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June 1 was Marilyn Monroe?s 80th birthday. Marilyn?s tragic suicide and sad life provide some of the mystique that lingers nearly 50 years after her death.

india Updated: Jun 03, 2006 01:48 IST

June 1 was Marilyn Monroe’s 80th birthday. Marilyn’s tragic suicide and sad life provide some of the mystique that lingers nearly 50 years after her death. But such is the power of celebrity that Marilyn comes to mind only through her iconic images. Yet, the fact is she would have been 80 this week, and not all the riches of the world or the best plastic surgeons could have changed that fact. Unlike 50 or even 60, 80 is, even in these modern times, old. But Marilyn’s immortality doesn’t come merely from the power of celebrity, but the Faustian price she paid by dying early. For the others, it is a losing struggle depicted so wickedly by Meryl Streep and Goldie Hawn in the 1992 black comedy Death Becomes Her.

Marilyn, her celebrity and death could perhaps be the philosophical palimpsest on which we can write the contemporary narrative of a certain kind of celebrity typified by the vacuous Paris Hilton or the power celebrity such as Angelina Jolie, wild child-turned-UN ambassador and film star. After Cambodia, Jolie has brought Namibia into the world map by deciding to give birth to her daughter by Brad Pitt. She has two adopted children, a Cambodian boy and an Ethiopian girl. Brendan Oneill calls it ‘celebrity colonialism’ — and so it would appear considering the display of raw power by ‘Brangelina’ in obtaining their privacy. They had a veto on which journalists could get visas, private as well as Namibian police security and a no-fly zone over the Burning Shore resort where they holed up for the birth of their daughter, Shiloh Nouvel. Not surprisingly, $ 5 million for the first pictures of the baby will go to Unicef.

All this is the outcome of Jolie’s wish, or whimsy, to have her first birth in the cradle of civilisation — never mind that East Africa, 4,000 km away, may have been more appropriate. But then, celebrities, especially Hollywood stars, get to create their own reality, don’t they?

First Published: Jun 03, 2006 01:48 IST