The patriarchy and pin-up girls
With more movies, possibly, about Marilyn Monroe than there are her starring roles, it might be a good time to look at this icon. She is not the only prototypical gold digger, but she came to be seen as one. She also was the biggest sex object of all time, but that is a separate issue. To this day, there persists the idea of a gold digger.
A woman dependent upon a man to make a living may want luxury. However, most women dependent upon men do not want, or scheme, to obtain luxury. They want a human condition, called security.
Being a gold digger is not the preferred stance of a large majority of women. Yet, we hear stories about how women are so often gold diggers.
You will hear this accusation, also, from men accused of grooming young ladies who seek careers in music, film, sports, or online.
Con jobs and old movies
Nor are all gold diggers female. However, when they are male, we more often call them con men. There are more real-life examples of con men out there than there are actual female gold diggers, at least of those that make the news.
I will leave it up to you as to whether you see Donald Trump as a con man, or Melania Trump, as a gold digger. If one, or either, is guilty, who does the most damage to people overall?
Back in the times when Gentlemen Prefer Blondes was made, a woman was largely unable to forge an equal footing in the world of men, but the characters, Lorelei Lee (Marilyn Monroe) and Dorothy Shaw, (Jane Russell) made a pretty good attempt. They are showgirls, one of the only jobs one could get for above standard wages.
Do they use glamor and sex appeal to do their jobs? Absolutely. Do they also use real talent, extreme determination, and hard work? Yes, again. Do they sell sex? No, they are seeking the aforementioned security in the form of commitment and family.
In one scene, Dorothy, openly mentions that she is looking for a fit man rather than a wealthy one. Lorelei, on the other fake-jewel-encrusted hand, is already in love with a millionaire, Gus.
The millionaire’s father is having Lorelei followed and investigated. Lorelei is a naive and flirtatious, fun-loving girl who loves sparkles, so she gets herself trapped.
History twists her story
Here is the finale. Gentlemen Prefer Blondes is not about two gold diggers.
Essentially, by the 1980s when Madonna made her Material Girl video, it carried the same message and had the same outcome.
“Experience has made me rich and now they’re after me.” The star in Material Girl, sang. Another showgirl, she has danced and sang her way to the top, now she is open to dating other men who “save their pennies,” as she has saved hers.
The message in Gentlemen Prefer Blondes is even more blatant. Lorelei explains she is not looking to “steal Gus’s money”, but an actual position of being a daughter. And a wife. Lorelei longs to be an heir out of genuine love and belonging, as opposed to being an outsider.
Although I have met men who brag of having taken advantage for material gain, I have yet to meet a woman who boasts she cares nothing for love, only for riches.
Family values won’t happen without equality
The message in the movie is about family and belonging. Just as the rich dad is protective and caring about Gus, Lorelei makes it clear that she is just as worthy of such protection, caring, and family belonging.
If a rich man has a daughter, wouldn’t he be just as protective?
Her point is, the point of the movie is, we hope so!
We lost the meaning of both the movie and the song. In one generation it was Marilyn. In another, it was Madonna.
But there is something much more socially dangerous going on, and that is the assumption that women want luxury, status, wealth, and power, more than they want to have love and connection.
There is an idea that women don’t want to earn their money, just steal it. And, if she is caught in any compromising situation, she is to blame. This is why so very much sexual assault occurs without reporting.
It is not just a woman’s sexual habits being judged, it is her motivation, and not his.
Imagine a world where there were as many opportunities for women as there are for men to be president, pope, NFL or NBA stars, superheroes, or anything else. Imagine a world where women owned their own bodily autonomy, or had the choice of being wives and mothers, but they were paid well for it!
We are still a long, long way from a world where there are just as many such women as there are men.
This has to do with more than just politics. Yes, women have to fight harder for a say, but they also have to fight much, much harder to be considered worthy of compensation.
Choice, voice, and competition
The movie Gentlemen Prefer Blondes is presented as a story about gold diggers more often than not. It displays that we like the idea of women competing against each other for men. This is despite the fact that the whole plot hinges on the two women cooperating and being such close friends that they risk everything to support each other.
It was not until I was an adult that the message of this film came across — loud and clear. Women are awesome. Talented. Powerful. Strong. Loyal. Determined.
Back in the day, diamonds were worth something. In the opening song of the musical, Lorelei sings Diamonds are a girl’s best friend. She is not talking about stealing jewels. She describes basically, that men can be so foolish they will risk their lives for “honor” or to express violence by competing in duels. She goes on to describe common situations where women will be cheated on, or dumped by, men.
To secure wealth, then, the smart woman took her share (not more!) as an insurance policy against poverty.
Also back in the day, to be ruined was to be cast to the streets and sell your body — actual body, not just sex appeal — to be able to survive. The women who did this, (and by many accounts still do this) are not involved in prostitution to get orgasms, but to stay alive.
There is a huge difference between these so-called vices when one is supposed to be the one using someone, and if they are the one being used.
This post was previously published on medium.com.
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