Thanks to years of sexist stereotypes, "Marilyn Monroe" and "feminism" rarely appear in the same sentence. But a closer look at her life reveals a thoughtful, progressive woman years ahead of her time. In fact, she once challenged Hollywood in an epic battle, shattering boundaries and changing the course of American cinema along the way.
Monroe rose to fame in the early 1950s, the zenith of Hollywood's Studio System. Back then there was one way to make it as an actor: Sign with one of the "Big Five" (MGM, Paramount, Warner Brothers, RKO, or, in Monroe's case, Twentieth Century Fox) and resign yourself to years of glamorous indentured servitude. Forget about talent, creativity, or even free will—the studio controlled your every move, from the roles you accepted to the directors you worked with to how often you went to the bathroom and occasionally even whom you married. The Big Five all owned theater chains, virtually ensuring that their films would be bought, regardless of quality. Actors and directors were mere cogs in the wheel, forced to churn out formulaic trash against their will for decades. No one dared to defy the studio moguls—except for Monroe, who, in 1955, rattled the system to its brittle core.