Michelle Williams is tantalizing in the movie, My Week with Marilyn. She ensures Ms Monroe is present, a disarming combination of innocent child and sensual siren. It’s not the sleek exterior that seduces; it’s the contradictions that open us up.
Marilyn presents like a cut on the body. Skin burst open to soft pulpy flesh beneath. A vulnerable inner world exposed to scrutiny and infection. One response is to leer but longing might be closer to the core.
Like a perfume that lingers, Marilyn was in the air this week while I had coffee with a friend. Had I noticed, said my friend that our meetings with colleagues tended to leave out the vulnerable bits? That we seemed more intense about what we’d achieved rather than what we could become? For people concerned about the soulful life that can be disappointing.
Obvious vulnerability makes watchers feel uncomfortable. Out of that discomfort, the tables are sometimes turned. The vulnerable person becomes the victim, the scapegoat, and the dodgy one, able to be blamed or discounted. We learn that while society talks about valuing vulnerability, it’s best dealt with in the privacy of your own room or in a bit of moan bonding with your mates.
Despite that double standard, people are interested in vulnerability. The millions of hits on Brene Brown’s, The Power of Vulnerability attest to that. But while people might like to watch her talk on Youtube, when she appears as a public speaker she is often asked to avoid mentioning her shame and vulnerability research. It’s too uncomfortable up close.
Although we ache for symbols of vulnerability, we are quick to turn our back on them. Perhaps we instinctively know the power of vulnerability to demand more of us than we are prepared to give. Perhaps that means we can only approach it through symbols brave enough to stand there so we can tear them down.
Jesus crucified is the ultimate symbol of vulnerability. A man steeped in his religious tradition, high on mercy and fuelled by compassion who, in the end, become too much to handle. The mood turns. He is executed. His vulnerability flayed and nailed, exposing our violence that runs like a deep cut across human existence. It’s too awful to contemplate. No wonder shops are full of Easter eggs instead of crucifixes.
Easter is for sitting with our contradictions, our conflicting desires and emotions that come wrapped up as a package of disturbing human vulnerability. Let Marilyn sit with you this Easter. She understands the contradictions.