From 'My Week With Marilyn' To 'Smash': Marilyn Monroe Continues To Shine 50 Years Later

It seems gentlemen aren't the only ones who prefer blondes. No matter which corner of pop culture you love to loiter in, it's likely you've stumbled upon Marilyn Monroe recently—billowing white skirt, coy smile, breathy come-ons and all. There's NBC's new series, "Smash," which debuted last night, and chronicles two Broadway neophytes' fight for the titular role in a production based on the bombshell's life. Then there's Michelle William's Oscar-nominated turn as the actress in last year's "My Week With Marilyn." Add in Nicki Minaj's latest leak, "Marilyn Monroe," and a playful homage from a certain "Gossip Girl," and clearly, Marilyn is having a moment.

It's all a bit curious considering the woman formerly known as Norma Jeane died nearly 50 years ago. Is she simply gone but not forgotten, or are there greater forces pushing us to re-examine the life of a woman whose life was rarely free of examination?

"We could say that the huge resurgence is a result of it being the 50th anniversary of her death this year. Although this probably has something to do with it, it certainly isn't all," said Michelle Morgan, author of "Marilyn Monroe: Private and Undisclosed." "What does Marilyn have that keeps her memory shining bright? Well, I think that really depends on who you're speaking to.

"For myself, I feel that her memory goes on because she was an exceptionally talented, beautiful woman who was deeply under-estimated in her time," Michelle continued. "She had strength; a desire to better herself constantly; and was—despite what many people believe—a huge fighter, both for herself and for other people. Her talent, strength and perseverance is inspiring to me and many others. I think that is truly the reason she is still popular today—she is an inspiration."

Of course, thanks to a never-ending litany of tributes (both cheeky and serious), the actress' legacy has never really waned. "It's hard to ignore our national pastime (loving Marilyn) when she's the subject of an Oscar-nominated performance and the central theme of a hugely-hyped TV show," said NextMovie's Brooke Tarnoff. "But she's never actually been out of style, as you can see from the never-ending onslaught of Marilyn impersonations in media. Honestly, when isn't a blonde bombshell relevant? No one is ever going to kick a Marilyn out of bed for eating crackers."

Truer words, indeed. Yet, Sarah Churchwell, author of "The Many Lives of Marilyn Monroe," thinks our continued (and perhaps heightened) Marilyn obsession might have something to do with the state of things over the past few years. "Glamour is always in fashion, but one of the less obvious reasons why Marilyn is so current is one we all know without thinking consciously about it—or giving her credit for it," she said. "Marilyn Monroe is one of the great icons of the American Dream, one of America’s greatest success stories. She was self-invented (emphatically not created by the studios), an orphan girl who turned herself despite her studio head’s contempt into the biggest movie star in the world. In an era of such uncertainty and anxiety, she reminds us that if we can dream it, we can be it."

So it couldn't be more fitting that Marilyn, the orphan-turned-icon, serves as the phantasmagorical third lead of NBC's new series. Because as star Katharine McPhee says, "Our show is about dreaming big."

Are you a Marilyn Monroe fan? Do you think she's more popular than ever? Tell us in the comments and on Twitter!