Marilyn Monroe film Blonde disdained as exploitative


Ana de Armas portrays Marilyn Monroe in the Netflix film Blonde.

Norma Jeane Mortenson, better known as Marilyn Monroe, has been one of the world’s most beloved since she came onto the scene in the 1947 film Dangerous Years. With so many eyes on Monroe, her career skyrocketed and she became known as the “blonde bombshell” of the entertainment industry. 

Since then, Monroe was continually sexualized throughout her career and was taken advantage of by many of the men in her life. Even today, 60 years after her death, Monroe continues to be both idolized and sexualized.  

The most recent example of this “sexplotation” of Monroe can be seen in the Netflix film Blonde, released September 16, starring Ana de Armas as Monroe. Following the film’s release, many people were outraged by what they deemed is a false portrayal of Monroe’s life. However, the film is based on Joyce Carol Oates’ book of the same title which is clearly labeled as a work of fiction. 

Oates has stated, “I was drawn to write this story of a very ordinary-seeming American girl, from a very lower economic background, who rises and becomes enormously successful. And famous, and then is destroyed in the process,” 

The film chronicles actual events in Monroe’s life with a highly sensationalized and often fictionalized treatment. Some of the events from Monroe’s life depicted in the film include sexual and physical assaults she suffered, her marriages to baseball star Joe Dimaggio and playwright Arthur Miller, her two miscarriages, and her affair with President John F. Kennedy. 

In viewing the film, some feel that the movie only portrayed the negative aspects of Monroe’s life, almost completely ignoring the positive. Olympic Heights Early Childhood teacher Ms. Heidi Mansa stated, “It was very disturbing.”

Film critic Christy Lemire claims, “Blonde abuses and exploits Marilyn Monroe all over again, the way so many men did over the cultural icon’s tragic, too-short life.” 

Monroe is portrayed in the film as weak and unable to cope with the events of her life. This had people made especially mad when they touched on the alleged affair between Monroe and Kennedy. One scene graphically depicts a drugged Monroe being forced to perform sexual acts on the president. Some viewers find this scene to be unseemingly exploitative.

Other significant scenes in the movie center around Monroe’s miscarriages. “Planned Parenthood slammed the movie as ‘anti-abortion propaganda’ in a statement to Variety, while IndieWire called it an ‘anti-choice statement in post-Roe v. Wade America,’” wrote USA Today entertainment critic Patrick Ryan.

Many viewers think that in projecting how Monroe was treated as nothing more than an object to be used by the film industry, director Andrew Dominik only furthered that treatment in his portrayal of Monroe’s life. Dominik commented, “It’s the story of a person who kills herself. It’s also the story of a person who had everything that our culture is always screaming at us is desirable.”.

Nevertheless, OH student Brooklyn Farr commented,. “They just wanted to exploit her because she was a beautiful young girl who was easy to manipulate.”

In the end, the film caused viewers to question whether they would have the same ending as Monroe herself had they been rich and famous. Monroe’s career and life was ended when she died of an overdose of barbiturates at the age of 36. Her tragic death had a profound impact on those who followed her throughout her life. She will always be remembered as one of Hollywood’s most beloved but pitiable actresses.