Trigger Warning: This review discusses rape, graphic sexual acts, and violence.
The action of singling someone out for cruel or unjust treatment.
The process of being victimized, either from a physical or a psychological or a moral or a sexual point of view.
Blonde, both the book and the new film by the same name, are tragedies and travesties from beginning to end. In her novel, Author Joyce Carol Oates took significant liberties in creating a false narrative about Marilyn Monroe, and the film has gone even further in graphic, grotesque adaptations of the scenes generated within the author’s mind. It’s the definition of exploitation, destruction, and total victimization. Even further, it’s the assassination of a woman who isn’t even here to defend herself and state definitively what’s true and what’s false. There are no heirs to come to her defense. There are only devoted and committed fans who are rising up in an attempt to ensure the world knows Marilyn’s true story.
First and foremost, readers of the book and viewers of the film must remember that it’s based on fiction. The story told in Blonde runs parallel with events from Marilyn’s life and career, for example, her childhood, her marriages, her films, and her death. Marilyn and her life are the base from which Oates springboards into a dark and distorted world, wherein she created events and occurrences that are fabrications from within the depths of her mind.
Blonde (the novel) opens with the following message:
“Blonde is a work of fiction. While many of the characters portrayed here have some counterparts in the life and times of Marilyn Monroe, the characterizations and incidents presented are totally the product of the author’s imagination. Accordingly, Blonde should be read solely as a work of fiction, not as biography of Marilyn Monroe.
Oates, Joyce Carol, Blonde, HarperCollins, 2000
Let’s clear up several inaccuracies shown in this film:
- There is no evidence that Marilyn’s mother Gladys attempted to drown young Norma Jeane in a bathtub. Keith Badman’s book Marilyn Monroe: The Final Years reports that in a 1968 interview with the BBC, Marilyn’s third husband Arthur Miller stated Marilyn had told him her mother had threatened her life three times. No other details were provided, and I’ve not been able to find the interview to verify this. There are no other known or documented attempts.
- It’s true that Gladys suffered from mental problems and was indeed institutionalized for most of her adult life. There was a short period of time when Marilyn lived with her mother when she was young. Most of Marilyn’s childhood, however, was spent with foster families and she had a brief stint at Hollygrove, an LA orphanage. She married her first husband at 16 in order to avoid having to return to the orphanage.
- Marilyn never accused Darryl Zanuck of raping her, nor did she ever expose this act.
- In the film, Marilyn’s second husband Joe DiMaggio beats her severely (off camera but the soundtrack ensures awareness) following the filming of the subway scene in Seven Year Itch on the streets of New York (during which Joe became visibly upset and left). There are conflicting reports on the topic of Joe physically abusing Marilyn. Neither of them ever commented about this publicly, but some close to her claimed Marilyn was bruised the next day. Makeup man Allan “Whitey” Snyder and hairstylist Gladys Whitten both claimed the next morning the bruises needed to be covered with makeup. Others have also commented on seeing bruising while Marilyn and Joe were married.
- There is no formal documented evidence of Marilyn ever having an abortion. One thing she wanted more than anything was to have children. She was expecting twice while married to her third husband Arthur Miller. In 1957, she suffered and ectopic pregnancy. In 1958, while filming Some Like it Hot, she was pregnant. It’s the reason she appears heavier than usual in the film. She miscarried in December that same year. Some believe that she became pregnant in 1956 immediately after they were married, during filming of The Prince and the Showgirl in England. However, it’s never been confirmed and in fact was denied by Miller.
- The three-way sexual relationship between Marilyn, Charlie Chaplin Jr. and Edward G. Robinson Jr. also arose from a crevice somewhere within the mind of the author. Chaplin Jr. writes in his biography that he and Marilyn dated briefly, but there certainly wasn’t any involvement with Robinson Jr.
- The film includes vile and disgusting sex scenes, which never happened. One shows Marilyn, Chaplin and Robinson in a movie theater during a showing of Niagara Falls. Marilyn masturbates each of them while one penetrates her with his fingers, all while others are present also watching the film. Another scene shows Marilyn kidnapped from an airplane and dragged by members of the Secret Service down a hotel hallway to a waiting President Kennedy who forces her to perform oral sex, then he rapes her. These scenes insult the dignity of Marilyn Monroe and are yet another example of the malicious creativity of author Joyce Carol Oates.
Blonde runs two hours and 47 minutes, and it may as well have been two years. It is long, dull, and boring. I forced myself to watch it, all the while squashing an incessant urge to turn it off. It lacks any message or purpose other than to victimize Marilyn and portray her as a woman devoid of any happiness or fulfillment. It is a ridiculous film. I laughed out loud several times. Andrew Dominik, the film’s director, lacks in originality and creative impact. What he delivers is intentional shock and horror at the expense of Hollywood’s most beloved star. The film itself presents as a high school film class end-of-term project, created by a group of schoolboys hellbent on objectifying women, without ever having experienced being with one. Alternating color and black and white footage was shot to represent Norma Jeane (color) and then Marilyn (black and white). It was brilliantly unsophisticated. Worse yet, as Kennedy climaxes in Marilyn’s mouth, a television in the hotel room flashes a rocket launching into the sky. Again, sophomoric and embarrassing. While Marilyn, Chaplin and Robinson are stargazing, the stars slowly turn into… swimming sperm in the sky. Also, during a three-way sex scene with them, Marilyn’s head hangs over the edge of the bed as she’s penetrated from behind, and then the bed’s sheets slowly turn into water tumbling over Niagara Falls. (Yawn.)
Ana de Armas, who portrayed Marilyn, has gone on record saying she believed Marilyn was haunting her throughout production of the film. She further stated, “We got this big card and everyone in the crew wrote a message to her. Then we went to the cemetery and put it on her grave. We were asking for permission in a way,” the actress, 34, said in an interview with AnOther. “Everyone felt a huge responsibility, and we were very aware of the side of the story we were going to tell – the story of Norma Jeane, the person behind this character, Marilyn Monroe. Who was she really?” Well, you’ve undoubtedly missed the mark. (Again, this was a work of fiction.) I can tell you who she WASN’T! Marilyn Monroe was not the sniveling, weak, barely functioning woman that you portrayed. By all accounts from those who knew her and worked with her, she was smart and intelligent, funny and witty, serious and thoughtful, reflective and deep. Was she perfect? No. Did she have faults like everyone else? Of course. To even consider the idea of asking permission from Marilyn herself to tell a story where she is almost killed by her mother, raped multiple times, forced to undergo abortions, has public sex in a movie theater, performs oral sex on the President of the United States and so on is repulsive and abhorrent. (Ana de Armas: How is it that you EVER thought this would be okay?)
The one positive thing I have to say about the film is the costumes were spot on. They artfully and precisely recreated outfits from Marilyn’s personal and film wardrobes. Nonetheless, in some cases de Armas was clothed in garments that were not correct with the timeline of the story. During her time in the film when with Arthur Miller, portrayed by Adrien Brody, she was outfitted in a costume from Something’s Got to Give, filmed in 1962. Marilyn and Arthur divorced in 1961. Further, she wore her Mexican cardigan while with Miller, again an item she didn’t own until 1962.
Sidenote: Brody has now come out in defense of the film. In an interview with The Hollywood Reporter he said, “…it works somehow for the film to be a traumatic experience, because you’re inside of her — her journey and her longings and her isolation — amidst all of this adulation…” Again, this is not the story of Marilyn Monroe. It is fiction. No one was inside her journey or her longings or her isolation. And, if you have to make a statement in defense of your project then you know you’ve missed the mark.
Scenes showing Marilyn’s womb as she was undergoing abortions, not to mention her unborn child speaking to her, were despicable. It was just crass and unnecessary. Again, all for shock value and totally void of any sensitivity or respect for the main character.
But, without a doubt, shooting scenes in Marilyn’s home, including the actual bedroom in which she died, is inexcusable and goes beyond disrespectful. Most casual fans of Monroe won’t recognize that the scene in Blonde in which Ana de Armas is laying naked on her stomach in bed then waking up is a reproduction of the position of Marilyn Monroe’s body when she died. In the collage below, the top image is the recreation of the scene in Blonde. The bottom image is the actual photo of Marilyn’s bedroom taken by the police as part of their investigation into her death. I’ve removed Marilyn’s body out of respect for her. This is the position she was in when her body was discovered. Ana de Armas is in the exact same position as Marilyn.
In reflecting on the film, viewers have to question the intent and the message of Blonde. The author and the director are both guilty of blurring the lines between fact and fantasy, resulting in the general public believing, just enough, that Blonde was the true story of Marilyn Monroe, which forever curses the star.
Just this weekend I was approached by someone who noticed my tee-shirt (with an image of Marilyn). He asked me if I’d seen the film and proceeded to tell me how horrified he was to learn of the life of Marilyn Monroe. He stated he was so disturbed that he prayed for her. Over the next several minutes I explained to him that it was not the true story of Marilyn Monroe. Suffice it to say he was very relieved. But our worst fears are now realized. People believe this was her story.
In a recent Tweet, Oates stated, “I think it was/is a brilliant work of cinematic art obviously not for everyone. surprising that in a post#MeToo (sic) era the stark exposure of sexual predation in Hollywood has been interpreted as “exploitation.” surely Andrew Dominik meant to tell Norma Jeane’s story sincerely.
I think it was/is a brilliant work of cinematic art obviously not for everyone. surprising that in a post#MeToo era the stark exposure of sexual predation in Hollywood has been interpreted as “exploitation.” surely Andrew Dominik meant to tell Norma Jeane’s story sincerely. https://t.co/YCehGfskds
— Joyce Carol Oates (@JoyceCarolOates) September 30, 2022
To that I say if this is a work of fiction that shouldn’t be taken as a biography (as per Blonde’s book intro), how is it exactly that Dominik is telling Norma Jeane’s story? What was the intent over two decades ago when you penned this novel well in advance of the #metoo movement? And, with her talent and resources, why could you not have chosen instead to honor Marilyn and attempt to write the true story of her life instead of creating a false narrative, which now the general public will believe thanks to the film?
Regarding Dominik, it’s clear he’s not a fan of Marilyn. During an interview with reporter Christina Newland from Sight and Sound magazine, the topic of gender dynamics in Gentlemen Prefer Blondes was surfaced. As part of that conversation, Dominik referred to the main characters of Lorelei Lee and Dorothy Shaw (portrayed by Marilyn Monroe and Jane Russell) as “well-dressed whores.” Newland posted outtakes from the interview on her Twitter account.
& here, I’m afraid, is an outtake. pic.twitter.com/1WxLzIKZh6
— Christina Newland (@christinalefou) September 27, 2022
Full story here: ‘Blonde’ Director Bashes & Shames ‘Low-Grade’ Marilyn Monroe In Comments Cut Out Of Controversial Interview
It begs the question of Andrew Dominik: What is so wrong with you that you pursued this project for nearly 15 years, focusing solely on the utter destruction, dehumanization and figurative dismemberment of someone you’ve classified as a well-dressed whore?
I encourage those who are interested in learning the truth about Marilyn Monroe to read the following books:
- Norma Jeane (First Edition) by Fred Lawrence Guiles
- Marilyn Monroe by Maurice Zolotow
Zolotow’s book was actually written during Marilyn’s lifetime. Books written more recently that I’d recommend are:
- Marilyn Monroe: Private and Undisclosed, The Girl, and When Marilyn Met the Queen, all by author Michelle Morgan.
- Icon: The Life, Times, and Films of Marilyn Monroe: Volumes 1 and 2, by author Gary Vitacco-Robles.
I know the above two authors personally and can speak with certainty that they have left no stone unturned in attempting to portray Marilyn’s life accurately, with integrity, and out of respect for her.
Finally, for those interested in more accurate documentaries, I suggest The Legend of Marilyn Monroe, narrated by director John Huston, produced and distributed in 1965, along with Reframed: Marilyn Monroe, the four-part series produced by CNN released this year.
In a 1960 interview with journalist Georges Belmont Marilyn said, “The true things rarely get into circulation. It’s usually the false things.” Blonde is utterly atrocious, misogynistic, and a fail in every sense of the word. My only hope is that it is perceived by viewers as so incredibly ridiculous, salacious, and horrifying that the general public will switch it off and assume it couldn’t possibly be an accurate representation of the mosts famous blonde of all time. We should all take comfort in knowing Marilyn Monroe is not here to witness this.
30 thoughts on “Blonde Review: The Victimization of Marilyn Monroe”
Thank you Scott for this amazing detailed review!
I hope many people get to read your post and start researching the real Marilyn we love
The scene with JFK was so disturbing and I have studied Marlin for years, it didn’t feel right or that it happened, the bath scene with the mother another crazy scene that felt horrific. The threesom, first time ever hearing about that. Marlin was not stupid, she played stupid but in fact underneath was extremely intelligent!!!!
What a brilliant written piece, Scott. Thank you from Copenhagen. And – again – the worst part is that ‘Blonde’ is just plainly boring.
Thank you so much, Scott. ❤️
Je suis soulagée de lire un tel article ! Le film a fait grand bruit et j’ai peine à croire la tâche qu’il laissera sur le mythe qu’est Marylin, merci d’y ramener un peu de lumière. Ce film est à vomir.
I got to say this film was the worst. Even my sister thought it was true and I had to stop her and say ‘hey, no that never happened’. Thank you so much for the review, I hope more people read this and understand that this was a sad make believe version of her life. In reality she lived a wonderful life with a few ups and downs but she was a marvellously strong and independent woman.
Thank you for sharing this review!
I couldn’t watch it all it was a disgusting portray of her she would turn in her grave is she saw this film why make a film that’s not true .the person who mDe thus film is is own sick fantasy her had about herding watch it
Thank you for writing this. I have a niece who will one day find out about Marilyn and I want her to know the real women and not some fake
Loved your review about Blonde I thought it was spot on. I also picked up on the Mexican Cardigan I thought it was later then the film showed. I don’t think Joyce Carol oats would have done a very good biography on Marilyn it would have been full of cliché about Marilyn all flase & no truth.
Thankyou Scott you are spot on with your analysis of the book and film. I Watched Blonde until the cinema scene then switched off I was disgusted with the portrayal of her. As you say she has no-one to stand up for her only her fans and it saddens me to think some people will think this trash is real.
I made it through less than half the film, mostly because it was so boring!! But also, so completely wrong about who she was. As someone who has spent almost 50 years reading about Marilyn, both good books and bad, I was completely horrified and mystified by this movie. How did anyone who was associated with this movie think it was ok to make this piece of disgusting crap? The untruths proliferate. The representation of Marilyn as this sad, pathetic victim is so wrong and so denigrating to her memory.
Andrew Dominik’s film Blonde was a defamation of character and an insult to the memory of Marilyn Monroe.
A demoralizing melodrama filled with lies and scandals in which Monroe is portrayed as a psychotic case and forgetting the real woman and artist.
Marilyn was proud of her accomplishments as an actor and for creating her own production company, Marilyn Monroe Productions and yet, the film focused instead on Marilyn’s supposed multiple abortions and imaginary conversations with the fetuses. It was outrageous to watch and I wish I could have unseen the film altogether!
As far as Anna de Armas performance she was spot on in her recreation of Monroe’s iconic film scenes and a great vehicle for her career. Yet, she could have digged deeper rather than portraying her as a needy unstable woman child controlled and used by the Hollywood executives and who kills herself after realizing that her real biological dad never wrote her or wanted to meet her.
I wouldn’t recommend watching the film. But if you can’t help yourself, follow the author’s notes, “Blonde should be watched solely as a work of fiction, and not as a biography of Marilyn Monroe”.
Completely agree. Thanks to make clear that this film is just a great fiasco and an insult to the memory of my beloved Marilyn, the best, the sweetest and the eternal beauty.Forever Marilyn, Marilyn forever.
I’m so happy that this was written and is online. As a fan of Marilyn’s,I was so upset by this horrible movie. This director is a disgusting man,in my opinion,and I really question what his motives were behind making this crap movie.I was all over the internet the past couple of days setting the record straight and letting people know that this fiction. It’s so upsetting to me that some people might actually believe it to be the truth. I’ve been a fan of Marilyn’s for a long time so,like I said,I was really happy to see this.Thank you so much.
The Movie “Blonde” to me is a stag film the story sounds fake, i dont like unaccurate movies, They need to leave marilyn monroe alone, these rumors been going on forever, these fake rumors are just to use marilyn monroe for money and attention, She Isnt What Netflix thinks she is, Netflix Are Liars. Thanks For Putting This It Helped Me Alot Learning That Blonde Isnt True
How can it be victimization if she indeed wanted to be portrayed as the whore that she is known and will always be known as? If whores nowadays like Kim kardashian call her their muse then Marilyn got what she wanted which was to normalize hoe behavior and mistress behavior
The only things obviously distasteful here are this film, yourself, and your comment. Get a life.
Thanks for the thoughtful review. Couldn’t agree more.
Thanks for the thoughtful review. Couldn’t agree more.