Courtney’s been trying desperately hard to cultivate a Marilyn-esque appearance. She shed the long, Pam Anderson platinum extensions for a more flattering bob style, and has taken to wearing Marilyn’s uniform of tight sweaters and Capri pants in photos posted to her account. The intro to her self-filmed “sex tape” for husband Doug is set to 50s-sounding track attempting to portray Old Hollywood elegance. She posts photos of Marilyn at least once a week and describes herself as a “Monroe lover” in her bio. (I just want to know if she’s seen “Bus Stop.”)
This is all very well and good. Many, many young women idolize Marilyn for different reasons. Courtney, who has gotten a good deal of flak for the way she dresses – tiny bandage dresses and stripper platforms – seems to be trying to style herself after MM in an effort to be taken more seriously, or at least to tone down the “teen bride sex doll” reputation that’s followed her around since the world discovered her.
Countless celebrities have done what Courtney’s doing. Hell, Lindsay Lohan has practically made a career out of Marilyn thirst, though she’s got the personal demons and addictions to back it up. Anna Nicole shot to fame as Playboy’s New Marilyn for the ‘90s. We wouldn’t have the legions of Guess girls without Marilyn, nor would we have the Playboy we know and love. How many Playmates have tried on a Marilyn style for noted MM obsessive Hugh Hefner? (He owns the crypt next to hers.) Plus, any blonde in red lipstick gets called “Marilyn” at least once in her life.
Marilyn Monroe was the original Playboy centerfold. Her photo graced the cover of the very first issue in 1953, and countless Bunnies have been emulating her look – or trying to – ever since. That’s nothing new. The studio systems of Old Hollywood, eager to find a “Marilyn” of their own to bank on, sent out their own versions like Sheree North and Jayne Mansfield. All were busty and blonde, but lacking the vulnerability behind the sex appeal that made Marilyn so appealing. Marilyn’s magic was walking the very fine line between camp and classic, between light and dark. When you watch her onscreen, you can’t take your eyes off her. Though her image is splashed on everything from shampoo to wine, it’s the real woman who bewitches you when you see her onscreen. Unfortunately, her competitors just couldn’t grab our hearts quite the same way.
One such faux-Marilyn was Mamie Van Doren, Universal studio’s version of the blonde bombshell. Van Doren was born Joan Olander in South Dakota, and a chance meeting with Howard Hughes helped land her in Hollywood. Like Marilyn, her name was changed and her look tweaked to make her more marketable. She was pushed into a string of B-movies and never managed to make the impact Monroe (and Mansfield) did. She posed for Playboy in the ‘60s and visited soldiers in Vietnam. Van Doren is 84 years old now, doing bit parts, stopping by talk shows and showing off her figure. She remains committed to her “look” even though such style might be frowned upon in more conventional circles.
It’s Van Doren that I see in Stodden, with her cartoonishly exaggerated femininity. I’m not trying to dis Courtney, either, as I’ve long been amused by her and think she seems very sweet and genuine. Courtney is a fusion of Van Doren and Mansfield’s ultra-blonde bombshell mixed with a ‘00s body type: the big, surgically enhanced boobs and tiny waist, abs and legs, a well-exercised Barbie body. She’s more like Pamela Anderson in her heyday than the lush, pillowy curves of Monroe, and this is partially because Monroe’s body type hasn’t been popular for decades.
What Courtney lacks is Marilyn’s mystical, vulnerable and fragile quality. Courtney is a 21st century girl and she uses social media to brand herself. She’s holding the camera selfie-style, gazing lovingly through heavily-painted eyes at her own reflection. Marilyn was too earnest and terrified of becoming a parody. But it’s clear that Van Doren is in on the joke, and I think Courtney is too.