Norma Jean, Marilyn, Hurt, and No-Self
Norma Jean & Marilyn was a 1996 semi-biographical HBO film starring Ashley Judd as Norma Jean and Mira Sorvino after she transforms into Marilyn Monroe. As she becomes successful, the character of Norma Jean comes back to haunt her as the personification of her madness. This surreal device with the two characters interacting with each other was highly effective, and surprisingly accurate I realized, after comparing it to an actual Monroe biography I read later.
A lot of people don’t realize how bright and creative Monroe was, buried under the ‘dumb blonde’ facade, the glamour, scandal, tragedy and mythology that has arisen around her persona. Hers’ is one of the grimmer stories, and it is in context of her challenges that her accomplishments are even more remarkable. Both her mother and grandmother were as hard-core paranoid schizophrenics as there ever was, and she herself was probably borderline schizophrenic along with being a major depressive. Also, her drug use apparently equalled that of the heaviest hitters I can think of; Belushi, Joplin, etc…The scene below depicts her final moments as she tries to drown out Norma Jean’s voice with chemicals. Both actresses were nominated for Golden Globes.
I can only presume these scriptwriters were familiar with the song Hurt by Nine Inch Nails, but performed here by Johnny Cash on what I consider to be *the* greatest cover ever, of all time. Written by NIN about heroin addiction, in Cash’s world-weary hands recorded not long before his death, the voice of the Hurt has come to represent anything that would separate us from our ‘true selves’.
Some things might look an awfully lot like one thing and be vastly different from it, and it would be exceedingly easy to confuse Marilyn’s experience and behavior with an addiction to her unhappiness and the resulting drama that ensued. But this is not the same thing as histrionic type of attention seeking, drama-whoring, or projection of anger. It’s hard to imagine anyone would willingly choose to feel pain over having a sense of ‘self’, as indicated here in the song’s final stanza (I would keep myself, I would find a way).
This is an untitled prose-type poem written by Marilyn Monroe *herself*, recounting a nightmare in 1955.
(People like this don’t need to be reminded repeatedly about the ultimate futility and meaninglessness of their fragile egos’s hopes and dreams, and it is unfair, as well as inaccurate, to judge them as being adept at keeping themselves unhappy, or playing the victim, if they protest often reminders of ‘no-self’. All it means is they don’t feel like they are even ‘here’ in the first place, and to focus on that to excess is personally destructive. Evidence of this can be seen in Monroe’s own downfall, as intensive psycho-analysis and the study of method acting sent her descending even further into her lack of identity and her own darkness.)