The blond glamour girl and the sports superstar were doomed from the start.
The galaxy exploded when Marilyn Monroe, sex goddess, and Joe DiMaggio, Joltin’ Joe, married at City Hall in San Francisco on Jan. 14, 1954. Sequins at bat.
I have a black-and-white shot of the two kissing at the ceremony — Marilyn in that sweet black sweater with a white fur collar. I got it because it’s a journalistic artifact: The New York Times photo editor who chose the picture got demoted because Marilyn’s mouth was slightly open and the publisher considered it a breach of taste.
During their honeymoon in Japan, Monroe took a side trip to entertain the troops in Korea. The reception she got, singing “Diamonds Are a Girl’s Best Friend” in a glittery dress on a freezing day, was rapturous.
“It was so wonderful, Joe,” she told her new husband when she returned. “You never heard such cheering!”
“Yes, I have,” he replied churlishly.
And that was the end of that. DiMaggio married the luminous star and tried to snuff out her light. He got furious when she filmed the famous scene for Billy Wilder’s “The Seven Year Itch,” standing over a Gotham subway grate as her white pleated halter dress went up in a pouf. The self-regarding sportsman didn’t like the competition, so he tried to turn the most scintillating sex symbol in the world into a hausfrau cooking his spaghetti.
I’d like to think things have changed in seven decades, that men are thrilled to be in romances with high-powered women, try to be supportive and are happy to share the spotlight with magnetic partners, with nary a worry that they’ll be eclipsed by these wonder women.
But Chloe Domont’s sizzling erotic drama, “Fair Play,” which debuted Friday on Netflix, posits that competition between the genders is still a dicey issue.
Emily, played by Phoebe Dynevor, and Luke, played by Alden Ehrenreich, both work at a financial firm as analysts. They are in love and get secretly engaged. But when she is promoted to portfolio manager, a spot that Nepo Baby Luke assumed would be his, their relationship tanks.
A brooding Luke can’t or won’t have sex and accuses Emily of leapfrogging over him because she’s “hot” and must be sleeping with the boss — even though she clearly has superior financial instincts. He rattles her confidence by telling her that she dresses “like a cupcake,” referring to a small ruffle on her high-necked white blouse. Passion curdles into violence.
The movie revived my old feeling that, while the aroma of male power is an aphrodisiac for women, the perfume of female power can be a turnoff for men.
Have men evolved on the issue of equality more slowly? Even very successful men have confessed to me that they feel intimidated by powerful women, preferring mates who are more malleable and more awed by them.
And so, I worry for Taylor Swift.
Her romance with Travis Kelce, the charming Kansas City Chiefs tight end, has mesmerized the country in a Mars-Venus moment. The macho N.F.L. is thrilled that Taylor’s joyous appearances at games are luring more of her perfervid female fan base to watch football. (I admit, I tuned in to the Chiefs-Jets game to see the colliding constellations of “Swelce.”)
Swift seems to be in a win-win situation with Travis. Either she gets a boyfriend or another revenge song. (“There is nothing I do better than revenge,” she sings.)
And certainly, it’s a windfall for Travis in terms of soaring jersey sales, podcast audience and demand for appearances and ads.
But capitalism aside, will their crush get crushed by an avalanche of attention?
Even Travis’s brother, Jason, the All-Pro center for the Philadelphia Eagles, brought up the issue of Taylor as distraction. Were she and her squad — Blake Lively, Ryan Reynolds and Sophie Turner — deflecting the spotlight? Sequins on the gridiron.
After the singer’s appearance at MetLife Stadium last Sunday night, Jason asked Travis, “Take away your feelings for Taylor. What is your honest opinion on how the N.F.L. is treating celebrities at the games?”
Travis said it was exciting to show who was at the game but conceded, “They’re overdoing it a little bit, for sure, especially my situation.”
The brothers are good sports. On a recent episode of their podcast, they called a segment the “Swiftie Version,” answering questions like “What is a field goal?” from Swift fans who are now neophyte football fans.
Asked at a team news conference on Friday about his new paramour, Travis replied with a sexy smile, “I was on top of the world after the Super Bowl, and right now even more on top of the world, so it’s fun, man.”
And he doesn’t have that look in his eyes that guys who hook up with megafamous divas sometimes get, as if they want to run for daylight.
Swift understands the complicated dynamics better than anyone. As she sings in “Midnight Rain,” “He wanted a bride. I was making my own name.”
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