Gruetter Criticizes Netflix Film Blonde’s Portrayal of Monroe

By: Kate Gruetter

National/World Editor

On Sept. 28, Netflix released the film Blonde, a fictionalized depiction of the life and career of Marilyn Monroe. Andrew Dominik directs the film, which stars Ana De Armas as Monroe. Based on Joyce Carol Oates’ novel Blonde, the movie is not a biopic, but rather an exaggerated perspective on the late movie star’s life.

The film begins with Monroe’s childhood and follows her abusive mother’s mistreatment and her adoptive parents’ abandonment. It quickly flashes forward to her career in Hollywood, focusing on Monroe’s four major relationships and her hardships in the spotlight.

One aspect of the film I did appreciate was its distinction between the character of Marilyn Monroe and Norma Jean, Monroe’s given name. The film plays with the toll “Marilyn” takes on Norma Jean, and portrays how she prefers her loved ones and managers to call her by her birth name. This feature helps humanize Monroe and adds depth to her character, however the respect and thoughtfulness seemingly ends here.  Though the film makes an attempt at metaphors and deep criticism of Hollywood’s mistreatment, it instead comes off as sloppy, disrespectful, and disgusting. 

While the film does not outwardly advertise itself as a biopic, it hasn’t strayed away from, nor avoided the title either. It blurs the line between fantasy and reality and does little to assure audiences it is not, in fact, a biopic. Rather, the film plays into this title without accepting the label, leading viewers to assume Blonde is an accurate representation of Monroe, when, in reality, it is anything but. 

The majority of the film depicts Monroe’s struggles in Hollywood, but does so through oversexualizing and glamorizing her pain. Graphic rape and sexual assault scenes are featured, and the fact that the film is not an actual account of her life make these scenes feel unnecessary and forced. Rather than exploring Hollywood’s mistreatment, writers and director chose to depict Monroe as a victim and nothing more, failing to celebrate her legacy or life. Fans have gone as far as calling the film out for spreading a message of anti-abortion propaganda; a graphic abortion scene in the first half of the film shows Monroe forced to accept this procedure. If the intention of this shot is to show Monroe’s lack of choices in Hollywood, it sorely fails, painting the actress as weak and at the mercy of others, offering little to no depth regarding her situation. 

Blonde also blurs the boundaries between respect and blatant mockery. The film’s final scene, which portrays Monroe’s suicide, was filmed in the exact place Monroe died in real life. In a press conference regarding the film, De Armas, the films’ lead, went so far as to say she felt Monroe was approving of what they were doing, referencing the final scene. Fans were quick to call her out for this statement, stating that shooting in Monroe’s home was invasive and prevents the star from simply resting in peace. 

Overall, Blonde is not only a cinematic letdown, but also a disrespectful piece. Though De Armas’ performance is outstanding, graphic and overly sexualized scenes tarnish the movie, making it one of the many thoughtless depictions of a female celebrity’s struggles (others include Britney Spears and Amy Winehouse). If you choose to watch Blonde, it is important to recognize the problem with Hollywood and its depiction of women. Make sure you remember it is not the truth, rather a fantastical depiction of a woman who deserves to rest.

(Sources: Forbes, IMDB, Capital FM)

Categories: Culture

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