Home Society & Culture What Is “Marilyn Monroe Effect” – And How Does It Impact Perceptions of Beauty

What Is “Marilyn Monroe Effect” – And How Does It Impact Perceptions of Beauty

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When discussing iconic figures in the history of popular culture, few names are as instantly recognisable as Marilyn Monroe. More than just a film star, Monroe has become an enduring symbol of glamour and beauty. However, the fascination with her image goes beyond mere celebrity worship. In psychology and social sciences, the “Marilyn Monroe Effect” refers to the phenomenon of how people’s perceptions of physical attractiveness can be heavily influenced by societal standards and the media.

The roots of the Marilyn Monroe Effect

At its core, the Marilyn Monroe Effect is about how societal norms and media representations shape our understanding of beauty. In the mid-20th century, Monroe epitomised the ideal of feminine beauty. Her image was crafted and popularised by the media, creating an archetype of attractiveness that has endured for decades. This effect demonstrates the power of media in shaping public perceptions, not only about beauty but also about femininity and sexuality.

Several studies have investigated this phenomenon. For instance, a research paper published in the Journal of Advertising examined how exposure to images of culturally defined beauty icons like Monroe can influence individual standards of beauty. The study found that participants who were regularly exposed to such images tended to internalise these standards, often leading to a skewed perception of what is considered attractive.

The impact on self-perception and society

The influence of the Marilyn Monroe Effect extends beyond mere appreciation of a beauty icon; it has profound implications for how individuals view themselves and others. This phenomenon contributes to a culture where physical appearance is paramount, often leading to issues like low self-esteem and body image disorders. For example, one study highlighted how societal beauty standards, exemplified by figures like Monroe, can contribute to unhealthy body image perceptions, especially among young women.

Furthermore, the Marilyn Monroe Effect plays a role in the perpetuation of gender stereotypes. Monroe’s portrayal in the media often emphasised a certain type of femininity that was glamorous, sexually appealing, yet somewhat submissive. This portrayal has had a lasting impact on societal expectations of women’s roles and behaviours.

Relevance in the digital age

In today’s digital era, the Marilyn Monroe Effect has evolved. Social media platforms and digital marketing have taken the lead in propagating beauty standards. Influencers and celebrities on platforms like Instagram and TikTok now play a role similar to Monroe’s in the 20th century, shaping ideals of beauty and attractiveness for a new generation. This evolution raises questions about the impact of digital media on self-image and societal standards of beauty.

A 2009 study explored how exposure to beauty standards on social media can affect self-esteem and body image. The findings suggest that constant exposure to idealised images on these platforms can exacerbate issues related to the Marilyn Monroe Effect, leading to increased dissatisfaction with one’s own appearance.

However, it’s important to note that the digital age also offers opportunities for challenging and diversifying beauty standards. Social media platforms provide a space for more inclusive and varied representations of beauty, potentially mitigating some aspects of the Marilyn Monroe Effect.

Concluding thoughts

The Marilyn Monroe Effect is a complex phenomenon that encapsulates the intersection of media, societal norms, and individual psychology. While it underscores the influence of iconic figures like Monroe in shaping beauty standards, it also invites a critical examination of how these standards are propagated and internalised. As society evolves, understanding and addressing the implications of this effect is crucial for fostering a more inclusive and healthy perception of beauty.

Oliver Ramsey is a cultural studies expert with a focus on media and societal trends. He is passionate about exploring the intersections of psychology and popular culture.

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