You might remember that critics and audiences, including myself, mostly did not have kind words for Blonde, Andrew Dominik’s brutal fictionalized biography of Marilyn Monroe.
Unfortunately, Dominik took the wrong lesson from the reaction to the film and its poor box office numbers. Over the weekend at Saudi Arabia’s Red Sea International Film Festival, Dominik claimed he was “really pleased” that Blonde had “outraged so many people.” U.S. audiences, he surmised, didn’t want to see a movie that took “the iconography of [Monroe’s] life and put it into service of something else.”
“We’re living in a time where it’s important to present women as empowered, and [Americans] want to reinvent Marilyn Monroe as an empowered woman…and if you’re not showing them that, it upsets them,” he said. No, Dominik. I’m not upset that I wasn’t seeing an empowered woman on screen, but rather that I spent an evening watching a montage movie of fantasy rape scenes without the smallest lick of contemplating Monroe’s life outside a string of abuses.
If anyone is outraged about this film, it’s because some of us wasted almost three goddamn hours of our goddamn lives watching a CGI fetus have not one, not two, but three full beauty close-up shots and at least two conversations with Marilyn Monroe (there might have been a third but I blacked it out, to be honest). I also found it pretty outrageous that I had to watch the stars in the sky turn into cartoon sperm and was expected to think, “Wow, this is a man who has done his research on a famous woman.”
Obviously I can’t help but think of the many times I wrote or performed something less than stellar (or even passable) and comforted myself with the notion that the audience (cowards) didn’t have the capacity to understand real art. It’s an easy way to dismiss and not take to heart any criticisms—especially at a time when you can just say the word “woke” or “cancel culture” and half of the planet will nod in sympathy with your plight.
While it’s true that pop culture often rides the millennial pink wave of girl-boss feminism without bothering to inspect (or care) what’s underneath—that wasn’t the problem with this movie. Blonde did not have the substance or storytelling nuance to make sitting through this never ending rape fantasy worthwhile. Just check your ego and make better movies, man, and people might enjoy watching them.