Essays

Essays which are either creative or factual.

Marilyn

“Hollywood is a place where they’ll pay you a thousand dollars for a kiss and fifty cents for your soul.” One of many famous quotes by Marilyn Monroe, an iconic sex symbol and talented actress. She has become the paragon of celebrity and she, along with many others, have experienced all sides of fame and have become irremovable subjects of pop culture.

The painting entitled “Marilyn” by Andy Warhol is a famous piece of pop art created in 1962. Pop Art developed in the mid-1950s and draws on recognisable images from popular culture. Pop artists elevated commonplace objects to fine art. Andy Warhol’s work usually commented on the condition of society. He was fascinated with society’s obsession with fame and noted that this obsession was almost religious.

Marilyn, however, was treated by society in a similar way as an everyday object: used then thrown away. Maybe this was one of the comments Warhol was making. Monroe was born Norma Jeane Mortenson in 1926 in Los Angeles. In 1946 Monroe had her break and signed her first film contract, changing her name to Marilyn Monroe and dyeing her hair blonde. Within a decade she had become a coveted international star despite her insecurities as an actress.

Fame was something Monroe had to deal with on a daily basis. She found it difficult to deal with strangers obsessing over her.  Fame placed a magnifying glass to her life but she did, however, realise that fame is fickle. Fame also contributed to the failure of her three marriages.

In the end she shocked the world when she was found dead in 1962 at her Los Angeles home. Speculation began that she was murdered but official reports claimed it was a suicide caused by barbiturate poisoning, a drug used for treating depression. It is believed that twelve people killed themselves within one day of hearing their favourite star was dead. One victim even wrote the note, “If the most wonderful and the most beautiful soul in the world thinks she has nothing to live for, then what do I have?”

So what makes so many people obsessed with fame? An American psychologist discovered that in the 1950s 12% of children agreed with the statement “I am an important person”. By the end of the 1980s that figure changed to 80%.

People constantly aspire towards fame. They do not realise that fame can control an individual and can manifest self-doubt. Fame can corrupt and destroy.  Stars are humans too and also have problems. They are chewed up by the public and either swallowed or spat out – constantly judged and evaluated.

Lady Gaga, pop superstar, has many references to fame in her work. Last year she released a fragrance called Fame. It is the first ever black perfume. One of its components is the belladonna flower, which is poisonous. Lady Gaga explained the fragrance saying, “It’s black like the soul of fame, but invisible once airborne.” She is making a comment on the darker side of fame.

Not everyone deals with fame in the same way, take Princess Diana. She was born Diana Spencer in 1961 and became a Lady in 1975. She married Prince Charles, heir to the British throne and had two sons, Prince William and Prince Harry. She was a favoured member of the British royal family. Diana used her fame to serve the people. She supported many charities and worked with people in need.

She divorced Prince Charles in 1996 but  continued to support charities and help raise awareness. She used her celebrity status to help contribute to a more compassionate world. She also had her insecurities – suffering from bulimia and depression. While in Paris on the night of 30 August 1997 her car was trying to evade the pursuing paparazzi. The car crashed. She died a few hours later in a Parisian hospital. Had it not been for her fame and the world’s obsession with her, she might have still been alive today.

Quite interestingly Elton John wrote a song called “Candle in the Wind” in 1973 in honour of Marilyn Monroe. He rewrote the song in 1997 as a tribute to Princess Diana. In this version he calls her “England’s rose” and says, “Now you belong to heaven and the stars spell out your name.”

Fame gives one an exceptional amount of power. They can choose to use it for the betterment of the world or they can manipulate it for personal gain. Fame is like a drug, it seems to provide brief euphoria but in the long run it can be very damaging. As Andy Warhol once predicted quite succinctly, “In the future everybody will be world famous for fifteen minutes.” What will you do with your fame?

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Reflective Essay: The Pearl

It may seem a cliché to say I remember that day like it was yesterday, but there is a reason for clichés: they hold truth. I was in a decrepit house situated in a small village that was too insignificant to even be considered in demographical statistics. It was the type of place where everyone knew everyone yet everyone was a stranger.

The memory is engrained into my psyche. It was a Sunday afternoon. The sky was clear but in the distance I could see a storm approaching. The evil moved rapidly and began to envelop the beauty. It was summer so storms were not unusual, but something about the approaching storm made me anxious. It was as if my animalistic instinctual nature had caused this response. It was a feeling of wanting to flee, like bucks and birds do when they sense an approaching tempest. I heard the fleeting sound of crows and the distant howling of jackals in the hills.

It was then that I saw the eye. The eye of the storm. It was huge. Swirling. I felt confused. I had never experienced such a storm, I had only heard about such occurrences. As the storm began I, as if by instinct, ran into the basement of the house. There was a small window in the basement where I was able to view the storm from just above ground level.

I saw a dark funnel punch its way through the clouds. A tornado. It touched down about one hundred meters from the house. I could hear the vicious howling of the wind. Trees were being ripped up, torn apart and discarded. Pieces of metal from surrounding structures became flying pieces shrapnel. A chuck hit the basement window startling me into a further panic. A diagonal crack stretched across the window. The whirlwind came closer and closer. I heard the roof of the old house rip off. I suddenly felt a strong force hit my body and then…

I woke up.

I was sweating. My heart was pounding. It was early morning. I realised it was all a dream. No, a nightmare. The thing which was most striking was my epiphany: I had awoken from one nightmare into the next. A nightmare much more real: reality.

I sat up in my bed and contemplated the nightmare. I found it unnervingly parallel to my own life. I remember a teacher once told me that the rich symbolism in dreams can be interpreted to tell you more about your subconscious mind. I realised the storm and the tornado that was in my pasture of life was all the hate that I had to endure in my life as a result of being different. This destructive tornado had destroyed many, torn lives apart and left remnants that needed to be rebuilt, often over many years. Just as the tornado is part of nature, so too is hate part of the human being, but that does not make it any less destructive.

At the beginning of the dream the sky was clear just as my life was and although I knew the storm of hate was inevitably going to happen, I still felt fearful. When the tornado hit, I tried to protect myself by going into the basement, the basement within my own life, a place of self-consciousness and withdrawal. My basement allowed only a small window from which to view the approaching hardship.

I got out of my bed and walked over to my bedroom window. The curtains were still drawn. As I opened them I saw the cloudy, grey, sombre sky. I was staring at the clouds when something beautiful happened. I saw a speck of blue emerging. The clouds were clearing, the storm of reject was passing.

As I walked away from the window and started to get ready for life, I realised that although I had been subjected to such hate and rejection over the years, I knew there would be a clear sky on the other side of the storm. I tied my shoelaces of faith, picked up my bag and walked out of the front door. The sunshine splashed over my smiling face. I stepped out into the world a braver, more confident man. The world was my oyster and I was the pearl.

Editorial: You are what you are worth

Class divisions are evident in modern society and have most likely existed since the dawn of time. It is a burden of society and such divides create formidable pressures within a country, particularly for those at the bottom of the pyramid.

In the Elizabethan era there was the Great Chain of Being, placing God at the top and the ‘lesser’ people at the bottom. Four hundred years later and society still has distinct divisions. Take the townships – for example – in our own country. Often an informal settlement lies next to a highly developed urban area, such as Alexander Township which lies right on the doorstep of Sandton. Quite a juxtaposition.

Most class divisions are based on one concept: wealth. The more one has the higher up one is. More likely than not, once you are in a class you are there for life. Take the slums in India for example. The occupants are supposedly the scum of the earth and will most likely never change their societal status. Quiet interestingly though are those that do manage to shatter the status quo. These individuals manage to demonstrate a few common traits such as courage, bravery, determination and, of course, a helping hand from Lady Luck.

Class divisions establish an important mechanism for effective functioning: order. Everyone should be entitled to, and have, all basic human rights, but as long as currency exists so too will classes. Imagine a world with no classes. Most likely a picture of a red Communist flag comes to mind.

Not much can be done to prevent class divisions. Money is the greatest dictator of them all. But do not fear. Defying the odds is an option – at a price of course: hard work, dedication and a great deal of luck.