Marilyn Monroe: A Pop Culture Phenomenon

Marilyn Monroe passed away more than half a century ago, but her legend lives on. Her murky death remains one of Hollywood’s most tantalizing mysteries, but her star power still shines even after her short life. 

Eleven years after she died, Elton John sang to her an ode, saying “Your candle burned out long before your legend ever did.” This ring just as true even today. You are most likely aware of it, but the 1950s bombshell has become a 21st century pop culture phenomenon. 

Here are some of the ways she impacted the pop culture landscape today: 

She represented sensuality in pop culture

Marilyn Monroe represented sexuality in comedy and pop culture, with her films becoming a big part of it. She was a sex goddess, a blonde bombshell – setting the standard for blonde roles in Hollywood. Her voluptuous body, her platinum blonde hair with big curls, her sweet voice, and her ruby red lips has become a thing of legends. She has brought on-screen and real-life innocence and childlike quality since the days of Jean Harlow in the ‘50s, making her sensual image all the more alluring. But more than that, she had a huge impact in the world of entertainment by being an A-list actress in her own right.

Her tragic death made her even more unique. She was more than a movie star or a blonde bombshell, but she became a global sensation in her lifetime. Years after she has passed away, her beauty and image is closely associated to sensuality, which becomes an inspiration to women. 

In 1999, she was even named as the sexiest woman of the century by Playboy magazine. 

Her iconic look is channeled by many artists after her

Flip through a celebrity magazine, and chances are you’ll find a young starlet or pop singer channeling (or outright appropriating) Marilyn Monroe’s platinum locks, bright and moist carmine lips, and a curvy figure sheathed in something skintight and glamorous. 

Madonna has famously appropriated Monroe’s look into her image, as well as big pop stars like Gwen Stefani, Christina Aguilera, Lady Gaga, and Nicki Minaj. Magazine spreads have featured Lindsay Lohan, Rihanna, Nicole Kidman, Viola Davis, and Michelle Williams having their Monroe moments. 

Taylor Swift wore a white halter-style dress like Monroe’s in “The Seven Year Itch” on the red carpet at 2011 Teen Choice Awards. Monroe’s original white dress – which was immortalized by her iconic photo where the skirt was blown up by the gust of the wind – was sold at a 2011 auction for $5.6 million. Scarlett Johansson went with a Monroe-esque look with all-white blonde hair and ruby lips at a Dolce & Gabbana ad. 

On the big screen, Michelle Williams garnered an Oscar nomination for her moving portrayal of Monroe in “My Week with Marilyn.” And on the short-lived NBC TV series “Smash,” which follows a Broadway musical based on Monroe’s life, two actresses competed to play her. 

Her image became an aesthetic of its own

Monroe was one of the most successful actresses of American cinema history and once of the most photographed stars. 

Most people today who have not seen any Monroe film know her because of her face. Her portraits can be seen as a design from anywhere to portraits, to clocks, wall decors, binders, notebooks and more. Her image is beautifully preserved, becoming an aesthetic of its own. Her pop culture presence is seen until today and has been part of our lives and imaginations. All around the world, her style, her face, and her persona are impersonated by actresses, actors, and fans from all around the world.

Monroe has been the subject of numerous paintings and life retrospectives. Her face is featured in Warhol’s famous Marilyn silkscreens to Banksy’s stencils. 

She brought body-conscious designs to the forefront of fashion

Younger generation are enamored of Marilyn Monroe for something different – not because of her movies nor acting prowess – but because she’s a style type. And a lot of women can identify with that. She’s a certain kind of feminine ideal who brought body-conscious clothes in everyday life. Her mark in the fashion industry is indelible, and she became a fashion visionary who propelled unknown designers to fame. 

Monroe’s greatest contributions to beauty and fashion was probably how she embraced her curvy, seductive figure. One of fashion’s biggest innovations is adding plus sizes to clothing options, and though Monroe isn’t a plus size by any means, she has brought awareness to embracing your natural body shape.

She is the epitome of glamor

Marilyn Monroe became a fashion icon due to her unique and irreplaceable aura. Her looks dictated the fashion of the 1950s, imposing a sort of aesthetic code for the red carpet – the code that remains in force to this day.

She looks glamorous with her platinum blonde hair, red lips, flawless curves, and everything she wears automatically dictates the fashion trend. She epitomized glamor very well in her satin gold dress with a deep V neckline, paired with opera gloves, stole of fur and shining jewelry. That style was classic Hollywood glamor, and stylists and designers mimicked that style to be worn by actresses – but none of them was as iconic as Monroe. Undoubtedly, she was the queen of evening dresses. She was always daring, and it must be said that Monroe largely contributed to forging the image of a Hollywood actress: sexy, nonchalant, and glamorous.

Monroe’s red carpet style became a standard for actresses – dressing close to the body, often without straps, and half smiles. She wasn’t afraid to show a little skin, but she was never vulgar or scandalous-looking. Her aesthetics became a fashion legend of its own. 

She was a feminist before there was even a word for that

Marilyn had a dumb blonde image onscreen, but her roles were nothing like her. She was extremely intelligent in real life. Monroe was serious about acting, but it seemed like the industry did not take her the same way. When studios kept on pushing and giving dumb blonde roles to her, frustration certainly grew in her and decided that she had enough. When she was disappointed for being typecast and underpaid by the studio, she refused a film project. But when the studio was still reluctant to change her contract, she moved to New York and started her own production company instead. 

Back then, studios used to tell actors what movies they can star in, but Monroe fought for and won the right of script and directional approval. This was unheard of during her time.

To this day, her influence is very strong. Every time a woman can produce or direct a film, they have Monroe to thank. Anytime an actress can reject a script and stand up for herself in the entertainment world, she has Monroe to thank. 

She gave Chanel No. 5 an iconic scent status

Monroe famously said in a 1952 interview that she wore five drops of Chanel No. 5 and nothing else in bed. That one tiny endorsement is still boosting the brand and the perfume variety up to this day. Since her glamorous image and superstar status was already cemented, she brought Chanel No. 5 to an iconic status with her.