feud came about, but rather in analyzing what resulted in terms of Michael’s public image and reputation.
First, let’s look at the position Michael was in when he opted to renew his Sony contract in 1991. Michael Jackson was the biggest star in the world in 1991, but already, even then, the snarky fangs of the press were out in full force. In hindsight, reading between the lines of this New York Times piece, it seemed there was a real and genuine fear of certain performers becoming too powerful in the industry. To compensate, powerful performers like Michael Jackson, who were in a unique position to dictate their own terms, were labeled as spoiled egotists. But really, where does one draw the line between being a spoiled egotist and simply-as Michael himself would say in 2002-doing “good business?” Especially in our American culture, aren’t we normally encouraged to congratulate the idea of “getting ahead” and “coming out on top?” The disturbing reality seems to be, yes-except, perhaps, when it’s a black entertainer who “owns” the rights to the Beatles’ music and has already beaten records held by such white icons as Elvis Presley. Note in Rothenberg’s article how he (or at least, the various sources he is quoting) attempt(s) to downplay Michael Jackson as a star worthy of a potentially billion-dollar deal:
Michael Jackson Gets Thriller of Deal To Stay With SonyBy RANDALL ROTHENBERG
Published: March 21, 1991In what may be the most lucrative arrangement ever for a recording artist, the Sony Corporation announced yesterday that Michael Jackson, the gyrating pop-music icon of the 1980’s, had entered into an agreement to create feature films, theatrical shorts, television programming and a new record label for the Japanese conglomerate’s American entertainment subsidiaries.
Mr. Jackson, whose albums “Thriller” and “Bad” were the two biggest-selling records of the past decade, also agreed to extend by six albums his existing contract with Epic Records, a Sony subsidiary.
Neither Sony executives nor representatives of Mr. Jackson would say how much the singer will receive under the agreement, which had been in negotiations for six months. However, Sony officials said the company could realize $1 billion from retail sales of the various Jackson products.
The deal could be a prototype of the multi-media arrangements star performers can now demand and receive from the giant information-and-entertainment conglomerates that have been created through mergers and acquisitions during the past several years. Entertainment industry executives and analysts said, in fact, that to keep the 32-year-old Mr. Jackson, who had reportedly made rumblings about leaving for another label, Sony had no choice but to allow him to produce his own records and films. Dealing With an Ego
“He doesn’t need the money; this is the guy who owns the Beatles’ music catalogue,” said Emanuel Gerard, a communications analyst with Gerard Klauer Mattison in New York. “What we’re dealing with largely is his ego. And from Sony’s standpoint, no matter what, they could not afford to have Michael Jackson signed away from them.”
A senior executive of a rival entertainment company, who spoke only on condition that he not be identified, said: “My reading is that they were close to losing Michael Jackson. So you start by saying, ‘What do you have to do to keep him?’ He doesn’t need the money. So you say we have this fantastic company that has all these avenues for you. Give us your albums and you can do movies, TV shows.”
Neither Sony executives nor representatives of Mr. Jackson would comment on the negotiations, and a spokesman for Mr. Jackson said the singer would not talk. But Michael P. Schulhof, the president of Sony Software, the Sony division that includes its entertainment subsidiaries, said the deal was viable simply because of Mr. Jackson’s varied talents.
“This is the first example where we have been able to combine interests in both film and records,” said Mr. Schulhof, 48, who is directing Sony’s efforts in multi-media packaging. “Because Michael Jackson is a multifaceted entertainer, we felt this was the first time we could attempt it. If this transaction works as we anticipate, it might very well be the forerunner of a new kind of entertainment deal.”
Mr. Schulhof said the contract with Mr. Jackson was the first involving a performer with Sony Software, rather than with Columbia Pictures Entertainment, Sony Music Entertainment or one of the company’s other entertainment subsidiaries.
Industry executives who have followed the negotiations said the contract called for Mr. Jackson, who is already the highest-paid performer in the record business, to receive an advance higher than the $18 million he was reported to have received for the final record of his current contract. That would mean that Mr. Jackson would be paid more than $108 million for the six new albums alone, on top of whatever he might receive for the movies, television shows and records he might produce, write or star in.
Tommy Mottola, the president of Sony Music Entertainment, said the company based the estimate of $1 billion in retail revenues on the 40 million copies of “Thriller” and 25 million copies of “Bad” that have been sold, at an average of $10 per record, or $650 million.
Mr. Jackson’s entire family seems to have a strong hold on the public imagination and the entertainment industry’s wallets. Just last week, his 24-year-old sister Janet signed a contract with Virgin Records that the entertainment trade press said would pay her between $30 million and $50 million for three to five records. Star in First Feature Film
Under the terms of his deal with Sony Software, Mr. Jackson will star in his first full-length feature film, which will be produced by one such subsidiary, Columbia Pictures Entertainment. The company described the film as a “musical action adventure” based on an idea of Mr. Jackson’s.
Many features of the new contract appear to be speculative. For example, while Sony executives publicly said they expect the forthcoming movie to be the first of many with Mr. Jackson, one executive who would speak only on condition that his name not be used, said the current agreement only called for one film. Executives also said that the script for his forthcoming movie was not yet completed and that a director had not yet been signed.
Mr. Jackson will also establish a new company, the Jackson Entertainment Complex, in a 50-50 joint venture with Sony Software. The new company is producing Mr. Jackson’s new album, which Epic will release in June or July, said Mr. Mottola of Sony Music Entertainment, and will produce a series of short films for theatrical and music-video release based on songs from the album.
Mr. Jackson is currently negotiating with Sir Richard Attenborough, who made “Gandhi,” and Chris Columbus, the director of “Home Alone,” to direct two of the short films, Mr. Mottola said. He said other potential directors include David Lynch, the creator of “Twin Peaks,” and Tim Burton, the director of “Batman.” Creating New Record Label
The singer is also creating a new record label, called Nation Records, under the auspices of the Jackson Entertainment Complex. With it, “he will be developing new, young and budding talent, and he will be the magnet to attract superstars to leave their current recording company to come to Sony,” Mr. Mottola said.
Some analysts suggested that Sony might be taking a large risk in assuming that Mr. Jackson’s popularity will extend from records to other media. The only theatrical film in which Mr. Jackson appeared, “The Wiz,” was a flop, as were a line of Michael Jackson shoes produced by L.A. Gear and a toy series called Michael Jackson’s Pets.
“Michael Jackson is yesterday’s news,” said Stanley Lanzet, an analyst with Arnhold & S. Bleichroder in New York who tracked sales of the Jackson shoe line. “He’s not magic anymore.”
But Sony’s competitors in the entertainment industry were not so quick to criticize the deal. “I don’t think you’d ever bet against Michael Jackson,” said Joe Galante, the president of RCA Records.
Over the years, most of the publicized projects that were to have been a part of this deal never materialized. As to the various reasons why, that’s a complex issue that is really beyond the scope of this article. Suffice to say that Michael, who had been somewhat reluctant to re-sign with Sony to begin with, became an increasingly unhappy camper as the terms of his contract became more and more stifling. But as most of us know all too well, the hammer that really drove the final nail in the coffin was Sony’s lack of promotion for the Invincible album in 2001. By 2002, Michael Jackson was waging an all-out war with the label and president Tommy Mottola. The fallout from that feud would prove very difficult to overcome. The insider rumblings that had been festering at least as far back as 1991, when Michael signed the deal, came to a full head as Sony sought to convince the public (as well as many music industry insiders) that Michael was simply a spoiled star trying to take it out on his record company that his latest album had failed to sell (but again, the idea of Invincible as a “flop” was nothing more than a craftily executed, media myth that came to be accepted as truth via sheer repetition-tell the public the same lie enough times, and people will come to accept it as truth).
I remember quite well the way this story was handled by the media at the time. Every time there was any mention of it-whether it was on CNN, Entertainment Tonight, Hard Copy or any of those other pseudo “news/entertainment” shows, Michael was inavriably portrayed as a raving, paranoid lunatic. The interesting thing about this is that one could just as easily flip the coin and he becomes a hero and civil rights activist standing up for the rights of music artists-and especially black artists-against the corporate machine of the music industry. But the media’s refusal to portray him in that light had everything to do with the fact that the tabloid-inspired “Wacko Jacko” angle had already taken a firm hold, to the point that no medialoid outlet was willing to give him a fair shake-or even a fair benefit of the doubt.
Although a very long read, this article remains one of the best and most detailed in providing a complete breakdown of exactly what happened in 2001/2002 in regards to Sony’s sabotage of Invincible:
This was an article that originally appeared in The Mirror May on May 15th, 2002, and was reprinted on the website Michael Jackson’s House. What we clearly see here is the Sony and media spin on the feud in full swing (the excepts I’ve boldfaced) but despite this, some other, little-publicized facts of the time that the media wasn’t as keen to report, as it contradicted the myth they were trying to create (these passages I’ve boldfaced and italicized). While this article was one of the few to report the feud in a fair and balanced light, it was unfortunately part of a minority that was quickly drowned out by the negative propoganda machine being generated against Michael jackson in 2002:
MICHAEL Jackson and his record company boss Tommy Mottola are at war over the music legend’s fading career.
The self-styled “King of Pop” has sold more than 120million albums in a 24-year solo career with the giant Sony corporation but in an astonishing attack, Jackson, 42, accused the company’s chief Tommy Mottola of:
SABOTAGING his career by refusing to release any singles from his latest album Invincible, which would have helped world-wide sales of the struggling record, FAILING to advertise and promote the album during a record-breaking US television special about the superstar and WRECKING possible plans to sign a lucrative record contract with another label. Troubled Jacko has told close friends that he is disgusted with the treatment he has received.
A pal said: “Michael wants out of Sony, and he believes that some of the highest people in that company are hoping to make him pay the price for his disloyalty.
“The company has have stopped all promotion on the Invincible album, prevented him from releasing singles and basically sabotaged his career. “Jackson is furious at Mottola and any working relationship they had is now over”.
“They are the two most powerful men in music going head to head in an all out war.”
Poor sales of Invincible, the star’s seventh for Sony-owned Epic Records, has sparked the bitter row which has been kept a secret until now.
Mottola, 52, former husband of Mariah Carey, is probably the most powerful man in the music business.
Bob Dylan, Ricky Martin and Destiny’s Child are just some of the major stars on his Sony roster.
Jackson, however, has failed to recapture his 80’s popularity which saw his Thriller and Bad albums sell 52million and 25million copies to date.
Invincible, his first album in six years, went to No1 in the UK and US album charts, but sank without trace within weeks.
Now Jacko believes the feud has been triggered by his shrewd business ventures which will entitle him to 50 per cent of Sony’s revenue even if he leaves the record label.
In 1995 Jackson merged his music publishing catalogue, which contains more than 1,000 songs including 251 Beatles titles, with Sony’s publishing catalogue. Sony and Jackson share the cash in a 50-50 split of the catalogue earnings, which DOESN’T include his own albums.
Jackson fulfiled his contractual obligation to Sony by releasing Invincible – and a future greatest hits album – and wants to leave the company while still making a huge profit from them.
The source said: “Tommy Mottola is angered by all this to say the least. Michael believes that Tommy wants to make sure that all the time and money invested over the three-year Invincible project will be lost.
“Michael sees it as a punishment for him outsmarting the corporate minds of a record company that is already in financial difficulty.”
But music industry insiders say Jackson is merely the victim of his own bad career move.
One said: “Michael borrowed millions from Sony to make Invincible and the album has done so badly that he can’t raise enough money from sales to pay it back.
“Now Michael is blaming Sony for the poor sales, so he has a reason not to come up with the money.
“But Sony will have a cemented contract which will cover them. They are not even obliged to put up a billboard advertising his album if they don’t want to.”
Jackson appeared to be as popular as ever when he launched his album last October amid a blaze of publicity.
He staged two Jackson Five reunion concerts at New York’s Madison Square Garden to mark his comeback. Both concerts sold out in FIVE hours grossing more than $12million.
The shows were then televised by CBS last November netting a record-breaking 26million viewers – the most watched TV speciality programme in that network’s history.
But sources claim that despite requests from the star his record company failed to place a television advert publicising his new album during the broadcast.
The insider said: “It was crazy. It was the perfect platform to sell the album to a massive TV audience.
“Sony claimed CBS had no airspace for the advert. Jackson again put in the request for a repeat airing of the show in January but they said there was no air space – this is bizarre when the show on TV is a Michael Jackson concert.”
Then Jackson recorded an all-star tribute to the Victims of September 11 which included stars such as Ricky Martin, Destiny’s Child, Shakira, Celine Dion and Gloria Estefan.
But despite the commercial power of such a line up Sony did not release the song, much to Jackson’s bewilderment.
The source added: “This song was to raise money for charity and there’s no doubt that it had so many stars involved that it could have been a success.
“Jackson offered to create a Sony Play- station game which would have attracted considerable interest.
“He also offered to participate in film ventures for Sony Pictures for no fee as a part of his own promotional effort.”
Neither offer was accepted, said the source.
Jackson’s sudden loss of popularity has baffled the music industry and fans alike.
His last major album, History, released in 1995, was the biggest selling double album of all time. He toured and sold out arenas around the world including the RDS in Dublin and Wembley Stadium for three nights.
Then in 1997 he released Blood On The Dance Floor as a re-mix album. Despite critics in the media branding it a failure, it was the biggest selling re-mix album of all time.
Yet by the end of March Sony had deleted Invincible from their international priority list of projects.
As a comparison, his last album History didn’t cease to be an international priority until more than TWO years after its release.
A source said: “Even if Michael walks out of Sony today he gets half the revenue that many of their artists are bringing in.
“That’s a bitter pull to swallow for bosses at the company who probably feel that Michael has outwitted them.
“In retaliation they are making it as difficult as possible for Michael to be appealing to any record company.
“Poor album sales, a lack of promotion and the frustration this will cause amongst fans will really hinder Michael’s ambitions.
“Lots of the fans have started to think that Michael is not interested in music any more and has given up.
“But this couldn’t be further from the truth. Even when he launched Invincible late last year he was working around the clock to make it a success. He even staged a record signing in New York where thousands of fans got to meet him – he had never done that before.
“What has happened can not be put down to simple indifference.
“Only five years ago Michael was still on top of the pop world and selling millions of records. He is still regarded by people in the music industry as the most talented and gifted artist in the world.
“Record companies would still fall over themselves to sign him up and he has already received a number of high profile offers.
“It’s only a matter of time before Michael signs up with a new company and he’s determined to overcome this problem.
“Despite the rumours that have been created around him he is still determined to keep a high profile in the music business. Michael believes he is still a big player in the music business and all the facts to date would still suggest that.
“But because the album has dropped away so quickly many are presuming that Jackson has lost the old magic.
“It just doesn’t make sense that his new album has disappeared without trace.”
Despite the feud, Jackson has continued to command a high profile in the music world.
In January he was named the Artist of the Century at the prestigious American Music Awards.
In March he made an appearance as best man at childhood friend Liza Minelli’s wedding to David Gest.
Meanwhile, rumours have been circulating that he is in financial difficulty and struggling to pay off a number of loans.
It was recently revealed that he is so short of cash he had to pawn a pounds 1.4million watch to get a loan.
But Jackson, who owns a zoo and employs 120 staff at his Neverland ranch in California, insists that he has nothing to worry about. He added: “I’m comfortable and well looked after. I don’t have to worry about money.”
While I am sharing articles on this subject, I ran across something else very fascinating. On the blog Davey D’s Hip Hop Corner there is a posting aptly entitled How Michael Got Gangsta With Sony Music Over Black Music and Racism. Writing of Michael’s war against Sony, Davey D writes, “Call him weird, call him eccentric, but the man was no dummy…” However, what’s most interesting here is a 2002 article Davey D has reprinted from Ayana Soyini, who was in attendance at the music industry summit in Harlem at the National Action Network on July 9, 2002. The summit had been called by Rev. Al Sharpton, Michael Jackson, Johnnie Cochran, and several other “prominent people in the entertainment, legal,and political activist communities.” It was here that Michael delivered his very famous speech on racism and the music industry, the video of which is now universally recognized by its Youtube title “Michael Jackson, The Angry Black Man.” Aside from being a first-hand witness to this historical event, Soyini’s article is quite interesting as it also does a very thorough job of breaking down the “Lies” vs “the Truth” of how the media at the time was portraying the Jackson/Sony fued. Since I don’t have reprint rights to the article, I will simply provide the link where you can read it on Davey D’s blog (but please do check it out, as it’s a fascinating read!):
Without actually getting verbatim into what she wrote, Soyini’s article succesfully combats many of the “phantom myths” that Sony and the media were perpetuating and meets them head on with actual facts that succesfully rebut each and every one, including Myth #1: That Invincible was a commercial failure; Myth #2: That it was all just a “bizarre publicity stunt; Myth #3: That racism no longer exists in the entertainment industry; and Myth 4: That the Hollywood African-American community was not supporting Michael Jackson in this endeavor.
What emerges as we look at both Marilyn Monroe and Michael Jackson are two stars that the system fought very hard to keep “in their place.” Perhaps it’s arguable that in both cases, their childlike personas had set them up as easy potshots; certainly, it had created a situation where the media seemed to refuse to take them seriously. Whether it be their insistence on Marilyn as the eternal “dumb blonde” or Michael as “Wacko Jacko” they were in many similar ways entrapped by what had become their media images.
But in closing out this series, I’d like to return to the beginning. The movie My Week With Marilyn does have some flaws-if one is looking for a 100% accurate and factual portrayal of who Marilyn actually was. But as I think the movie makes clear, it isn’t intended as a 100% accurate depiction. What it does provide is a sense of why her appeal endures; it’s about the fantasy; the illusion. What draws us to certain celebrities? Why does the appeal of certain celebrities continue, sometimes even decades after their deaths? In the case of Michael Jackson and Marilyn Monroe, there is an Eternal Innocence that appeals to the child in all of us (for despite Marilyn’s very sexual image-and even Michael’s to a degree-it was always more about the playful innocence than the sex). But we do them both a grave disservice if we insist on pegging them as “childlike.” They were both highly intelligent business people who knew the in’s and out’s of the business, who knew instinctively how to negotiate their way to the top-and, unfortunately, had to learn how to fight the tough battles of industry retaliation. In both cases, their respective battles would leave them irreperably scarred.
And would leave us that much poorer for their innocence lost.