The Movie Waffler Book Review - <i>FAN PHENOMENA: MARILYN MONROE</i> | The Movie Waffler


The latest in Intellect Books' Fan Phenomena series looks at the cult of arguably cinema's most iconic star.

Review by Eric Hillis

The latest in Intellect Books' ongoing Fan Phenomena series examines arguably the most iconic female performer to ever appear in front of a camera - Marilyn Monroe.
Scores of books have been written on the former Norma Jeane Mortenson, but rather than focussing on the star herself, Fan Phenomena: Marilyn Monroe (edited by Marcelline Block) looks at the cult of Monroe, a rabid fanbase that shows no sign of halting more than 50 years after her untimely death.
Most of the previous installments of the Fan Phenomena series have dealt with either entire franchises (Star Wars, Star Trek, The Hunger Games) or fictional characters (Sherlock Holmes, James Bond, Batman). Monroe is but the second real life cinematic personality to receive the treatment, following an edition on Audrey Hepburn, another mid 20th-century star similarly obsessed over.
In a way, Monroe is the perfect subject for a study of fandom, as her cult is entirely propped up by those in love with her. Monroe's fans, unlike those of Star Trek et al, are denied the opportunity of meeting their idol at conventions. It's a one way interaction fuelled by millions of adoring followers. As such, Fan Phenomena: Marilyn Monroe features more interviews with fans than previous installments. They range from professional Monroe impersonators to memorabilia collectors to fan club reps, all of which clearly illustrate the special impact the actress has had on their lives, and in some cases, careers.
With more pages devoted to the thoughts of fans, the usual 10 essays of the Fan Phenomena format are here reduced to six. The first article looks at the wealth of MM related material on YouTube. Next up is a feature on those aforementioned impersonators, followed by a piece on the NBC drama Smash, a series whose first season revolved around the production of a musical on the life of Monroe. Chapter Four examines the famous outfits that helped create the popular image of Monroe, many of which are now in the hands of fans. This is followed by an analysis of 2012's My Week with Marilyn, the film which starred Michelle Williams in the titular role. Finally we have a short piece on the 50th anniversary of Monroe's death in 2012, and the celebrations held in her honour.
Monroe fans will likely have devoured every piece of literature written on the actress's life. The appeal of Fan Phenomena: Marilyn Monroe for Monroe's legions will be in finally seeing their own devotion examined in the sort of detail usually reserved for their idol.