In a week’s time we will celebrate 50 years since the first episode from The Munsters was aired for the first time on CBS. It wasn’t at all an original concept (since The Adams Family debuted just a week before), but the smaller details made it a cult classic.
The series borrowed many things from its prime-time rival, such as the idea of an out of the ordinary family living in a normal society, the setting of a Victorian-era mansion, and so on. However, the differences are the ones that matter every time.
The Munsters family is a family of monsters (as the name bluntly suggests it) who also happen to be European immigrants that try to make the best of the American dream. We have a Frankenstein’s monster as the father, an undead vampire as the mother, a full vampire as the grandfather, a werewolf as the son, and then we have Marilyn, the niece.
Marilyn Munster the character (it is never specified why she assumed the name of her aunt Lilly, the undead vampire) was first conceived under the name Marilyn Mundane, which is a pretty obvious reference to Marilyn Monroe. But why was she called Mundane while being developed?
Marilyn Monroe is one of the world’s most enduring sex-symbols, and this was pretty obvious from back then: no matter what, she will always be one of the most beautiful women ever. In the same way, Marilyn Mundane was a particularly beautiful woman, even by today’s ever-changing standards. However, she perceived herself as being the ugliest member of her adoptive family. In her own eyes, she was the monster.
As suggested, the Munsters are trying to blend into the society that has adopted them. But this doesn’t mean at all that they don’t have their own set of morals, or that they don’t have their own opinions as to what is normal. No matter how they look, in their own eyes they are beautiful: they cannot understand the reaction “normal” people have when seeing them.
Marilyn lives with the Munsters, so she adopts their norm. She considers Herman the Frankenstein monster and Lilly the undead vampire the definitions of beauty. She even believes that her supposed pretenders run away when seeing her, when they actually flee frightened by her family. If this seems kind of tragic to you too, then it must be so. This small detail, among others, is what made the viewers love the show.
Monsters never hide under the bed, a father could have told his daughter. In the same way, he could have continued saying that beauty never rests in the eye of the beholder. And only then the mother could have added, Oh, Marilyn… the circles under your eyes. How lovely you look today.