The Monroe-Mansfield-Ekberg Complex

Certain types of women were born to be damaged goods. They didn’t have a prayer from the start. The primordial goddess of the wayward persona combined with sex appeal is universally acknowledged to be Marilyn Monroe. Her fatal flaw was, of course, that she could never be loved enough. Marilyn’s example subsequently infected two other blonde bombshells who possessed many similar personality traits and mannerisms: Jayne Mansfield and Anita Ekberg.

Mansfield and Ekberg, the other side of the Monroe coin
Mansfield and Ekberg, the other side of the Monroe coin
Mansfield was the most overt knockoff of Monroe, appearing around the same time as The Seven Year Itch caused the sex bomb explosion of the 1950s. With seemingly no problem being marketed as “the working man’s Monroe,” Mansfield allowed herself to be exploited to the highest degree, frequently engaging in publicity stunts involving the promise of a wardrobe malfunction (no, Janet didn’t invent that). Anita Ekberg, on the other hand, was slightly more tasteful with her career choices–perhaps because she was a Swede. While she, too, possessed a girlish lilt and sizable rack, she somehow appeared more comfortable with her sexuality than Monroe or Mansfield (it must be the general European outlook on sex that made her so at home in her own skin). Whereas with Monroe and Mansfield–and Monroe in particular–there was this sort of self-consciousness and self-awareness about their beauty and constantly having to live up to its standard. The pressure of pleasing the public hit Monroe the hardest out of the three bombshells, and she would often spend hours perfecting her makeup just to look what she felt was baseline normal.
Yes, Monroe and Mansfield were once in the same room together and the universe did not explode
Yes, Monroe and Mansfield were once in the same room together and the universe did not explode
The three women all shared in partaking of the distinct job of being a pin-up girl at some point in their careers, a profession that was propelled by Hugh Hefner’s “men’s magazine,” Playboy. From the two-dimension of print, these women’s physiques were destined to pop off the page and onto the screen. The commonalities continued with their tendencies in marriage, or rather, divorce. Whether it was the fact that beauty so great could not be contained within the confines of monogamy or no man was prepared to deal with the intense neuroses that come with such beauty, none of these women were able to stay married to the same person for very long.
Marilyn with husband no. 2, Joe DiMaggio
Marilyn with husband no. 2, Joe DiMaggio
With Monroe, it was the trifecta of army man James Dougherty, baseball legend Joe DiMaggio and playwright legend Arthur Miller. Ekberg kept it at a modest two marriages and divorces with Anthony Steel and Rik Van Nutter. Mansfield competes favorably with Monroe for failed romance with three marriages to Paul Mansfield, Mickey Hargitay and Matt Cimber.
Mansfield with her second husband, Mickey Hargitay, who bears a similar aesthetic to Monroe's second husband, DiMaggio
Mansfield with her second husband, Mickey Hargitay, who bears a similar aesthetic to Monroe’s second husband, DiMaggio
The vulnerability of each woman is what served as part of her demise. It appeared as though every man within a 500 mile radius wanted to save Monroe/Mansfield/Ekberg, but they were too doomed for a downfall to even warrant a rescue mission. In Ekberg’s case, instead of death, her great end came in no longer being enlisted in her usual typecast as she grew older and the interest in the blonde bombshell waned in favor of “normal looking women.” Without Fellini to continue casting her in tailor made roles like Sylvia in La Dolce Vita or even herself in Boccaccio ’70, her audience seemed to diminish more and more.
Ekberg suffered a different tragedy from Monroe and Mansfield: Aging
Ekberg suffered a different tragedy from Monroe and Mansfield: Aging
While they all suffered in their own different, yet similar ways, the trio of women’s extinction begs the question: Is being blonde and curvaceous destined to make you go insane with vanity and unfulfilled expectations? This is, indeed, the Monroe-Mansfield-Ekberg complex. Add it to the DSM along with Portnoy’s Complaint.

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  1. Pingback: Sophia Loren Owns Her Bitchery Toward Jayne Mansfield | Culled Culture

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