Posted by: Martin Scherer | 10/04/2011

Marilyn Monroe – Death by Psychoanalysis

Like the stars in the sky, some cultural stars shine beyond their cultural boundaries, even beyond their deaths. Marilyn Monroe was one. To this day, her image sells everything, and hangs in the bedrooms of teenagers born long after her death. Marilyn Monroe had the magical ability to make men fall blindly in love with her.

I have to admit I am not one of them. I can hear others shout “What’s the matter wide you boy?”

Nothing. Maybe because my sister was a died-blond and sisters are not objects of sexual desire. I’m turned on by the mystery of brunets. I enjoy the tinsel wrapping, but the face I see is that of Hayley Mills, a somewhat podgy child star. Give me the character lines of a mature woman, who seeks more than merely to be taken. With Marilyn, I can look beyond the projected image of desire. What I see is Norma Jean, a brilliant and gifted

A fictional celluloid character
Marilyn Monroe was a fictional celluloid character created by Norma Jean. That is not my conclusion, but the stated intent of the actress, herself. Norma was determined to be a female Valentino. She soon learnt to seduce whatever was on the other side of the camera lens and thereby reach millions. Norma Jean convinced the world, that Marilyn Monroe was a real human. Ask any writer, any actor, any producer and they will tell you that is ultimate success is convincing the world your fictional character is real. Marilyn Monroe was not only Norma Jean’s caricature of American female sexuality, Norma Jean took the elements of desire portrayed by various female stars and presented them in one character.

If you want to be loved, first love yourself.
Long before she donned the façade, Norma Jean was in love the image of Marilyn Monroe. Before she had access to Hollywood’s make-up artists and dress designers, Norma Jean spent hours perfecting the image of Marilyn Monroe. People who love themselves exude a confidence that seduces others.

Adopt the innocent eyes of an uncritical of a child.
French culture has long explored the innocence of childhood sexuality, but repressive British Victorian and consequently American culture, painted childhood sexuality with disgust. Norma Jean took the mind-set of an innocent child, and acted it, like a virgin, through the body of a sumptuous woman. Norma Jean condemned no one for adoring Marilyn because Norma Jean loved her herself.

Marilyn was to be adored and protected, but not touched or sullied by human hand. The Marilyn character promised eternal youth, a female Peter Pan, living in a Neverland, like Michael Jackson.

Not only was Marilyn adored by both sexes, Norma Jean loved both sexes. She was bi-sexual. Marilyn’s love for men was not limited by their age. Knowing that life was a façade, Norma Jean looked through the façade of others and loved them for the person within. Her love for all came through in her acting. In an age of sexual repression, and increasing ageism, Marilyn’s innocence was liberating to all who set eyes on her.

An American Icon
To be such a star, it helps to be born in the preeminent culture of its day, the USA. Like the stars of the last great culture, Shakespeare, Elizabeth 1st, and Dickens, Marilyn Monroe will shine longer than the USA itself. She is greatest female icon to emerge from American culture. One of the biggest selling pop songs is about Marilyn. Although now attributed to another woman, Princess Diana, Candle in the Wind will never be surpassed, if only because pop music has also had its day.

The good they die young
It also helps to die young, at their peak and before physical beauty hangs like old leather – James Dean, Elvis, John Lennon, Diana, Martin Luther king, Michael Jackson.

Who killed Norma Jean?
A recent French documentary, ‘Marilyn, the Last Sessions’, (2009) makes the astonishing claim it was psychoanalysis. Not the psychiatrist who analysed her, Dr. Ralph Greenson, but the method of psychoanalysis. As though psychoanalysis is psychic venom. This is an astonishing claim.

The evils of psychoanalysis
Behavioural science may rejoice at this conclusion. For nearly a century, science has rejected psychoanalysis as nothing more than a pseudo-science fantasy. Einstein objected to Freud’s nomination for a Nobel Prize, so Freud did’t get it. Freud has been ignored by mainstream psychology teaching for half a century, and academics have successively exposed psychoanalysis as a sham that does more damage that good. Psychoanalytical theory served to protect paedophiles and blame their victims. Over a decade ago, the mainstream press exposed Freud as a fraud. Yet the layman still refers to psychoanalytic explanations when they seek to understand themselves. Junk psychoanalytic concepts, the id, super-ego, transference, sub-conscious, the Freudian slips, have entered everyday language. Dramatists and film makers took Freud as their guide, sending trains through tunnels to circumvent the censor’s prohibition of reality.

There are two aspects of Psychoanalysis. First its method, talk therapy, commonly called psycho-therapy today. Talk therapy is not instruction, as in self-help, but an attempt to get the patient to remember the original cause of their problem or issue. This is done by a method called free-association, in which the therapist allows the patient to talk about whatever they want, including their dreams. The psychoanalysis then analyses what they meant. So if they talked about fountains of lampposts, Freud interpreted that as a fixation of penises.

Whilst we discount the mumbo jumbo, look where the method directs the search for the cause. Into the person, their memories, their childhoods. It does not direct the search toward the actions of others now or in the past. The person is therefore wrong, and wring when they were children. Tell that to a ten year old black slave. When the salve traders came it was the child’s fault for running fast enough?.

More recent therapists claim they do not offer any interpretation but leave it to the patient to ‘realise’ the cause. Among them was Carl Rogers, who coined ‘non-directive’ therapy, until a couple of behavioural scientists showed he was reinforcing ‘correct’ response. More recently therapists found a rash of cases where a referred child ‘revealed’ hidden memories of child abuse usually by the fathers, until it was realised the idea of forgotten abuse was suggested by the therapists. It never happened. Watch the film Inception if you wants’t to know if thoughts can be planted.

Psycho-analysis lead Norma Jean to identify her childhood as the origins of problems, (she was an adopted orphan raised by an unloving mother), and Norma Jean was to blame for it. That might be cruel, but blaming children for the sins of adults and psychoanalysis, was the order of the day in the 1950’s.

Perhaps it is time that the evils of psychoanalysis were revealed in dramatic form for a lay audience and what better than blame psychoanalysis for the death of America’s greatest female icon. However if any claim is to stand the test of time and scrutiny it had better reveal how, and show it happens to all such victims, or most.

Thousands of children are born orphans and brutalised during childhood but few commit suicide. Although widely suspected, there was no evidence that Norma Jean committed suicide.

Norma Jean would not have been so dumb to believe it. The documentary reports Norma Jean revealed her scepticism of psychoanalysis and showed greater understanding of her position than the therapist.

The therapist may have broken all the rules, psychoanalysis may not have helped Norma Jean, may even have aggravated her problems. Psychoanalysis may be mumbo-jumbo, it may blame the victim and talk therapy may be damaging even dangerous, but did not kill Norma Jean.

So what killed Marilyn Monroe?

Was it the barbiturates she swallowed? Sometimes so many, the drug made her face swell. Her death by barbiturate poisoning may not have been suicide, it was probably an accidental overdose, but it was sure suicidal to take such quantities. All addicts take such risks. Look at Michael Jackson.

Why do people consume excessive qualities? Because the drugs drown pains and creates euphoria. Except cannabis, all psychoactive drugs let you down with a thump. The more you take, the more you need, until the consumption becomes life threatening. When is pain worse to bear? Alone, in bed, at night. Norma Jeans took barbiturates to help her sleep without demons.

What were the demons that Norma Jean needed to drown?

Male Chauvinism.
Norma Jean may have perfected the image of Marilyn Monroe beyond any question, but she was never confident about her acting skills. She suffered stage fright. Strange for a woman whose acting was so skilled he convinced the world her character, Marilyn, was real.

Norma Jean took acting classes but no-one welcomed it. Marilyn yearned to act, but had sold her life to a film company and they did not want anything other than the dumb sexy blond. You cannot be a dumb blond if something intelligent came out of your mouth. Acting alongside Marilyn was like acting with children or cute animals. The actor always takes second place and, to add insult to injury, second place to something that cannot act.

Norma Jean yearned to act alongside the great literary actors. The greatest Shakespearean actor of her time, Lord Lawrence Olivier, praised her in public but was despicable to her behind the scenes.

It happens to most creative artists. Boy pop stars are not allowed to have sex, let alone get married. John Lennon sung “You’ve got to hide your love away”. Public figures must stay in the money-making role. Successful detective fiction authors may was’t to write romance but they will never get it published.

Norma Jean read the classics of literature and yearned for the company of intellectuals. She married one of the greatest of her time. However Marilyn cannot have been attracted to intellectuals for the quality of their thoughts, she can only have been turned-on by the status. Norma Jean said “Men lay their eyes on Marilyn, they do not see me.”

The problem for most men is their egos. Take two men out on the hunt. When they spy two single women they are bound to say. “I don’t fancy yours much mate.” The other girl knows it. The wise man moves on the plain Jane, but only to prove himself to Marilyn. That rather destroys girl friendships.

Most men would never believe such a beautiful woman would give them a second look, so they adore from afar. More confidence men born of status could not approach a Marilyn for fear of rejection. Any man who gets to the honey pot of such a woman, does for the notch his gun. She said “Men go to bed with Marilyn. They wake up with Norma Jean”.

Marilyn Monroe was such an icon, she was chosen to sing Happy Birthday to a President. The fact she stumbled on stage through the haze of drugs, that her voice faltered, did not matter. What the world saw was every man’s fantasy served on a platter to the most powerful man in the world. The fact that such a powerful man was blind to what the world saw was testimony to Norma Jean’s talent to make all men fall blindly in love with her character Marilyn. When the President woke and realised what the world saw, he dumped her like so many lovers before him.

Norma Jean was trapped into the role of Marilyn Monroe. She knew that one day she would no longer be able to play Marilyn Monroe and knew that ‘decent’ man wants a has-been Marilyn.

Times they have changed.

Look at Louise Ciccone, who walked into a pop radio station with her first pop song and said “I am going to be the biggest recorded female singer of all time. The DJ laughed. Her name is Madonna.

Madonna sung like a virgin and acted the sexy teenage vamp of her day. Today she is fifty and still playing whatever fictional character she chooses to enact. The difference between Marilyn and Madonna is Madonna had control of her career and life and the right to reinvent herself. At one time Madonna reinvented Marilyn, but Marilyn did not have that freedom.

Norma Jean killed Marilyn Monroe
It was her only escape. The male chauvinism of the day drove her to it.

Men of the 1950’s could not accept Norma Jean in any role other than the dumb blond. They denied her the confidence she could act her way out, even though she was the most brilliant creative actress of the day. A podgy faced girl who convinced every man the projection of his fantasy was a real human who loved him without question.

Psychoanalysis is part of that male chauvinism. Rather than accept the problem was outside her, and men were to blame, psychoanalysis convince Norma Jean it was all her own fault. Their was nothing she could do about it. Psychoanalysis may not have killed Marilyn, but psychoanalysis certainly has her blood on its hands.

The term ‘Cut of you nose to spite your face’ comes from the days when beautiful women disfigured themselves to protect themselves from the unwarranted unwelcome sexual attention. Look around you and you will still see beautiful woman who dress down and dowdy. They don’t realise they should kick the chauvinist where he deserves it. Fortunately male chauvinism seems increasingly a thing of the past. The roles are reversing.

In the words of the song, “I would like to have known you better but I was just a kid”. I would not have loved you Marilyn and I know another man like me. He wrote the lyrics to the song. Bernie Taupin.

For an ethical view of the case see


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