Louise Pollock

“The body is meant to be seen, not all covered up” were the famous words uttered by iconic starlet, Marilyn Monroe, as she took Hollywood by storm, transforming from small-time actress to an epic household commodity and big brand name. Perhaps the most famous woman of the 20th Century, Monroe represented the embodiment of Hollywood glamour fusing an apparent vulnerability and innocence with an innate sensuality which left men and woman spellbound by her unrivalled energetic charm. Monroe serves as the primary manifestation of the sex symbol, an exhibitionist who obliges voyeuristic tendencies through the spectacle of her voluptuous curves and bold pout. By exploiting her body, Monroe captures and toys with the gaze of male erotic desire. However, the question can be asked — what it is about Monroe that has cemented her legacy as an unparalleled iconic sex goddess above all other women?

Monroe’s appeal can be largely attributed to the sense that underneath the eroticism of her seductive physique lies a harmless naiveté — she symbolises sex without threat in a time when the image of the femme fatale was rife in cinema. Monroe’s arrival to screens in the 1950s coincided with Hollywood’s experimentation with the idea of beautiful women as vixens who ensnare men through seduction and deception, thus provoking dangerous consequences for the men in question. In a time where overtly seductive women were aligned with cultural attitudes of danger, Monroe shone out as the antithesis to this image. With a tendency to feature in roles as the dumb yet bubbly blonde, in films like How to Marry a Millionaire and Some Like It Hot, she created the impression of a woman who required to be protected by a partner; a woman who although sexually alluring was loveable and in need of safety and security. In a time when the silver screen made women seem like the predators and men the innocents, Monroe’s image inverted this idea in its entirety.

In this day and age, Monroe remains a prominent sex symbol. However, it is the actress Megan Fox who is getting men a little hot under the collar on a global scale. In light of Fox’s last movie, Jennifer’s Body, the young actress has found herself very much in the public eye as press world-wide have flocked to splash her image throughout the media. The film — with a ropey plot which promises more than it delivers — serves as a platform for exploiting Fox’s body, and proved to be dependent on parading the actress’s physique in order to clock up fans. Fox’s body is put on full display cooling off with a naked swim in the local lake, to a brief lesbian encounter with her timid best friend. Reaching the number one spot in FHM’s 2008 edition of the world’s sexiest woman, it is evident that her sensual athleticism and Angelina Jolie-esque pout is pushing all the right buttons for the male audience.

Jonah Hex, Fox’s next jaunt onto the silver screen, is proof that the apple doesn’t fall too far from the tree. The movie, due to release this summer, promises to set male hearts a flutter with Fox playing the role of gun-slinging prostitute in this graphic novel adaption.

Despite the fascination surrounding the Fox body there still remains a seemingly fundamental difference between the sex appeal of the 50s goddess Monroe and the rising star of Fox. Boiled down, it harks back to the way in which they are characterised. It is hard to argue against the opinion that both women exploit the sensuality which can be found in the female form, yet Fox doesn’t portray the endearing vulnerability that so became Monroe. Fox’s appeal lies in the fact she seems raunchy and corruptible; however, these aren’t traits which cement you as a legacy like Monroe. Monroe combines loveable family values with an erotic sexualism, while Fox is simply a prime example of “sex sells”. In the words of Lee Strasberg from the Eulogy, Monroe “had a luminous quality — a combination of wistfulness, radiance, yearning, that set her apart and yet made everyone wish to be part of it, to share in the childlike naiveté which was at once so shy and yet so vibrant.” Many women in cinema have used their sex appeal as spectacle but Monroe engages the audience with the person behind the figure, securing her place as a Hollywood legend.


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