Let's Make Love: Whiteness, Cleanliness and Sexuality in the French Reception of Marilyn Monroe
European Journal of Cultural Studies
Richard Dyer’s seminal work on whiteness in film considers Marilyn Monroe as the epitome of an institutionally racist Hollywood system that imagines the most desirable woman to be blonde, given that blondeness is understood as a guarantee of whiteness. This article adds to other recent scholarship on Monroe that has sought to complicate this reading by examining other meanings that can be attributed to her bleached blonde hair. By closely analyzing media texts that discussed Monroe in 1950s France, this article demonstrates the way in which her performance of ideal American female sexuality was read through the prism of Monroe as icon of cleanliness and (linked) modernity. It examines the way in which Monroe’s modernity allowed her to partially escape the traditional feminine private sphere and it concludes that Monroe’s bleached blonde hair can be seen in this context as having liberatory potential.
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Vol. 13, Issue 3, pp. 291 - 306