Beauty Myths: From Helen of Troy to Marilyn

Published in Italy in 2021, Elena and the Others: The Dark Side of Seduction is a study of beautiful women throughout history – from the mythical Helen of Troy, to screen goddesses like Marilyn and Hedy Lamarr – by psychiatrists Liliana Dell’Osso and Primo Lorenzi. If you’re interested and can read Italian, Amazon also stocks this book in the UK and US. (Interestingly, the poet Anne Carson also made this connection in her verse play, Norma Jeane Baker of Troy.)

“The reinterpretation of the myth of Elena becomes the starting point for an investigation on female charm and in particular on its darker and more disturbing side. The Authors do it as psychopathologists by proposing a real ‘mythological autopsy’ aimed at grasping the critical junctions of Elena’s mythological path. In the splendid images that the myth proposes, those passages, signs and even ‘symptoms’ that allude to possible clinical relapses and that today can be traced back to a particular structure of the autism spectrum are highlighted. The authors’ opinion is that it is precisely this that gives Elena that ‘exceptionality’ that has made her an icon of the enchantment and terror that make up female charm. She is capable of waging wars as well as inspiring poetry; enchantment like misfortune. Elena is the Beauty who became a woman, with an added ‘charm’ that makes her, in effect, a ‘hero’ of the ancient world. Therefore an exceptional being that goes beyond the limits of the human, towards the new, the different and the ‘divine’. Pointing out in this a way of emancipation and elevation to humanity as a whole, but at the same time revealing the possible aspects of deficit and inadequacy that accompany it and that perhaps are inevitably connected to it. The investigation of fascination is the heart of the work with particular attention to what can be both the psychogenetic pathways and the effects on the people on whom the fascination takes hold. The mythological events of Elena are then sought in two modern ‘beautiful’, real actualizations of the queen of Sparta: Hedy Lamarr, actress and scientist, ‘the most beautiful woman in the world’, and Marilyn Monroe, the ‘dumb blonde.'”

Thanks to Gianandrea at Marilyn Monroe – Italia