Tragic Souls: Elvis and Marilyn

Elvis and Marilyn, maybe no two figures have captured the public imagination as powerfully and abstractly. Surely, not in the same way as is typical; the uniqueness of their similar appeal is not necessarily in the representative manifestation of pure talent, although Elvis’s voice is surely among the greatest in history, its in the perceived innocence, in the feelings provoked by the more maternal instincts that exist in us; a fragile quality that conjures the need to protect, save if we can, shape even, the foolish notion that we alone would know how, and in this knowledge are maybe quite grand ourselves.

Elvis with his bright eyes and shaggy, exquisite beauty seems the embodiment of an unattainable human ideal. Marilyn, the shy, vulnerable, world-weary sensuality imagining the answer to man’s tacit inherent desire. Both, the physical manifestation of our individual ideas of our own possibilities. Both, as can be said, are all these things and none of them, for despite the limited boundaries of human desire lay two human souls, real flesh and blood, people both, haunting and tragic and if possible, examples of unfulfilled promise.

Much has been written of both, obviously, some worshipful, some cruel, always with the air of curiosity and the unknowable. The need to understand, to get a handle on feelings so uncomfortable inside ourselves, and with this comes the desire to possess, to categorize and devour; it is in the eventual failings of the seemingly perfect that allows us to live with our own limitations. It so then becomes imperative to hasten this outcome lest we be left our own blemished visage as companion in darkest night with full view of paradise untouchable having been banished from Arcadia. Our failings and inability to appreciate without destroying is what wounded these creatures so. Their appeal so reliant on the very quality which makes them so susceptible to the vulgarities of our world. The indictment of humanity is at times dark indeed.

They were born to a raging, undeveloped age, modern America still an infant; a time still early in mass media, the idea of image marketing still being formed and perfected, celebrity adulation still beyond human maturity; a new concept for the mortal mind to process beyond royalty. Ne’ er in existence did live the angel who reached such heights who wasn’t thrust oh so roughly down to earth by insolent peasant as punishment for the irreverent insult of daring; roughly crafted, the critical words sting like barbs against delicate flesh.

In memory less human than flawless ideal, less persons than fable, these frail searching souls; weaknesses attributed more to an inability to handle what to most seems so manageable, mundane circumstances, the nature of which would be less than a mild annoyance amongst the torrent of daily life, nonetheless drown the fragile soul.

Writer, artist. brettcurley@gmail.com.

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