Today I was quickly browsing through my personal Twitter account (which I do less frequently lately… I think there are too many young, still immature people in my list of followers…!) and saw someone had Tweeted something about how Marilyn Monroe was divorced multiple times, had an affair with a President, and died from an overdose, and poked fun at girls who are always quoting her.
This got me to thinking about iconic characters–in real life and I suppose in writing as well. I’m an Audrey fan myself. By “fan” I mean I have two enormous pieces of artwork in my bedroom depicting her face… two copies of the TIME magazine “Remembering Audrey” edition… one of her biographies… a “What Would Audrey Do?” book… various pieces of stationary with her face and quotes on them… always an Audrey calendar… and I’m still building my collection of her films. Oh, and a fleece blanket with the infamous “Breakfast at Tiffany’s” image of her with the tiara and long-stemmed cigarette holder. It is an ongoing obsession, needless to say.
I don’t know all that much about Ms. Monroe truthfully. I know the image, and I feel she was slightly misunderstood. She was a beautiful, charismatic woman who charmed nearly everyone she came across. She was the ultimate sex symbol. Of course she is an iconic character. But therein lies the difference between an icon in real life, and a truly made-up character in a book. You know more about the character in the book than you do about the icon in real life. They are iconic for their image, for what they are perceived to represent. Until you dig further into who they were/are… and their life… you don’t really know who you are idolizing. Children who idolize Harry Potter know precisely who Harry Potter is, at his core, because J.K. Rowling so perfectly told his story.
Writing is so fascinating to me for that fact. You can make people feel so deeply connected to a character who isn’t even real.
But of course, they are real. They have qualities that can be found in the real world. Perhaps few and far between, and not the exact same combination of qualities, but they do come from somewhere. If nowhere else, than from the hopefulness of the writer who has created them.