Hollywood legend Marilyn Monroe would have turned ninety this week. Beyond her impact in the US, her image permeated international popular culture as well, as suggested by the far-flung origins of the WWB pieces in which she’s featured. Sometimes she makes only a cameo appearance: shimmering on posters in the backgrounds of Pakistani poet Azra Abbas’s “You’re Where You’ve Always Been” and Czech novelist Zuzana Brabcová’s Year of Pearls, or used as shorthand for “sex symbol” in Cuban writer Ena Lucia Portela’s tart take on another iconic female, “Cinderella’s Secret Dream.” Elsewhere she’s inspiration and aspiration, as in Frank Baez’s Dominican transgender performer, the self-declared “Marilyn Monroe of Santo Domingo.” She headlines Kim Young-ha’s “Marilyn Monroe and Lady Gaga’s Korea, and Korean Literature,” which opens on the scene of her mobbed arrival as a USO performer in South Korea. And in the fullest treatment, she shares center stage with Greta Garbo in Kristín Ómarsdóttir’s “The Story of One Occasion,” in which a sleepover at Monroe’s includes homemade rolls, champagne, and (in a wink to the author’s origins) Garbo reading aloud from an Icelandic saga. In one of Portela’s sardonic asides, she notes, “Poor Marilyn. So misunderstood.” And so universal.
Image: “Marilyn Monroe performing for troops at a USO show in Korea, 1954,” by US Dept. of Defense on Wikimedia Commons.