Hugh Hefner, the founder of the Playboy Magazine, died late last month at the age of 91. While many paid tribute to the “legend”, others were keen to highlight how women and feminism have suffered because of his actions.

Marilyn Monroe was and still continues to be one of the most sensational and influential pop culture icons of her time. She defied the society’s ideas of a perfect body while oozing glamour and confidence in her illustrious white dress.  The beginning of her journey, however, was not so smooth.

When she was still a struggling actress, she was paid $50 to smile and pose nude for a calendar. She signed the release hesitantly, under a pseudonym, as she was desperate for the money. She wanted to forget about the images when her career started to shoot up, but they came back to haunt her when the “gentlemen’s magazine” founder – Hugh Hefner – released them as the centerfold of the first edition of Playboy Magazine, without her knowledge or consent. The images captioned “First time in any magazine, FULL COLOR, the famous Marilyn Monroe NUDE.”, were released when she became a household name. She never received any money for the numerous amounts of copies that were sold; never received any notification that her photos were going to be published and never met Hugh Hefner in real life.

Now, Hefner’s death is proving to be as controversial as his life. He has had a mammoth amount of achievements to back himself, and this is not to discredit any of it. However, back in 1992, Hefner reportedly bought the burial vault next to Marilyn Monroe’s in the Westwood Village Memorial Park, Los Angeles, so he could lie next to the actress forever. When asked in an interview about why he did so, he simply brushed it off by saying he couldn’t miss the opportunity to be “eternal bed-mates” with the woman whom he credits for his first magazine’s success.

This is not about believing in the after-life or saying that Marilyn Monroe will be disturbed by Hugh Hefner’s dead ‘intrusive’ presence. This is about respecting her legacy and making it known that her personal narrative has been usurped. The message this sends out to influential men and women everywhere seems inappropriate at best. To permit Hugh Hefner the right to snug up to the woman he took advantage of is not only an insult to her memory, but sends a troubling message to women everywhere, that the society will not respect your aspirations to be separate from the men who have wronged you.

On the contrary, many might also argue that this debate is pointless since life ends when a heart stops beating in a body. However, now is not the time to push Marilyn’s story into the vacuum of silence. Condemning what ought to be condemned is the need of the hour.


Feature Image Credits: Rolling Stone


Bhavya Banerjee

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