Despite the intent to recast the “Last Sitting,” there are some noticeable differences between the two shoots. The original sitting was shot with a soft white background, which created the illusion of sorrowful innocence, an image that also appeared in Monroe’s films. But what did we really see? Monroe was obviously stoned on a mix of downers and booze, stretched out on white sheets, hidden behind semi-transparent veils, and reclined on carpets and draped in white pearls. The photos evoke more pathos than eros because they bespeak of a “save me” fantasy. “Save me from Hollywood,” “save me from myself,” “save me through your love.” Even the new biopic entitled “My Week with Marilyn” alludes to the same tragic scenario: a woman tortured by the fantasies she has to create, and all it takes is a man who loves her to save her.
The photos in Playboy draw a parallel between Monroe and Lohan as actresses who have had troublesome working relationships, their ups and down with the tabloids, and numerous bouts with drugs and alcohol. Director Billy Wilder publically commented that her behavior during was so erratic that he never knew what to expect. Monroe was always late and in later years was prone to unleashing profanity-laced tantrums. Monroe’s on set antics were also blamed for Clark Gable’s untimely demise at the end of filming The Misfits, and she was fired from the film Something’s Got to Give. The 1962 photo shoot at the Bel-Air Hotel came in the wake of two divorces, trysts with Frank Sinatra, the Kennedys, and possibly Sam Giancana. Instead of community service, Monroe was granted a brief respite in a psychiatric ward.
But the similarities don’t stop there. Lohan herself has played up the comparison; she said she was honored by the photos, and she even owns a number of objects that belonged to Monroe as well as one of blond-bombshell’s former apartments. Despite the platinum blond wig and red lipstick, the Lohan shoot is very different from the “Last Sitting.” In place of the flowing white linen and translucent scarves, the reenactment features a red velvet background that reminds one of caskets and funeral homes. In an age in which we associate a natural tan is good health, Lohan’s body appears sun starved, bleached white, and slightly anemic. The red high-heel shoes, the only piece of clothing that Lohan wears in several of the pictures, don’t come close to evoking a foot fetish the way that Quentin Tarantino’s multiple close-ups of Uma Thurman’s feet do.
What was the point? Was this one of Hollywood’s apparent self indictments? An attempt by the industry for exploiting her and pushing her to the edge? A tribute to Monroe, like Elton John’s “Candle in the Wind”? Not hardly. The photo shoot also reenacts the voyeur’s desire to save a star-crossed actress, cursed with terminal case of dysfunctionality, alcoholism and drug addiction. In short, it was the entertainment industry flipping off the public by making us consume our own pathetic fantasies over and over again. The only thought that came to me was that I’d seen a corpse. The whole thing reeked of necrophilia.
Cross-posted at My Ongoing Struggle with Misanthropy: http://jimmygabacho.com/?p=777