‘Blonde’: Is the New Marilyn Monroe Movie an Antiabortion Fever Dream?

That the Marilyn of the movie regrets this decision is undeniable. She is shown as haunted by her abortion, paralyzed in her dressing room and unable to perform. While surrounded by thunderous applause at the premiere of Gentlemen Prefer Blondes, she wipes tears from her eyes and whispers to herself, “For this you killed your baby.”

blonde‘s Marilyn is seen as desperately longing to lose herself in the identity of a mother, elated when she becomes pregnant in her third marriage and responding to her husband’s jokes about food cravings with, “Baby makes his wishes known. Norma’s just the vessel!” While discussing his wife, The Playwright (Oates’s name for Arthur Miller) remarks, “Pregnancy agrees with her…. She says, ‘This is how it’s supposed to be, I guess.’” Dominik’s most shocking choice, however, is seen when Marilyn hears the fetus (again, shown developing in her body) plaintively asking her, “You won’t hurt me this time, will you?” After she protests that she didn’t mean to end her first pregnancy, the fetus tells her, “Yes, you meant to. It was your decision.” Presented as its own being, with its own voice, the fetus is clearly shown to be a life, independent of its mother, before it is born.

The hell that blonde‘s Marilyn puts herself through is painful to watch, due to de Armas’s remarkably raw performance. She tortures herself after she miscarries, losing herself in drugs and alcohol. While performing a scene from Some Like It Hot, her character is accused of being “careless,” and the screen is filled with images of her fetus dying when she miscarried. De Armas plays Marilyn as a scared girl, tremulously quivering in fear as she seeks approval from every (male) figure in her life. Her breathy voice and wide eyes only enhance her youthful appearance. During scenes in which everyone is clothed in dark colors, she is dressed in shimmering white.

Oates created a character desperate to be a mother and tormented by her inability. Dominik and de Armas’s Marilyn is a faithful adaptation of Oates’s, but that devotion does not translate into a successfully entertaining film. Instead, the horrifying images that illustrate the murders—close-up shots of the procedure and its ongoing effects on Marilyn’s mental health—come across as promotion of an anti-choice agenda associating abortion with horrific violence and declaring it. Fetal personhood, the idea that life begins at conception, is an excuse for the onslaught of anti-choice legislature in America, and Dominik has directed a film in which a fetus begs the woman carrying it, “You won’t…do what you did the last time?” The theme of violence is even more heavy-handed when, the morning after Marilyn is forced into another abortion, presumably by The President, she stumbles out of bed confused and discovers the lower of half of her body dela soaked in blood.

It’s undeniable that Marilyn is a victim. She is remarkably sympathetic, which inspires the question of why Dominik chose to shoot the movie as he did. Why torture this Marilyn, and by way of de Armas’s compelling presence dela, the audience? The pain of Marilyn’s childhood and the horrors of her adulthood have been examined in countless books, movies, and podcasts. blonde‘s portrayal of her pregnancies and losses does set it apart from other content, but that status comes with a cost.

“The last few days of her life were brutal,” Oates said of Marilyn. “The real things that happened to Marilyn Monroe are much worse than anything in the movie.” Why should that be experienced again? Oates has praised Dominik and the film on Twitter, writing, “…not sure that any male director has ever achieved anything [like] this.” That may be true, but there may also be reasons why.

blonde‘s Marilyn is open and exposed. She leaves everything she has onscreen, keeping nothing for herself. The patriarchal structure of Hollywood defines her life while simultaneously violating and disrespecting it, and she is unable to fight for herself. Her lack of choice in Marilyn’s life is appalling, but equally shocking is her decision to present it so bluntly to an audience still reeling from their own rights being taken away.

One of the film’s most horrifying moments depicts Marilyn, having fallen on the beach and experiencing a miscarriage, screaming for her husband to help. As he races toward her, he’s surrounded by members of the press, their cameras flashing while they photograph her pain. As Dominik condemns their exploitation of her tragedies for entertainment and profit, he should have included himself in the shot.

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