“Blonde” review: Confronting the male fascination of tainting Marilyn Monroe’s legacy


Courtesy of IMDb

Mia Oliva, Reviews Editor

If there’s one thing top-dogs in the film industry have yet to fail in achieving, it’s the blatant exploitation and disregard for the lives and legacies of silenced women in Hollywood. The woman who stands as the prime exemplar of this patriarchal phenomenon in both entertainment and pop culture alike is Norma Jeane, universally yet notoriously known as Marilyn Monroe.

Writer and director of “Blonde”, Andrew Dominik, and his band of producers (predominantly men, might I add) claimed the film to be a biopic of Marilyn Monroe’s rise and demise, recreated and based loosely on the fictional events of Joyce Carol Oates’ novel by the same name. 

While common for biopics to be dramatized or exaggerated in order to gain traction, Dominik’s execution of this technique was a calculated perversion of the stigma already surrounding the world’s established sex symbol. Dominik harps on Monroe’s suffering by fetishizing her abandonment issues and infantilizing her demeanor and intellect. While the cinematography (at some times) is intriguing and Ana De Armas hits the nail on the head—given the derogatory circumstances of the role—as Marilyn Monroe, the film is nothing more than another patronizing travesty that caters to the male gaze. 

After all, in Dominik’s own self-interested words in an interview with Screen Daily, “if the audience doesn’t like it, that’s the f—-ing audience’s problem…It’s an NC-17 movie about Marilyn Monroe, it’s kind of what you want, right? I want to go and see the NC-17 version of the Marilyn Monroe story.” “Blonde” became the first film to stream on Netflix with this rating, which strictly suggests no one under the age of seventeen watch the film.  

How exhausting it has become to witness the work and lives of women in the public eye vulgarized and downplayed by wolves in sheep’s clothing. No matter if, or even how much Dominik decided to shed light on Monroe’s struggle, he made it his own by reducing her to her physicality and confining her internal dialogue. Even in Oates’ case, Dominik seems to remain confidently predatorial in his approach, as the author has always stressed that her novel is a reimagining of Monroe’s life in the form of a diary, where her dignity can be accounted for. As a matter of fact, American literary critic Elaine Showalter states in the novel’s foreword that Oates depicts Monroe as “an emblem of twentieth century America” rather than just a victim. 

Just as Dominik depreciates the work of Oates in this chauvinistic sorry excuse of a biopic, he similarly disregards the accomplishments and aspirations of the perceptive Norma Jeane by instead harping on the sexualized bombshell she’s primarily known as, Marilyn Monroe. He makes capital out of her paternal absence by infantilizing her demeanor at the hands of her husbands and lovers, having her call them “daddy”. Dominik also uses Monroe’s trauma as a gateway to portray her genuine curiosity of life as idiotic and foolish. 

This film further proves how women deemed icons in Hollywood are ridiculed and silenced for needing help, whether it be mental or physical. Monroe being just one of them, we have seen this time and time again with the likes of Princess Diana of Wales, Britney Spears, Amy Winehouse, and so on. Their stories of validified distress, discontentment, and ultimate rage are then manipulated at the hands of men whose goal is to eroticize their vulnerability, even in death. 

Overall, this film was as far from sensible as a film could ever be. If anything grants this movie a rating higher than zero, it’s Ana de Arma’s dedication to her craft. Even then, the repulsion was inevitable. I do not recommend this film to anyone who is looking to learn more about the life and legacy of Marilyn Monroe, as it’s just a near three hours of vitriolic objectification. 


“Blonde” is now available on Netflix.


Illustration by Ariel Landry