Christine had put her finger on the pulse of cinema. What matters is who it allows – or rather invites – you to be. Christine refused the invitation because it was not reciprocal: no white person identifies with a ‘Negro’. We are talking about the turn of the 1960s, about New Orleans, a bitterly segregated city where – in one incident described by Weatherby and hard to imagine today – partygoers arriving at a meeting place for the blind could be watched from the window of the house of the federal judge opposite as they were separated into black and white because ‘they couldn’t see to segregate themselves.’ Christine, we could say, was exposing the delusion Hollywood offers, the false democracy of a world in which it appears that everyone can see and be seen, that anyone can become anyone else. If Monroe is an emblem of that delusion – she made her way to the top from nowhere – she also exposed the ruthlessness and anguish at its core.
Writing of what McCarthyism had done to the spirit of freedom, I.F. Stone cites these lines from Pasternak:
The great majority of us are required to live a life of constant, systematic duplicity. Your health is bound to be affected if, day after day, you say the opposite of what you feel, if you grovel before what you dislike and rejoice at what brings you nothing but misfortune. Our nervous system isn’t just a fiction, it’s a part of our physical body and our soul exists in space and is inside us, like the teeth in our mouth. It can’t be forever violated with impunity.There was a ‘numbness’ in the national air, Stone wrote. ‘It’s like you scream,’ Monroe’s character, Roslyn, says in The Misfits, ‘and there’s nothing coming out of your mouth, and everybody’s going around: “Hello, how are you, what a nice day” … and you’re dying.’
Jacqueline Rose on Marilyn Monroe at the LRB