“There are some in this world who have strength of their own,
Never broken or in need of repair.
But there are some born to shine who can’t do it alone,
So protect them and take special care”
When Katherine McPhee first sang those lines in Smash, I felt chills. Empowered, hopeful, defiant and pleading feelings rippled across my body, mind and soul. Like ASMR, some songs and lyrics specifically resonate with you in unexpected ways.
In the song, in the fictional show within a show (stay with me), McPhee’s character Karen is playing Marilyn Monroe. Its the finale of the fictitious musical Bombshell about Marilyn’s life and the writers need a way to mark the end of the show, a showstopper with heart. A cathartic final bow for Marilyn who would soon die.
While Smash, through the songs it wrote for Bombshell, used it to progress character plot lines, it was also in a meta way, crafting core points in the TV show itself, while exploring Marilyn’s story and what she means as a modern icon. As someone who changed herself so completely to become what the world would go on to adore, Marilyn was depicted by her many facets, not just her singular talents or legendary tantrums.
The song struck home for me so potently because it echoed a sentiment I’ve always felt, like it is never quite simple to say to someone: if you’re strong enough, you can do anything. Strength is such a strange subject, especially when coupled with masculinity or femininity. Men are taught to be strong, physically and emotionally (read: closed off emotionally), while women are often told to be weak, moderating their strength to appropriate levels as expected by men. Even if its wrong it applies to some people and works for them. Thankfully more contemporary ideas allow for a shift, but not as far as it should be.
But those are the strong people. What of those who struggle to find that inner strength that pulls someone through? What if you don’t know how to be courageous and sure of yourself at all times?
People who are depressed, who consider suicide, can too often be accused or being weak. As though they are taking the easiest option. But choosing to stop living is not an easy one, nor is it weak. In the minds of those struggling with life, choosing death is a show of force, not to mention the strength of conviction is takes to carry it out.
Strength has many guises. It can applied to many things. There are some people in the world who can be pushed and who grow from it. They fail or are beaten down and they have this inner strength that picks them back up, makes them carry on. Then there are those who don’t have an inner voice telling them they can do it, be it, make it. For those people, being in need of help or support, doesn’t make them lesser, though in a flippant way that is often how they are treated.
Great people can only be great, if they are allowed. Some are allowed when they take the stage by force, demanding to be heard. They are brilliant and know how to show it. But some people are quietly amazing, secretly special without the ability to demand the spotlight. Caring for them and helping them to understand their worthiness shouldn’t be seen as a double standard or coddling but something key to humanity. The best singers aren’t always the loudest.
The lyrics of “Don’t Forget Me” are some of (this version of) Marilyn’s last words. Her plea to her audience, those who knew her, the plea to create thoughts and hope. It that sustains her in her final moments, finally finding release in the song. She asks that, whatever you think of her, and whatever you believe you know of someone, that everyone has potential. Some you can see straight away and some that will need to be coaxed out. Thats what she wants her legacy to be.
Its a powerful idea if you take it to heart. Don’t just be awed by those who do well because they have their own strength. Keep an eye out for those who could be amazing but need help to get there. If you have strength to give, share it.