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When Marilyn Monroe Got High On Tape

A recent journalistic investigation carried out by group of Spanish activist have brought back the famous 90 seconds video that supposedly show Marilyn Monroe as she enjoys some pot. The activists have used the video as a starting point to discuss the way in which marijuana is still criminalized in Spain.

The video dates back to 1959 or 1958, a long time ago.

The reactions to the reemerging of the famous video have been different. On one hand, the images can be considered as extremely controversial. Marilyn Monroe, in fact, has often been associated with ideas such as “transgression” and “controversy”. Therefore, the Monroe-cannabis association does nothing but reinforcing the idea that smoking pot is a transgressive, controversial act – something that certainly doesn’t help the cause of the many Spanish and European activists who fight daily against stereotypes and misconceptions.

On the other hand, however, Marilyn is also the cultural incarnation of femininity, sensuality, fashion and style. Probably, this is precisely the set of meanings the activists who re-published the video wanted to exploit. First of all, the idea that women smoke pot is quite revolutionary in its own terms. In fact, the dirty-unemployed-pot head, who often ends up representing pot lovers and smokers in movies and other kinds of cultural products, is almost always a man. Secondly, and consequently, pot is rarely “sexy”. This might sound silly, but sensuality sells…a lot, and it is an extremely powerful metaphor when it comes to marketing and promotion. If Marilyn smokes pot, and Marilyn is sexy, pot becomes sexy, which is a huge step forward for those who try to convince people that marijuana is not “bad”and “stinky”. Similarly, the fact that pot, thanks to this video, can be associated with style and fashion is another way to promote the use of marijuana and push its image away from the usual Pineapple Express-kind of representations.

Did Marilyn Monroe really smoke pot? Possibly, if not probably. But this is really not the point, and it is certainly not the reason why the Spanish activists have decided to use the video. This is a provocation, a way to make us think carefully about cultural products and images, propaganda and truths.

For instance, think about choosing between buying pot on the street or using a sophisticated website (like Which one feels better? I bet you feel better when you buy pot that’s labeled as legal and clean. Am I right? You see what I am saying?

In the battle for legalization, images, metaphors and labels do matter!


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