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ana de armas as marilyn monroe in blonde
ana de armas as marilyn monroe in blonde
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Culture > Entertainment

How Much Of Marilyn Monroe’s Life In ‘Blonde’ Is True?

It’s no secret that the media has been long enthralled by the life, legacy, and persona of Hollywood starlet Marilyn Monroe. Before and after her tragic death at the mere age of 36, Marilyn has been known as the blonde bombshell, loved and adored by many. It came as no surprise when another emerging Marilyn film was announced in 2019, this time directed by Andrew Dominik and starring Ana de Armas. Blonde debuts a limited time theatrical release on Friday Sept. 16, and hits its home streaming service of Netflix on Sept. 28.

In true Marilyn fashion, the film, Blonde, has sent the media into a frenzy. From the early announcement of an NC-17 Motion Picture Association of America rating (a first for Netflix), to Twitter’s disapproval of de Armas’ Marilyn portrayal in the movie’s first trailer, Blonde has kept everyone talking. de Armas has even claimed that the spirit of Marilyn haunted her while on set (creepy, I know). Many have wondered, is Blonde based on a true story? 

The short answer would have to be, no, the film is not based solely on the life of Marilyn. Blonde is a reimagined, fiction-based adaptation of Joyce Carole Oates’ 2000 novel of the same name. Dominik’s film does follow the story of the icon known as Marilyn Monroe, but it truly uncovers the lost story of Norma Jeane (Monroe’s real name). The film begins by introducing Norma Jeane’s treacherous childhood enthralled by a mother with mental illness, spanning all the way to her haunting death where she knows nothing but her life as the Marilyn character.

Many fans haven’t seen the film yet, but an exclusive group of people did at the 2022 Venice Film Festival, where it received a 14-minute standing ovation. Since the viewing, various outlets have given their own reviews surrounding Blonde, with a swarm of mixed critiques. All in all, the film does evaluate the story of the back-and-forth between Norma to Marilyn, touching base and revisiting familiar, iconic Marilyn moments.

References of well-known Marilyn moments like her performance of “I Wanna Be Loved By You” in Some Like it Hot are portrayed in uncanny reference to their original counterparts. Other recognizable elements of Marilyn’s life like her relationships with her spouses were, too, incorporated in the movie, but done so in incognito fashion. Marilyn’s ex-husbands Joe DiMaggio and Arthur Miller are referred to as “The Ex-Athlete” and “The Playwright,” even with appearances of her infamous time with John F. Kennedy as “The President.”

Dominik’s edition of the Blonde story aims to showcase the ache that Norma had to keep her authentic self separate from the Marilyn that the world thought they knew and loved. The story places emphasis on the power that Hollywood executives exerted over a fictional version of Marilyn through acts of rape, physical abuse, and forced drug use that have been highly called into question by critics. It left many wondering if these tough-to-watch scenes were necessary in the lengths Dominik reaches in the film to portray the story. The earlier released Blonde teaser showcases Marilyn’s makeup artist painting on her face, a metaphor used to highlight how she always was transforming into the act of Marilyn, never showing off her true, authentic self.

While Blonde may not be based on a true story, it carries elements that pull from the double life of Norma Jeane as portrayed by Marilyn Monroe. Dominik’s reimagination of the starlites life makes use of real events, but in a fictitious, movie-like form. So, is Blonde based on a true story? The real answer: it’s a fictitious telling of the life of Marilyn… so, no.

McKinley Franklin is a writer and recent college graduate from East Carolina University. She was Her Campus' fall 2022 entertainment and culture intern and is a current national writer. McKinley specializes in entertainment coverage, though her favorite niche of the industry is reality television.