Marilyn Monroe, Sex, and Film on a Cold Night

The Office Marilyn Monroe [sic] Film by Tim Roseborough, Courtesy of the Artist

Lately, it’s been ridiculously cold but I know my west coast, home-grown California tuchus hasn’t experienced real cold weather. Yes, my east coast friends, I know this Bay Area weather is nothing. Someone please remind me to not say “Geez, it’s awfully cold out” in the presence of an east coaster who has a far different idea of what cold means! I figured, in such extreme weather (please remember, this is cold to a California girl!), I thought it would be apropos to talk about something relatively hot – Tim Roseborough’s re-contextualization of the Marilyn Monroe sex film.

What is the Truth, you ask?

Is there really a Marilyn Monroe Sex Film? Click here (oh, don’t worry, this is safe to open up at work – the link leads to the popular site, Smoking Gun) and you will find the answer, which will then lead to Mr. Roseborough’s piece – The Official Marilyn Monroe [sic] Film.

I highly encourage you to watch Mr. Roseborough’s film prior to reading the rest and posting comments and/or questions. Fingers crossed. In the near future, I would love to feature an interview with the artist regarding his work!

Ideas, Impressions, Reaction

Not knowing there was even a rumor, I watched Mr. Roseborough’s piece thinking it were an actual interpretation or iteration of the original. My curiosity was piqued. Naturally, I was inclined to conduct a bit of research to see if there was an actual sex film after viewing the piece. Learning no such film existed put me at ease since the most risqué thing I would much rather remember involves skirt blowing in her film, The Seven Year Itch. I think much of the collective fascination with celebrity lives, especially their private and intimate moments, is the need to see something outside of oneself. Much of what we rely on to escape our lives involves watching someone else’s and inserting ourselves within that context. Or, watching to make a judgement. Voyeurism diminishes or eradicates curiosity of the unknown as well. Either way, viewing the piece had me thinking all kinds of things. One thing is for sure, the piece affirms my affinity for drag queens.

In The Official Marilyn Monroe [sic] Film, the subject is Raya Light who plays the sexy, voluptuous Marilyn. The choice of having a gender illusionist play the part of Ms. Monroe forces the viewer to reconcile quite a bit of historical knowledge and gender constructs considering this is an interpretation of quite an iconic (hetero) figure in our history. She embodied, for many people, what it meant to look like, act like, be a woman. There’s certainly nothing like gender theory and dynamics to warm your cold hands and feet! Now, don’t worry, I’m not going to start with Judith Butler and gender binary talk although I’m really tempted to do so. I want you to get warm NOT dizzy and disoriented!! So, I’ll just say, the choice for the ‘role’ was perfect. It’s art, my friends, and it’s supposed to make you think on different levels with varying perspectives.

Watching the film, you will notice another key part – the ice cream cone. The nature of how it is consumed, the viewer watches the subject eating, which, too, can be quite intimate. Seriously, folks, you wouldn’t put just anything in your mouth (insert dirty jokes here) but quite frankly, the act of eating in the film simulates something rather salacious. Or does it? Okay, it does. It did for me, anyway. I think what’s all the more telling is the fact that you don’t know what will happen next so you continue to watch. Even if you want to pull away, there’s something that makes you watch this version of ‘Marilyn’ enjoying what we normally do – eat. Pretty gestalt if you ask me. You fill in the blanks and create your own story. Besides the slow burn of the film, Mr. Roseborough does a masterful job at creating graininess that distorts time and forces our mind to organize information in a different way.

All right, these are thoughts (and I’m just getting started). THAT and my break time at work is over!

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Author: Dorothy R. Santos

Dorothy R. Santos is a writer, editor, curator, and educator whose research areas and interests include new media and digital art, activism, artificial intelligence, networked culture, and biotechnology. Born and raised in San Francisco, California, she holds Bachelor’s degrees in Philosophy and Psychology from the University of San Francisco, and received her Master’s degree in Visual and Critical Studies at the California College of the Arts. She is currently the managing editor for Hyphen magazine. Her work appears in art21, Art Practical, Daily Serving, Rhizome, Hyperallergic, and Public Art Dialogue. She has lectured and spoken at the De Young museum, Yerba Buena Center for the Arts, Stanford University, School of Visual Arts, and more. Her essay “Materiality to Machines: Manufacturing the Organic and Hypotheses for Future Imaginings,” has been published to The Routledge Companion to Biology in Art and Architecture in 2016. She serves as executive staff for the Bay Area Society for Art & Activism, board member for the SOMArts Cultural Center, and teaches at the University of California, Santa Cruz in the Digital Art and New Media department.

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