‘Blonde’ is an insult to Marilyn Monroe’s legacy

Andrew Dominik’s new film, “Blonde,” is a sick nightmare to watch. It is a blatant, disrespectful exploitation of the deceased Marilyn Monroe — referred to in the film by her birth name of Norma Jeane — disguised as a modern and creative impression of her personal life.
Based on a novel of the same name, the incredibly-stylized, big-budget pseudo-biopic stretches nearly three hours, mostly consisting of unnecessarily long shots recreating iconic imagery from Norma Jeane’s professional career as Monroe, while also depicting — without trigger warnings — multiple rape scenes, multiple instances of sexual harrasment, domestic violence, graphic scenes of a forced abortions, multiple talking fetuses, trauma-induced and drug-induced psychosis, unneccesary nudity bordering on soft pornography, actual soft pornography and frequent scenes of Norma Jeane being in agony or hysterics while being abused by her loved ones. It was simply painful to watch, and I anticipate the same viewing experience for anyone except a specific type of mysoginistic, pro-life, twisted viewer.
Throughout the film, Norma Jeane is presented as a helpless and fragile woman who cannot get a grip on her life and begs for others to support her and understand who she truly is — an intelligent, funny and talented human being with a desire to be loved and respected. However, the film never focuses on these things and all of her attempts to help herself are shown as fruitless. The movie does nothing more to demonstrate her positive traits than vaguely gesture at Norma Jeane’s wit, attempts which are repeatedly breezed over in the plot.
In one scene, Norma Jeane reads a poem to Joe DiMaggio — one of her ex-husbands. The poem is paid no attention to or given any appreciation by DiMaggio. The scene is immediately followed by a graphic depiction of domestic violence. A few times, the dialogue references Norma Jeane reading classic literature and having a passion for learning cinematic history and acting technique, but these details are pitifully crafted into the story and are barely explored in the plot.
Throughout the film, Norma Jeane refers to each one of her partners solely as “Daddy,” not only conflating her romantic partners with her absent father, but also with each other. It’s uncomfortable to witness and suggests that Norma Jeane is unable to distinguish between her various relationships and create or maintain healthy ones due to her desire to please her absent father figure. The film finds every way to infantilize and persecute Monroe, concerning itself more with Norma Jeane’s trauma than her humanity.
The film is ultimately guilty of subjecting the late superstar and her impersonator, Ana de Armas, to the same sick treatment she received while alive. Neither women were given the opportunity to showcase the broad range of their talent, as those who control their images don’t care to invest time in showcasing the real, interesting sides of the women beyond their beauty and relationships.
Hollywood has repeatedly shown that it is not interested in learning and publishing anything more about the human being behind Monroe’s legacy, and that they would rather continue to profit off the career that she saw as unfulfilling. They profit off of her continued sexualization, mischaracterization and exploitation, all the while tarnishing her legacy with no regard for the fact that she was a real person.
The repetitive graphic depictions of traumatic events in “Blonde” make it extremely difficult to watch. When I watched it, my emotions ranged from uncomfortable to confused to disgusted to angry. I felt like I had been lied to — when I first heard about the film about two months ago and watched the trailer, I was excited for what I thought would be a modern, imaginative take on the personal life of Monroe. So little is ever discussed about her aside from her tragic backstory, untimely death and her renown for playing “blonde bombshell” characters.
Instead, I was given the exact opposite. The only redeeming quality of the film was its stunning cinematography. Clearly, the production team did their research on how Monroe was presented in her films and appearances, certain shots were visually impressive and imaginative. De Armas is no doubt beautiful in her depiction of Monroe, and I believe she did a good job with what she was given. I think it’s a shame that she was not given the opportunity to show a more interesting side of Norma Jeane. Due to the sexualization of Norma Jeane in the film, de Armas herself is indirectly, unnecessarily sexualized in the film. I wonder if she knew what she was getting into when she took the role, or if the directors simply promised her the Oscar for being the leading lady in their highly-anticipated film.
“Blonde” is another example of Hollywood loving and exploiting the “beautiful woman in horrible anguish” trope, and Monroe has once again become victim to the success machine that has made insurmountable profit from chewing up her lived experiences and spitting them out in new and increasingly unethical ways so that the public can consume and analyze her legacy again and again.
Do not watch the film at all. The majority of its scenes may be triggering for the average viewer, or at least make them extremely uncomfortable. It’s not worth your time, and frankly, I think it deserves as little support as possible, as the entire thing makes a mockery of the lived experiences of a real woman, and relies heavily on shock value and graphic depictions of trauma and violence as a form of entertainment.
My only hope is that one day Monroe can get a depiction that truly does her personal life justice and explores the depths of her personality and character that has been misrepresented so many times by Hollywood. It would have been so interesting to understand more about the woman behind the image in a way that is realistic and respectful, but instead we were delivered the repetitive, male-gaze orientated, fetishizistic, exploitative passion-project that is “Blonde.”