I love cinematic hollywood starlets of long ago, movie stars who epitomized glamour and initiated our love affair with the movies. Women like Bette Davis, Elizabeth Taylor, Marilyn Monroe and Jayne Mansfield, Audrey Hepburn…the list goes on. These women excite a rare glamour nostalgia for me, nostalgia not for a time, but for the women themselves – a rare combination of sophisticated, feminine, tough and real. These strong women put up with a lot, like, sexism before feminism, and being ‘sold into’ unfair studio contracts. Now, just as then, Hollywood has always first and foremost been about money yet it’s important to remember that Hollywood (or any corporate machine) does not create drive, ambition and greed – people do.

That pressure to become a ‘product’ is as alive today, as it was then. Since we all have to pay the rent, there are success pinnacles we aspire to reach, and no matter your career, many of those pinnacles are converging in our newfound capacity to become ‘famous’. Today’s insta-media culture allows any of us to believe that we can now ‘come out of my shell and finally show the world who I really am’ (I’m quoting one of the Real Housewives here, upon being accepted to a talent agency. Meanwhile her friend slyly and accurately tells the camera that she’s been accepted because she’s on TV. ‘It’s not her talent they want, it’s her name. They’ll accept anyone with a name.’) We have more creative stages on which our imagination can play, but we also think anyone – with enough social connections, financial backing, and moxie – can be famous and therefore, successful.

Which gets me to thinking about Pluto in Capricorn, the (perhaps) unconscious ambitions that drive us and two actresses: Marilyn Monroe and Frances Farmer. You’re more likely familiar with the first gal, Marilyn Monroe, a far more multi-faceted woman than we’d ever know. One part Venusian muse, one part intellectual (she had a library full of books and admired the Great writers) and one part lost and vulnerable little girl, Marilyn had many self-parts. She was also a Gemini. The November 2010 issue of Vanity Fair profiled the release of her private journals, giving us a glimpse into the mind of someone who could witness her self quite clearly through self-analysis, had bouts of insomnia, took refuge in journalling and poetry… and was still locked up in her own private emotional hell. In the VF article it becomes very clear that what Marilyn most needed wasn’t fame, but love. She is deathly afraid of disappointing people -and of course that fear becomes a heartbreaking prophecy when she comes across her husband’s journal one day, and reads a journal passage in which he expresses embarrassment over her. Marilyn’s Moon is in Aquarius, near Jupiter, in the Seventh House. Her overwhelming need for unconditional love (Moon) and to feel worthy, smart and good enough (Jupiter) are her ‘not me’, and so projected onto her romantic partners (notably she always chose very intelligent men). Both Moon and Jupiter are squared by Saturn from the Fourth House emphasizing the theme of isolation and alienation, sharpening her sense of not belonging or fitting in (Aquarius).

What of Frances Farmer (chart here)? Marilyn Monroe and Frances Farmer have more than a few things in common. They were both beautiful movie stars. Both spent time in mental institutions against their will, both were incredibly smart and both had a self-destructive side. However whereas Marilyn maintained the mirage of perfection, Frances fell apart in the public eye, and I mean the woman lost her s***…and years later she resurrected like a phoenix bird and had a second life (for more on Frances, read this excellent movie review on Kim Morgan’s site). Marilyn was far too self-censoring to lose her stuff in public like Frances who didn’t care so much what people thought, -which was probably far healthier because in the end, Frances lived. One of my favorite woman-power and woman-in-pain scenes in the movie, Frances, happens when Farmer (played by Jessica Lange), who has had it up to here with being told to keep her strong mind to herself, is about to be hauled off to court to face charges for hitting her hairdresser with a hairbrush (Hello, Tyra?). When the police squad breaks into her apartment, Frances, who is now paranoid, cowering and scared on the bathroom floor, screams from behind the shower curtain, “You’ve got no fucking right!” we wonder if she isn’t right. Frances Farmer, like Marilyn Monroe, had beauty, brains, talent, and demons. She also had Mercury conjunct Sun in Virgo, squared by an out of sign Pluto-Mars conjunction in Cancer (brainy talent, controlling mother, overactive intellect …check, check, check). But does that a mad woman make?

Unarguably, no. Many people share difficult chart signatures and they channel them differently. After a stint reading astrological charts for prison inmates, astrologer Tracey Marks observed that prison guards share the same chart patterns as the inmates-but  they just make different choices about how to use those energies. Which brings me back ‘round to the perils of Pluto in Capricorn, and how unconscious motivations can drive our ambitions. We all want to be accomplished, and the internet/media has widened our ability to stand out from the crowd (although we’re reaching a saturation level where we probably have to work just as hard as we did, pre-internet). Most of us want to leave a mark on the world, to have our name survive death. But what fuels ambition? It isn’t always pretty. Our demons repress, contain and generate a lot of energy, energy which can be used at our discretion. Frances wanted to be seen as more than just a pretty face. Marilyn wanted to be loved, and not disappoint. God bless the Capricorns of the world, but how successful we are in our career is a sad measure of our personal success, as the parallel lives of these tragically successful women warn. During Pluto’s transit through Capricorn, let’s hope that we can all get closer to understanding what, if any, darkness lives inside of our driving ambition to be successful – instead of letting it drive us.