It took me three sessions to finish the Netflix movie Blonde by Andrew Dominik. Cinema has become so slow and boring these past few years, which was not the case when I used to go to the movies almost every weekend as a teenager.
I wasn’t too enthusiastic to see that this movie was almost three hours long, but I was not surprised: The Irishman is over three hours long yet it received a lot of critical acclaim; Nomadland is slow as hell but it won the Oscar for Best Picture in 2021. So I was expecting Blonde to be similar: an endlessly slow sequence of famous Marilyn Monroe scenes recreated almost identically by Ana de Armas and the rest of the cast.
(Just a parenthesis here. Hollywood doesn’t seem to be able to create original movies anymore: everything has to be a remake, a spinoff, a sequel, an adaptation, a live action version of a popular animated feature–Disney is an emblematic example of this trend–or, in the case of Blonde, a biopic. Of course we all know why: it’s much safer to remake something that everyone already loves as opposed to risk it all and create a completely new product that people might hate. In this wasteland of creativity, Netflix, a paid streaming platform, has been releasing the most original products in the entertainment industry overall.)
But back to Blonde. I had read about the outrage it caused as soon as it was released, but I didn’t give it much weight at first. Leaving all of this backlash to the side, my first reaction to the movie was one: overwhelming boredom. It was essentially what I was expecting plus the extremely uncomfortable scenes of abuse and addiction. Pretty standard Netflix movie overall.
I could end my blog post here but there’s more that needs to be said. Every time a controversial work of art comes out, I’m haunted by one question: what is all the fuss about it for? Is the backlash justified? Is there actually something worth talking about there? (To be clear, the underlying message of a movie does not justify the fact that it’s boring, but I wanted to understand the sociology of it, the scandal behind the work.)
Literally the only person who talked positively about the movie after its release was Julieta Wibel, a Spanish YouTuber who studies movies and music in terms of references and symbolism (she’s also the one who analyzed all of Rosalía’s aesthetic earlier this year). She praised Blonde as a “sadistic masterpiece” (una “obra maestra sádica”), recognizing its surrealistic aesthetic full of contrasts between light and darkness, color and black-and-white. She also notices a slight resemblance to David Lynch’s work and, as an ex Lynch fan, I could see that too. She even mentioned some of the director’s most controversial quotes (“I’m not interested in reality, I’m interested in the images“) as a positive aspect of the movie.
She and few other YouTubers reviewed the movie without any biases. The rest of the internet, however… Boy, they had a field day. Different creators described the movie as disturbing, exploitative and a “fundamental failure,” among other adjectives.
In the comments section of this interview with Ana de Armas and Andrew Dominik, we find two extremely contrasting comments. This one, on the one hand:
"I don't understand why so much hate is expressed towards this director, he showed the true face of hollywood in those days and its still alive. Ana on the other hand, my great admiration and respect. Totally transformed into Marilyn, between the two of them they have made the world see what the acting career is like, how deplorable, monstrous, cruel, misogynist cinema is."
On the other, this one:
"He disgusts me. That movie was truly, so awful. You are all going to fucking hell for doing that to Marilyn. I hope to God you do. I have never been this emotional towards a movie, but this was so fucking wrong. Shame on Ana for doing it, just cause it was Marilyn. SHAME on you Ana."
The internet was DIVIDED, to say the least.
So what do I think about this? After watching the movie and listening to many opinions about it, I couldn’t help but realize a few things.
1) Movie critics are hypocritical
Those that criticize Blonde are the same people that praise David Lynch’s Mulholland Drive and Inland Empire, both being shot in a very similar fashion with very strong scenes starring women. To movie critics, the sadder the movie, the better. Marriage Story is nothing but a shouting match between two individuals and it was praised by many as a faithful portrait of what a divorce looks and feels like. But a movie about Marilyn’s demons and abuse? Yeah, we don’t want to see that because she’s dead and cannot defend herself.
2) Blonde embodies what it wishes to condemn
Just like the movies Spring Break and Cuties, Blonde shows how wrong it is to simply see Marilyn as a piece of meat by portraying her–you guessed it–as a piece of meat. In a way, the hero of the story becomes the anti-hero as well (no, this is not a Taylor Swift reference). I still can’t decide whether this is a good things or not.
3) Critics should stop caring so much about facts
I’ve seen tons of videos that fact-check Blonde as if that was the only aim of the movie: to get Marilyn’s life factually correct. Many criticized how Dominik didn’t show Marilyn’s many life achievements and to that I say: maybe that’s the whole point. Although it is undeniable that Marilyn was a real human being and not just a symbol, the book the movie is based on is a fictionalized biography and it presents itself like that from the very beginning. Dominik himself even stated that the movie is about “the idea of Marilyn Monroe” and not the diva itself. Yet, some people do not seem to grasp this concept.
4) Most people see Marilyn as a symbol anyway
Lastly, most of us see Marilyn for the symbol she is, not the human behind her, Norma Jean. When we think of Marilyn, we don’t think of her abortions, her abuse or her failed relationships. No. Instead, we think of the glamorous idea of an ever-cheerful Marilyn that smiles at you with the most beautiful smile you’ve ever seen. At least Dominik showed us how the other side of the coin must have felt like. Does it make the movie any more enjoyable to watch? Absolutely not. But those saying that it is a harmful representation are being blinded by the subject matter, a celebrity that was, is and will always be close to everyone’s hearts.
And with this final thought, I’m going to end today’s blog post. If you want a comprehensive summary of the controversy, you can check out this article on Forbes. Let me know if you’ve watched the movie and what you think of it in the comments below!