She was a sex symbol. This is the way Hollywood merchandised her; this is the way her international public wanted her. This was Marilyn Monroe's one, great, continuing role. She would have preferred another. She wanted to be a serious actress. But Hollywood, her public and, perhaps, her own limitations made any change impossible.
"I never quite understood it—this sex symbol—I always thought symbols were those things you clash together," she once remarked in an off-camera per- formance patterned after the dumb-blonde dialogue that brought her fame and fortune. "That's the trouble," she continued, "a sex symbol becomes a thing. I just hate being a thing."
Understandably, the world is shocked and saddened by the death of the famous 36-year-old actress. The world wonders why. Why should a wealthy, beautiful young woman suddenly become Coroner's Case No. 81128?
In a certain tragic sense, the public was voting for it to turn out this way all along. The ballots were cast each time a dollar changed hands at the box office. But this celluloid symbol of sex was more commodity than candidate, and, as she herself said, she just hated being a thing. A thing is dead from the beginning. A thing doesn't have a soul. The sex she symbolized was false and cheap. But that's what her public whistled for. Miss Monroe was unwilling or unable to keep the body and the soul of sex together.