So before starting?
I need to say that I started this post on Monday.
And then my week pretty much got away from me.
I tried finishing it a few times in between the chaos.
This was my Tuesday post for week #4 in the Musical A to Z over with Jackie at Ambling & Rambling.
Now? Proudly brought to you by Friday and the letter D. It in part pays homage; in part gives some thought to a song and accompanying imagery that have so well stood the test of time – and that, as a result, always pops into my head when I think about what it means to be – and how to be – a woman.
Today’s Tonight’s Yesterday’s
If I were Marilyn? I would have handled this more smoothly. I would never have let you know this was late.
Because the party doesn’t start ’til I get there, darlings.
But I’m just me.
So, Tuesday’s post? Was all about diamonds!
I don’t mean rhinestones!
Sing it with me everyone!
Are a girl’s best friend!
Take it away Marilyn!
Marilyn Monroe – Diamonds are a Girl’s Best Friend (1953)
Here’s the song that started it all. I first saw the movie at 15. Gentlemen Prefer Blondes was the first Marilyn Monroe movie I ever saw (all so I could see this scene. More on that in a moment) and it was the movie that made me fall in love with all things Marilyn. I loved her; her style; her comic charm; the campy fun of it all. I started collecting her movies and reading up on her life.
As for the song’s message?
I mostly thought it was quaint and dated.
A kiss may be grand,
But it won’t pay the rental,
On your humble flat.
Or help you at the automat.
Men grow cold.
As girls grow old.
And we all lose our charms in the end.
But square-cut or pear-shaped,
These rocks don’t lose their shape.
Diamonds are a girl’s best friend.
A fun, and meant to be funny, song.
In the 1950s.
Move it forward to circa twenty years ago? Sure, I wanted a man to “put a ring on it” someday and I had every intention of finding someone who appreciated me enough to fork over some salary dollars for a sparkly display of ownership, but from an early age I never really saw the point of marrying the rich man when I could just “be” the rich woman in my own right.
After all, I grew up in the Madonna era. If ever you wanted a successful and independent role model, there she is!
Indeed, it was her all pretty in pink paying homage to Marilyn – and the passing comment from my mother that that was what she was doing – that made me search out the original.
So choice #2 of the evening? The (apparently not quite original) Material Girl.
Madonna – Material Girl (1984)
Despite the clear message that she was only interested in you if you had money, I always thought it had the same “poking fun at the caricature of it all” feel to it as the original, while also noting – different from its predecessor (possibly with a nod to modernity in the middle of what was really quite the affluent decade) – that it works both ways:
Boys may come and boys may go;
And that’s all right you see.
Experience has made me rich;
And now they’re after me
‘Cause everybody’s living in a material world.
And I am a material girl.
I didn’t really think of Lorelei Lee’s quest to marry a rich man much for years.
Until Moulin Rouge came out in 2001. And there was Nicole Kidman with a cheeky cabaret take:
As far as plot was concerned in that movie? We harken back to yesteryear Jolie Paris! in 1900. And while I cheer at the fact that the leading lady may have loved the “penniless sitar player”, if memory serves she died before actually having to follow through on her choice to be with him rather than the rich fellow who would have funded her acting aspirations.
There have been a number of other tributes to this song more recently. That said, I find many of these more “modern” (?!) takes on the original have, as far as I can figure, embraced the exhibition/display side of the original version while managing to lose much of the … “poking fun at the idea” humour that previous versions had.
While I like the homage to that great cinema moment, they seem to miss some of the charm and beauty of it and replace it instead with a brash and overt desire (and expectation) that the guy “cough up the diamond” because the girl has dutifully put on the show and demonstrated her desirability. There’s an objectification to the whole thing that, while certainly there before – and always there to a certain extent in the “men chase/women are chased” dynamic being described and commented on by the piece (ie: in the scenario, the woman needs to show why she’s worth catching) – has just been made somehow more … crass in the … demanding overtness of it all.
I struggle with how to put the thought into words, but I think it’s this: If we’ve hit the moment, as women, that we are comfortable enough to so overtly state what we want, I don’t understand why THAT is all we want.
I’m not going to lie.
As a woman? I want to be attractive.
As a wife? I want to be desirable to my husband.
And if I’m being honest? I also appreciate the odd nod from the opposite sex that shows I’m not completely past it.
I exercise. I diet. I work at it.
But while I LOVE the retro pageantry of Marilyn in all her pink finery….
While I can enjoy the fantasy of men once upon a time swooning and offering jewels because I was just so awesomely gorgeous and refined…
… I’d have hated if that had been my reality. If that was all I was measured on.
Because as women? We can now be so much more than that.
I am so much more than that.
And while a discussion about the glass ceiling, unequal representation in politics or CEO jobs, is a separate post…
My point here is that women have a choice in a way that generations before us did not.
If financial and family realities allow, we can stay home with our children.
But we also have the choice to work, and have the opportunity to excel professionally if we make the choices that requires.
What I’m saying is that, given the right opportunities, we shouldn’t need financial support and security from a man in the same way that Marilyn was singing about in the 1950s.
Which is why I find some newer tributes to this song so … honestly? Rather … ishy.
Yeah. Where all the girls strut, and all the guys cheer. And then what? They all go to math class and carry on like they didn’t just partake in some sort of pantomime of a cabaret in music class? With the teacher cheering the whole thing on. This one just sits a bit … off … for me.
Don’t get me wrong – I get the desire to be desirable.
I just wonder if it’s time to change the terms and challenge some of the imagery we propagate – and use – to teach subsequent generations of young boys and girls how to interact.
There are so many conflicting messages that we send to young girls about how to be a woman. As the mother of a 4-year-old and almost 2-year-old girl, I’ve started to think about it more than I use to. My 4-year-old already asks me make-up questions; obviously mimics adult “woman” things I do; and “quizzes” me on everything from why I have hair on my legs to why I wear heels some days and flats on others. She is currently working out the esthetic differences between the “high” and “low” pony tail; pig tails; and braids. She enjoys painting her nails and playing with my compact.
What I’m saying is that she is taking in the “how to be a girl” messaging around her like a sponge.
I appreciate that she isn’t watching Glee and that those who do are older.
But it’s likely that tweens, young teens watch it.
So I wonder at the messages Glee sent here as to what you need to do to succeed as a girl.
But we should move on.
Last choice for this evening’s post that became a week-long endeavour?
Well, this is hard, because there are a number to choose from. So I’ll give you two:
Diamonds are a Girl’s Best Friend – Burlesque (2010)
I’ll leave my previously comfy soapbox here for a moment because I understand this movie was about, well, a Burlesque, so I don’t think how they did this was misplaced. Nor do I think we ever truly abandon this idea of how men and women interact. That said, I think it honestly portrays where this song belongs. Namely, in the world of pageantry, fantasy and make-believe. Also? I look for any opportunity to randomly showcase Christina’s amazing voice.
And on this one, I apologize. But I have to give you six.
This is Serena’s dream sequence which started the 100th show of the Gossip Girl series (middle of Season 5). It’s an “homage” in every sense and I can’t think of a better show to do it than Gossip Girl. THAT show works with the campy fun and brings it back to a level I adore.
The show is outrageous fantasy to begin with. And this is a dream sequence within that fantasy.
Which I think is exactly where it belongs in current conversation.
Because if that’s a dream sequence in that show?
And life don’t work like that there?
Then it don’t work like that anywhere.
You know you love me.