“For the founding Titans, this was always more than a base of operation. It was a home. Here, we could develop our abilities, hone our strengths, and overcome our weaknesses – together. It would be a safe haven. Free from judgmental eyes watching over our shoulders.”
Okay, class. The lesson today is: what is the Teen Titans “Mission Statement?” This. All of this.
This is what the Titans were founded for. This is what the team means, why it resonates so well with young demographics in every generation, and why it continues to baffle me that recent incarnations got it so damn wrong.
The heart of the Teen Titans is the idea of building a family among your peers. It always had been. And whenever that gets removed from the series, I find myself completely uninterested in the team no matter who is on it.
It has often been said that the biggest tragedy of Marilyn’s life is that she put her trust in the wrong people. After a childhood filled with a bewildering array of adults who were in loco parentis one day, out of her life the next, putting her personal faith and trust in anybody must have seemed a very risky business. In particular, Marilyn always found it hard to make friends with women her own age. In the words of Elyda Dougherty, “She was just too beautiful. She couldn’t help it that men’s wives looked at her and got so jealous they wanted to throw rocks!” Friendships with older women were much easier. Marilyn maintained lifelong relationships with Xenia Chekhov and Mary Karger Short, though in Arthur Miller’s view these bonds were not without their own complications, “veering from sentimental idealization to black suspicious that they disapproved of her.” For the most part, Marilyn friendships with women were only with those who she did not consider to be sexual competition.
During her young adult life Marilyn was so driven in her desire to become a star, that the people she associated with all had something that could help her achieve her dream. They tended to be studio bosses (Joseph M. Schenck) or agents (Johnny Hyde); at least these are the relationships that have been documented by biographers. Even after she became an established star, Marilyn continued to seek out the company of people she felt could be useful to her intellectually or professionally, or whom she admired (for example Michael Chekhov). Undoubtedly her initial attraction to Arthur Miller had much to do with his status as a prominent left-leaning intellectual; her devotion to Lee and Paula Strasberg also had a hint of this. Marilyn’s longest friendships, surviving the length of her career, were with a select group of journalists and photographers, such as Sidney Skolsky and Eve Arnold, on whom she felt she could rely for allegiance, support, and, sometimes, guidance.
Fickle as she may have been in choosing and losing her friends, Marilyn was loyal, kind, and dedicated to those she considered to be her friends. Marilyn’s generosity is well-known. If, while out shopping, a friend expressed admiration for some item, she quite often made a mental note, called back later, and had the item delivered. She was also very solicitous of friends who were sick, and would make caring visits to make sure ill friends had everything they needed. This generosity of spirit extended to a loyalty to people she respected. For example, Marilyn refused to play along with the Fox publicity ploy of rivalry with fellow actresses Betty Grable and Jane Russell, with whom she was working on Gentlemen Prefer Blondes (1953). Marilyn also stayed very close to the children of her ex-husbands, long after her relationships with their fathers had failed.
Several times in her life Marilyn dropped a whole set of friends, either because she felt she had moved beyond them, or because she thought that they were no good for her. Journalist W.J. Weatherby put it to her directly that she discarded people. Marilyn replied, “I’ve never dropped anyone I believed in. My trouble is, I trust people too much. I believe in them too much and I go on believing in them when the signs are already there. You get a lot of disappointments.” And indeed, there were plenty of people, men and women, with whom she came into contact who were not interested in Marilyn the person, but Marilyn the trophy, Marilyn the status symbol, Marilyn the source of anecdotes. To this day, a number of people who claim to have been Marilyn’s “intimate friends,” despite little evidence to back this up, make a decent living from the Marilyn chat show circuit.
Marilyn was not, it seems, one to talk around an issue. If she was upset, or when she fell out with friends, she spoke her mind to the person concerned, and that was that. However, she avoided the many opportunities available to her to voice her personal grievances in public, or to respond to accusations made publicly about her.
Biographers agree that Marilyn’s most loyal friend of all was former husband Joe DiMaggio. Either side of their bitter nine-month married life together, Joe was always there for her when she needed him; he never exploited her for his own ends, and he cherished her memory in death by maintaining a complete and respectful silence about their relationship.
Marilyn had many actor friends: Robert Mitchum, Dean Martin, Montgomery Clift, Tom Ewell, Alex D’Arcy, David Wayne, Frankie Vaughan, Casey Adams, Zero Mostel, Wally Cox, Marlon Brando, Eli Wallach, Jane Russell, Peter Lawford, and Frank Sinatra. Montgomery Clift was a special friend. He once said, “Maybe Marilyn and I would have got together one day if we weren’t so much alike.”
Arthur Miller experienced the full course of Marilyn’s affections from admiration to friendship to love to disappointment to loathing. Referring to the first year they were together,1955, Miller writes, “She was at this point incapable of condemning or even of judging people who had damaged her, and to be with her was to be accepted, like moving out into a kind of sanctifying light from a life where suspicion was common sense.” By the end of their relationship, he too had become one of the traitors: “She had no means of preventing the complete unraveling of her belief in a person once a single thread was broken, and if her childhood made this understandable, it didn’t make it easier for her or anyone around her to bear.”
To some degree, Marilyn psychoanalysts fulfilled the listening ear function of friendship from 1955, when she first began regular sessions. In the last years of her life she was having sessions with Dr. Ralph Greenson almost every day of the week, sometimes even twice a day. Add to this brew Marilyn’s sometimes debilitating feelings of low self-esteem, occasional feelings of being unworthy of true friendship or incapable or reciprocating it, and friendship becomes a part of a general equation of unhappiness.
Marilyn was a big phone fan, particularly during nights when she could not sleep. She would call at the oddest hours and seek solace or just some chat from her friends.
A major source of support for Marilyn was the entourage she built up around her, a family of people who were there for her partly out of genuine feeling, but originally because she paid their wages: her hairdressers, maids, masseur, publicists, and secretaries. With these people Marilyn indulged her intense curiosity about social behavior, about how “normal” families are and behave. She was constantly asking her New York maid Lena Pepitone about her routine, her family in Italy, and her husband and sons, almost as if she was desperately seeking to learn the lines for a role she wanted so much to fill.
Marilyn used to ask her friends to “hold a good thought” for her. To this day, countless fans around the world continue to do so.