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Critic of the Male Lens or Uncomfortable Tragedy? A Review of Netflix’s “Blonde”

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This article is written by a student writer from the Her Campus at PSU chapter.

Spoiler Alert: this article talks about the entirety of the movie.

Trigger Warning: the movie “Blonde” contains some upsetting themes about sexual assault, drugs, and abuse.

This Wednesday, Netflix released its biopic of Norma Jeane Mortenson, famously known as Marilyn Monroe, “Blonde.” As viewers rushed to watch the movie, there were some mixed reviews.

As expected, the movie goes over the tragic life of Marilyn Monroe. She was one of the biggest stars in the movie industry of her time. So, the movie has some incredibly dark scenes.

First, we need to discuss who Norma Jeane Mortenson really was.

Mortenson was the product of an affair between a movie producer and her mother. Her mother was committed to a mental hospital for paranoid schizophrenia when she was young, so Mortenson was put with foster parents.

As an adult, Mortenson became a famous actor under the name “Marilyn Monroe”. She suffered from tragedy with three divorces, numerous miscarriages, drug and alcohol addiction and death due to overdose.

The movie shows that her mother tried to drown Mortenson, then she stays with her neighbors until she is eventually placed at an orphanage. The movie then flashes forward to her life as an adult.

She went through some terrible things in her life, and there is much unknown by the public. But the presentation style of the movie seems almost inappropriate. The movie seems to dramatize and monopolize her already tragic life with disturbing scenes and themes.

Within ten minutes of the movie, Monroe is almost killed by her mother and raped by a director, landing her first role.

Viewers expressed discomfort not only at these terrible acts but also with the unnecessary element of these scenes.

These are examples of the many liberties the writers made with her life. While nobody but Monroe may know the truth, there was no evidence to claim that a director raped her for her first role, there is no evidence that she is almost drowned by her mother.

And there is more to come.

As the movie goes on, the writers also create a story that she was involved in a “throuple” with Charlie Chaplin Jr. and Eddy G. Robinson Jr. This relationship makes little to no sense.

There was nothing in her lifetime that suggested she had a relationship with these characters.

In this made-up relationship, Monroe becomes pregnant and gets a traumatic abortion.

Marilyn Monroe with Charlie Chaplin Jr. and Eddy G. Robinson Jr. in the movie

It is a little hard to believe that the movie is a biopic, which literally means a biographical movie. You can learn more about discrepancies between the movie and real life here.

Next, she begins to truly rise to fame which brings her first husband, Joe DiMaggio. The movie shows scenes of her getting abused by DiMaggio which leads to their eventual divorce.

After DiMaggio, she married Arthur Miller. She seems legitimately happy in this relationship until she has a miscarriage and falls to addiction.

At this point, Monroe’s life seems to unfold. She divorces Miller. She has trouble separating Marilyn Monroe from Norma Jeane Mortenson. And, she seems to fall under the pressure of stardom.

This is when the movie introduces her alleged relationship with President John F. Kennedy.

Finally, Monroe receives a letter from her former lover, Charlie Chaplin Jr.

Monroe never knew her father. Toward the beginning of the movie, she gets a letter from “a tearful father.”

He keeps sending her letters throughout her adulthood. This letter from Chaplin reveals that it was him writing the letters to his aborted baby.

This seems to push her to her limit, and she overdoses.

With these disturbing scenes, the creators of the film seem to almost disrespect her life and fame. It feels demeaning to watch.

Monroe calls her husbands “daddy.” She is constantly pictured undressed. And, she is shown being assaulted numerous times throughout the movie.

As this creates discomfort with the viewer, we need to question the intent and execution of these scenes. It is unclear what the directors want the audience to feel.

The movie wants to show Monroe’s suffering with her getting assaulted by JFK, but is it necessary to show her giving him a blowjob?

They want to show the pain of the forced abortion, but do they have to show the camera from the point of view of her vaginal canal?

Does the movie have to show her being drowned by her naked mother?

It seemed like a lot of the disturbing aspects were not needed, and they were purely added to demean the image of Monroe. The hypotheticals of the movie shamed her as a star, actor and human being.

Many people went to Twitter to criticize the movie:

The movie was not all bad. Ana de Armas looked identical to Marilyn Monroe, and she did a good job of encapsulating the intended atmosphere from the directors.

While the cinematography was odd and invasive at points, the switches from black-and-witch and colored picture was interesting. Lastly, the clothing of the actors was perfect.

Even as the movie had the occasional good element and attempted to point out the patriarchal woes in Hollywood, the movie appeared uncomfortable, cruel and invasive.

In conclusion, if you do decide to watch it, watch it at your own risk.

Kyra is a second-year student at Penn State. She is double-majoring in Political Science and Broadcast Journalism. She is also involved in PSU's TEDx program. For fun, she loves to play tennis, read, hang out with friends, and eat cheezits!