Movie Review: Blonde

Blonde, The Netflix adaptation of Joyce Carol Oates’ novel of the same name, has been facing a lot of backlash due to its problematic representation of trauma and its manifestations. The fictionalised 3-hour celluloid based on the life of Hollywood’s infamous Marilyn Monroe starring Ana de Armas has been praised for its stylistic choices. But it has been facing flak due to its sensationalist portrayalof the late star’s life. Most recently, the director, Andrew Dominiks comments about Marilyn’s work- likening her most famous movie ,Gentlemen Prefer Blondes ,to a “movie about well-dressed whores.” sparked a heated debate online, which eventually led to the dissection of the movie’s touchy portrayal of the subject at hand. 

The film’s portrayal of sexual assault and abortion, Dominik’s unwavering stance refusing an apology to his wildly nonchalant statements and lastly, the overtly fictionalised plot being sold as Marilyns biopic when it rarely ever gets any thing right about her life has led to conversations about the ethics of commoditisation post demise.

Marilyn Monroe was one of Hollywood’s most sought-after actresses in the 50s. Skyrocketing to fame after being nicknamed the “blonde bombshell”, she was emblematic of the era’s sexual revolution. Starting her career as a pin up model,  and became the top billed actress  of the era, as her films grossed over $200 million by the the peak of her career. Years after her tragic suicide, she remains a major pop culture icon.

Ana de Armas as Marilyn Monroe with director Andrew Dominik’

Source: Google Photos

Blonde is without a doubt a drastic simplification and biased representation of the star, painting Monroe as a victim of her own heavily exaggerated trauma.The questionable selective representation in the film is glaring- the central plot manages to explain all her life choices and eventual tragic death based on a psychoanalytical look at her childhood trauma- an absent father. The movie is also extremely exploitative in its constant and repeated showcase of misery, the sheer magnitude might just border as “trauma porn” to most viewers. 

Norma Jeane Baker, future film star Marilyn Monroe on the beach as a toddler with her mother Gladys Baker and Julianne Nicholson as Gladys in ‘Blonde.”

Source: Netflix (left); GETTY Images (right)

The movie’s most shocking storylines barely hold any resemblance callingthe movie a biopic- merely the broad contours of the account are true, the specifics are unsubstantiated .

Her troubled childhood was drastically fictionalised, as well as the instances of abuse and her multiple “failed” marriages. The film barely gives any credit to Marilyn, who was a pathmaker in many different ways. She was described by her closest associates as “the architect of her own fate”.  She took clear stances throughout her career that put her best interests first. She started her own production company after the infamous abusive marriage with Italian baseballer DiMaggio, she fought to get ownership of her nude pictures, famously opened up about casting couches and walked off set after learning about the pay gap between her and the  male co-star.

The film misses showcasing her as an enigmatic and smart artist – rather trying to garner pity out of the extremely troubled and  sadistic trauma that the character goes through.

The threesome that NEVER happened.’

The Geminis–Xavier Samuel as Cass Chaplin, Ana de Armas as Marilyn Monroe and Evan Williams as Eddy G. Robinson Jr.

Source: Netflix

Left to right: Bobby Cannavale and Ana de Armas as Joe DiMaggio and Marilyn Monroe; Monroe and DiMaggio in real life.’

Source: Netflix/GETTY Images

The movie cuts to a scene in 1955, New York City, portraying Marilyn to be reading the lines for Magda – one of Arthur Miller’s plays. They have a brief conversation and soon sneak and get married. Marilyn’s marriage to Arthur begins rather joyously. She gets pregnant and has a brief conversation with the fetus on a random day while picking flowers. While hanging out with a few friends at the beach, Marilyn stumbles over a rock, and falls on her stomach, leading to a miscarriage. It leaves Marilyn distraught and inconsolable, affecting her mindset during shoots. As a result, she takes to alcohol and overdoses on prescribed medicines.

Left to right: Adrien Brody and Ana de Armas as Arthur Miller and Marilyn Monroe; the real Miller and Monroe.

Source: Netflix/GETTY Images.

Marilyn’s love for children is well-documented. On her date with Joe DiMaggio, she exclaims, “I wanna settle down. Like any girl. And have a family. Oh, I love children so!” However, due to her endometriosis, she encounters several miscarriages and even an ectopic pregnancy. The depiction of the miscarriage in Blonde is entirely fictional. As described vaguely in the movie, her third marriage ends while Arthur and Marilyn were working on “The Misfits”. 

The portrayal of Monroe’s relationship with President John F. Kennedy was demeaning and fabricated to a great extent! From showcasing her overdosing on narcotics in an airplane while visiting her lover JFK to being addressed as “dirty sl*t”, she is painted as a helpless degenerate which is quite the opposite of what happened in reality. The nature of Monroe’s relationship with President JFK is a topic of debate even today!

IRL Monroe with President JFK on his birthday.’

Source: Cecil Stoughton/AP/SHUTTERSTOCK

The ultimate part of the movie involves a grotesque setting where JFK’s men are seen dragging Monroe into a forceful abortion. The thirty-six year old actress later succumbed to drug overdose and was found dead at her residence on August 4th, 1962.

Funeral Photograph of Monroe’


Dominick takes Marilyn’s character to a new low as he displays her as a victim of misogyny and the predation of the men in her life. The over-fictionalization of the non-consented abortions is simply baffling. Yes, Hollywood treated the actors of that time as mere contract workers. According to Vanity Fair, “In the heyday of the Hollywood studio system, women were at their most desirable and their most powerful—but it still didn’t afford them the right to choose when it came to governing their bodies. Hollywood’s production codes extended to women’s reproduction.” Blonde describes this pertinent women’s rights issue with rather little solicitude.

Source: Murray Garrett/GETTY Images

Norma Jeane, widely known as Marilyn Monroe, in one of her auditions says, “But where does dreaming end and madness begin?” “Anyway, isn’t all love based on delusion?” One can say this rightfully describes Joyce Oates’ take and Dominick’s direction of Blonde. Their love for literature and theatre displays a third identity which extremely fictionalizes and distorts the memory and biography of the enthralling Marilyn Monroe.

Written by Supriti Rosita and Shreya Akurathi for MTTN

Edited by Aayush Niraj for MTTN

Featured Image by WWD

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