Retro Snap: Why Does Marilyn Monroe Look So Sad?

I’ve always been fascinated by the backstory on this iconic photograph by Richard Avedon. Would you like to know why Marilyn is sad, sort of, here? This is why:

According to NY Magazine, Avedon said:

“For hours she danced and sang and flirted and did this thing that’s—she did Marilyn Monroe. Then there was the inevitable drop … she sat in the corner like a child, with everything gone.” And he clicked his shutter once more. “I wouldn’t photograph her without her knowledge of it. And as I came with the camera, I saw that she was not saying no.”

I wish someone would give Marilyn Monroe a puppy or something, you know?

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    • Papa Geek

      Sad. Makes you kind of wonder what kind of mind was really hidden beneath the “dumb blond” act she was typecast into.

    • Casey

      I’ve read a bio or two of hers and she was severely depressed most of her life. She was in and out of foster homes as a child because her mother was mentally unstable and admitted into an insane asylum. She didn’t really know her dad. She was also married off to a man at age 16 who rather controlling. Essentially, she had a rough life and didn’t have very many people who were truly there for her. She’s such a beauty, with such a sad story.

    • Kate

      She was sad because she was an acutely lonely, unloved orphan most of her life. For all the sycophants, hangers-on, users, leering creeps who flocked around her, exploited/used her, deep down she probably instinctively knew there was really no one in life she truly trust, rely on, or turn to for the unconditional love/respect she (and every human) yearns for.

      Also, unlike most actors who don masks during their performance, her raw emotional honesty and vulnerability always seemed to find their way through the camera lens and into our hearts. That is why I think her memory is so powerful and she STILL resonates with so many of us, even now–almost half a century after her passing. God rest her lovely soul.

    • Mazin Hassani

      Marilyn Monroe,who wanted to be called Norma-Jean,was a woman of greatest beauty,a smile that was astounding,and a very cute and child-like personality mesmorized the world.She was and still is the most beautiful woman in the world.
      She was neglected,used by Hollywood,and treated as some kind of money making woman.
      Her inner beauty,that is her soul, was always most beautiful and innocent.She was basically a child,a very sad little girl.
      She died before I was born in 1963 and I continue to cherish her.
      May God give her peace and happiness that she always deserved.
      I love you Marilyn.
      Mazin Hassani.

    • Patrícia Atai

      Marilyn Monroe did not want to be called Norma Jean! In fact she struggled hard to get away from Norma Jean. So she created the antithesis of herself: Marilyn Monroe. Marilyn was buxom, blonde, sexy, a woman in charge- the meaning of alpha female. She did not fit into a box set for her by society or her husband. She was independent and coveted. She was power. But she was also a lie, and Marilyn/Norma knew that. You cannot change, and stay the same. Marilyn was power, but Norma wanted love. Real love. Life is funny…you can have real power or real love, you cannot have both. The problem with pretending to be someone you’re not is that eventually you get figured out by yourself. The men in your life don’t actually love you, they love the image of you. They love your beauty, your sexuality and your ability to make other men envy them. They play games with your heart, tell you they’re not in love with you after a passionate session and then stare into your tear filled eyes and tell you that you’re the problem. So the beginning of the end begins…you are the woman the men want to be the “other woman”. You start to realize that your dates aren’t dates, but a chance for him to be seen with you. Or you fall prey to a man who loves you just the way you are- after he changes everything about you, of course. And the list goes on, on, on and on until you realize that you’re smiling for no reason. Your miserable and alone in a room filled with people…but no one cares because they love you when you’re smiling and they leave you when you stop. And then it clicks in your brain; you’re not any different or prettier or better than who you were at first. In fact, you probably had a better chance at happiness just being her. But it’s too late to turn back now, they think you’re Marilyn and you not sure who you are anymore. And no one wants to hear you cry so they tell you, “You’re beautiful! You’ll be okay! A good guy is coming!” but he doesn’t come and your beauty is exploited. Contrary to popular belief, no one likes to see a beautiful woman cry. Not because it hurts them, but because it angers them. “Who are you to be upset when so many people want to be you?!” And one day it occurs to you that somewhere along the line you messed up, bad. Somehow the woman you thought you became is worse off than the woman you were. The good guy has moved on, the bad guys are no longer fun, and friends? What the hell are friends? And so you pretend until you grow tired of laughing when you’d rather cry, and tired of living when you’d rather die.

      That’s what this picture is. Marilyn isn’t happy. She is tired of smiling at everyone, tired of blowing kisses, tired of getting to the bed with someone but waking up alone, she is tired of having her heart broken, beaten and burned. She tired of being the envy of women, tired of having to smile to make others happy, tired of being so damn tired so the only solution is to go to sleep…and hope that if she wakes up Marilyn Monroe was only a dream, and she will awake in a warm house, in a warm bed with a warmhearted man who loves HER by her side. And in that same moment she knows it’s not a dream, it’s her life, it was her choice and she regrets it and wants it to be over. Finally.

      But that’s just my take on it…to each their own.