Homage to Marilyn Monroe, Life as an Object

Hi Everyone,

Sober thoughts today. Marilyn Monroe once said that once you are famous, you experience “Life as an Object”. What she was saying is that when you become famous, and are a public person, you cease to become a person in other people’s minds, and anything goes, you can be treated as an object or a thing, and they forget that you are actually a real live human being at the other end. It’s an interesting comment, and I have found it to be true, over the many years that I have been well known.

The internet has de-personalized the connection between people. People exist in greater isolation, many work at home on their computers and no longer work at an office, where they see people every day and have to relate to them in a humane way. People do things like Facebook and chat rooms, where they collect thousands of ‘friends’, people they don’t know and will never meet, but they are connected through their computer in a ‘virtual’ way. People date on line or by text, they connect and disconnect, start ‘relationships’ and end them, all virtual and not real. Young women have talked to me about being proposed to by text or on line, and dumped just as quickly by text, with no human contact, no phone call, no sound of the other person’s voice. And at the most extreme end, kids and even some adults play video games which ‘kill’ the players virtually, and then shocking public crimes replicate those games and many real people die. I’m not of the old school that television corrupts our kids, or is the source of violence in America, but I do think that the lack of real human connection on these new ‘cyber’ opportunities has had a MAJOR impact on how people relate to each other, connect or don’t, how they behave, what they do, what they say, and they lose sight of the fact that there is a real live human being at the other end. It is something to think about. Sometimes it is better to simply pick up the phone and have a conversation, have an immediate exchange, rather than nuking someone and shooting off a sometimes vicious email in the heat of the moment, when all you have to do is write it and hit the Send button. No one hears the other person’s voice anymore, everything is conducted by email and text.

To get back to Ms. Monroe, I have found what she said to be true, long before the Internet became popular, and now that cyber relations are here, I find it to be particularly so. As a famous person, people forget that you get up in the morning, have breakfast, have children and dogs, a job, heartbreaks and joys and deal with real life. They forget that your children are as troublesome as anyone else’s, that your romances or marriages fall apart, that life can be disappointing, that you get sick, have headaches or stomach aches, that you have to pay your bills and have similar worries to everyone else’s, that your loved ones die like anyone else’s, that your heart gets broken just like non-famous people. As a famous person, they see you as an object, a target, an object of jealousy, and too often someone not real to them, to beat up. You become an easy target for people’s frustrations, forgetting that you have your own. Like all famous people, I have always gotten letters from crackpots. What I do for a living is pretty benign. I sit at my desk and make up stories, about the things that trouble or delight or worry all of us in life. If I make those stories real enough, you enjoy them and that’s about it. I make money doing it, with which I support my family. All the equations are pretty simple. And yes, I make a lot of money doing it, and I also have 9 kids, and have had my share of heartbreaks, divorces, a son who died, and some sick kids at various times. My life is not so different than yours. And like anyone in the public eye, I’ve had my share of crazy letters over the years, some death threats, blackmail and extortion threats, a woman who once told me I deserved to die because I got the time difference wrong between LA and New York. (I make mistakes too!!) There was a man who used to threaten to kill me once a year, always at about the same time, for many many years, and on the same day he would write and threaten to kill the pope, the Queen of England, and a famous wealthy socialite who was often in the news. The first time (after maybe 20 years) that he didn’t write and threaten me, I worried about him, and wondered if he was sick. There have always been a lot of crazies out there, and most are harmless. They used to write the letters, put a stamp on them, walk them to the mailbox, and these crazy letters would come in through my fan mail. But in the last 10 years, the tone of those letters has changed. Drastically. I still get death threats, threats to kidnap me and my children, extortion and blackmail threats, but with the anonymity of the Internet, and the immediacy of it (spew poisonous horrors and push send), now those letters come in with terrible, vicious threats, descriptions of what they’d like to do to me, how i deserve to die, and how they’d like to do it, and the terrible things they hope will happen to me, and what they plan to do. And some have even tried. But the lengths to which people will go, the appalling things they say has ramped up exponentially. A probably meek fan in real life, will write me a letter that is so vile, insulting and terrifying that you have to wonder what goes on in their heads. The Internet has become an open forum for bullies and some truly crazy, maybe even dangerous, people, who can attack you any way they want and hide in the shadows of the internet (although ultimately law enforcement does find them, and I’ve had to resort to that a number of times when the threats were too violent). People who wouldn’t think of being rude to their neighbors or hurt a flea, write me vicious attacks they should be ashamed of, and insult me in every way they can. Of course, I get wonderful fan letters too, thousands of them, but the vicious ones shock me. I respond to all my fan mail, and only twice have the letters been so viciously insulting and personally outrageous that I wrote back and actually said, “What is wrong with you? How can you write someone something like this?” One apologized immediately and said she didn’t know I’d see the letter (then why write it?) and I never heard from the other one again. I guess there will always be crazies out there who write vicious letters and threats, but two things occur to me, the Internet and its anonymity help them do it better, and the fact that I’m famous makes it okay to them: as Ms. Monroe said, I am only an object to them, not a person, and accordingly to some I don’t deserve respect, kindness, humanity or compassion. The things people would never dare say to someone they know, they say to me, in the most vicious ways they can think of, because to them I am not a person, I’m famous so I am an object. (If people don’t like my books, there is a simple solution, don’t buy them. You don’t need to threaten to burn down my house, kill me or my children, or run me down with their car).

I’m sure that some famous people are less than admirable. And I’m no saint by any means, but I’m just a person. One of those horrifying letters came in last week, on a day that one of my children had a terrifying accident at home (she’s okay now), I was in the hospital with her for two days, lots of blood, lots of pain, and all very scary, and as a Mom, I had my heart in my mouth. On the same day, I got one of those hideous letters, attempting blackmail and extortion, telling me what a terrible person I am, and what they would like to do to me, all kinds of threats of defamation, accusation, and physical harm. As a human being, it is incredibly disheartening to think that you can become an object in that way, that people want to hurt, harm and scare you, just because you have done well in life. And in spite of fame, I get sick, my kids get sick, my children get hurt, people I love die, and even my dogs. Just like everyone else’s. I don’t know what the answer is, but I think we need to put back the humanity in our communications to other people, to remember that there are real live people at the other end, to remember that becoming famous is the result of hard work in most cases, not a license to become a target for everyone’s craziness, bad behavior and bad manners. As the object of that kind of attention, it shocks me immeasurably and wounds my soul. It’s something I deal with every day. And I am sad to say that Ms. Monroe was right.

love, danielle

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9 Comments so far
  1. jean November 20, 2013 1:42 pm

    No one should live in fear, however, the times have changed so much-not all good. I hate the text messaging-doesn’t matter where or when-in the middle of a conversation, all public places, driving down the street or 70miles an hour down a 4 lane highway. Watch out here I come!!!! Guess I am of the older generation. I don’t understand hate mail-can’t see much of you that deserves a threat of any kind.

  2. S B Hadley Wilson November 20, 2013 6:14 pm

    I’m so sorry to hear that’s the reality of being famous. I always imagined that being the case. Stay safe.

  3. carol oliver November 21, 2013 6:19 pm

    WOW dANIELLE…
    THAT BLOG WAS SOMETHING…AND YES YOU ARE A PERSON….TO ME YOU ARE AND ALWAYS WILL BE…I HAVE ALWAYS ADMIRED YOU, READ YOUR BOOKS…ALL UP TO
    DATE ON THEM, AND, COLLECT THEM….I STILL HAVE THE EMAIL YOU SENT ME MANNY YEARS AGO, BEFORE I COULD EVEN GET THEM OFF A COMPUTER, A LIST OF ALL YOUR BOOKS, THAT I CARRIED IN MY HANDBAG FOR YEARS AND YEARS, COLLECTING AND SEARCHING FOR ALL YOUR BOOKS, ONE BY ONE, TO READ AND SAVE.
    I STILL NEED JUST THE POEMS, AND CHILDRENS BOOKS…SO SAYING THAT, NOW YOU MENTION MARILYN…SHE IS ALSO A PART OF MY LIFE, EVERY DAY…PHOTOS,THOUGHTS, ARTICLES, AND OF COURSE, I WEAR CHANEL #5…AND VISIT MARILYN EVERY YEAR. OK ENOUGH, THANK YOU FOR THIS BLOG,VERY INTERESTING…AND THANK GOD YOUR CHILD IS OK…
    CAROL O. IN SO. CALIF.

  4. Bernadette Estacio November 21, 2013 6:37 pm

    You are truly an amazing woman and I am a big fan of yours…we are all humans..unfortunately others are sick…Stay safe Danielle..Take care and God bless.

  5. Kerrie Cassem (KC) November 23, 2013 9:17 am

    Brilliantly written, “Life as an Object” but of course I would come to expect nothing less. There are those of us who cherish our moments spent with you; you take us places beyond our imagination, you guide us to explore other thoughts, feelings, and emotions, and you gently remove us from everyday situations for a moment in which we can forget about everything happening in our lives and the world around us. We welcome and cherish these moments and thank you for being a part of our lives.

  6. Laurie November 29, 2013 5:12 am

    Thanks for the interesting topic. I’m sorry about the toxic stuff vented your way. Hope you and your kid are finding space to relax and heal. Internet seems like a wild west, a space where boundaries and order are fuzzy, if they exist at all. Though I try to view it as neutral amoral tool or container, it can also be easy to be lulled into disconnect from body… and feet… and heart.

  7. Sunday December 1, 2013 7:41 am

    Oh my goodness, Danielle! I never realized that you had to endure so much nastiness and even death threats on a regular (daily) basis! I feel so bad for you because you do not deserve that at all. If it makes any difference, I just want you to know that you have always been a ‘real’ person to me. I could never even think of being jealous of someone who inspires me the way you do. I love reading your blogs especially when you tell us the wonderful places you have been to, or the interesting people you have met. I even love hearing about the mistakes you make and what you learned from them. You are truly a beautiful woman from the inside-out. My wish for you is that you and your family / loved ones will always remain protected and safe. May you never lose your compassion for humanity (for a single moment, I had to smile when you said you actually worried about the nasty person who suddenly one year stopped writing!) because your level of compassion is what makes you the wonderful person that you are. Bless you.

  8. Marsha Walker January 18, 2014 2:10 am

    Thank you for sharing the difficulties of being a public person. We who live quieter lives never think about those things, but you have to toughen yourself daily to keep them from getting you down. I am sorry you have to cope with wacko people, because you’ve earned everything you have from sheer hard work, as you say. Even the marriages were hard work; I’ve been through three (one divorce, two deaths) and marriage requires a lot of work, heartache, reward, etc. You’re an amazing woman, Ms. Steel, and the more I read your blogs, the more impressed and respectful I am of you.

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