What is the meaning of the Marilyn Monroe quote, "Hollywood is a place where they'll pay you a thousand dollars for a kiss and fifty cents for your soul."

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Ashley Kannan eNotes educator| Certified Educator

Monroe's quote is one of the best statements against the studio system that dominated Hollywood prior to the 1970s.  The Hollywood studio system did their best to ensure that stars were paraded for the openings of films and to ensure that profits would be on the rise for studio executives.  Yet, Monroe's quote brings to light how this studio system did little for protecting actors and actresses if they were not deemed as economically valuable the studio.  The fact that the system would pay "fifty cents for your soul" brings to light how so many actors and actresses were discarded by the studio executives.  This was a setting in which new acting techniques and innovations were not as important as making money for the studio.  Monroe's quote illuminates this and helps to make clear how what was "on screen" was deemed far more important than what happened off of it.  Actors and actresses were used as grist for the money making apparatus and Monroe's quote raises awareness to this condition.  In this configuration, Monroe was one of the first voices to actually speak out against what was happening, a reality that stars would later take to heart as they began to demand their own compensation and control over their artistic measures and endeavors.  In this quote, Monroe proves herself to be ahead of her time.

mwestwood eNotes educator| Certified Educator

During the 1940s and the 1950s the major Hollywood studios had actors under contract and were able to exploit them to a great extent.  These actors were made to work long hours and pose for publicity shots and make public appearances as part of this contract.

Exploited for her sexuality and Cinderella appeal, Marilyn Monroe was never fully appreciated for her acting talent and her intelligence. She joined other actresses as the stereotypical "dumb, sexy blonde" whose opinions were inconsequential.  Exploited for her physical attributes, men rarely took Marilyn seriously and certainly not as possessing the intellect that she did have.  In fact, attention was "often tinged with condescension and contempt." Thus, in her failure to attain the acclaim and respect that she deserved,  Marily felt that people only paid "a nickel for her soul" and she began to take drugs for her depressed feelings. This action led to the spiraling descent of Miss Marilyn Monroe.

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