What Netflix's 'Blonde' Reveals About Marilyn Monroe and Our Obsession With Female Suffering
Why Emily Ratajkowski is not a fan.
Born Norma Jean in 1920s Los Angeles, Marilyn Monroe remains to be the world’s most famous blonde.
With the release of Netflix‘s biopic featuring Knives Out‘s Ana de Armas, many are pointing out Hollywood and our culture’s larger obsession with female pain and tragedy. Among them is the model and author Emily Ratajkowski, who took to TikTok last week to encourage women to be angry rather than continue to fetishize their pain.
@emrataSo done with the fetishization of female pain and suffering. Bitch Era 2022♬ original sound – Emrata
“I’m not surprised to hear it’s yet another movie fetishizing female pain even in death. We do that in many, many different ways, but I want that to change.” The My Body author continues, “You know what’s kind of hard to fetishize? Anger. I’m going to be pissed off when I see this movie, I already know it. But it’s nothing new, and yeah, I’m just going to get angry.”
While the original blonde bombshell has commanded attention in nearly 42 movies, her legacy is reduced to her body, time and time again. Writer-director Andre Dominik’s artistic intents only further exploit the iconic actor as the first frame consisting of her backside makes that clear. Monroe’s life was, without a doubt, hard as she dealt with abuse in her childhood, drug addiction and sexual violence, among other horrors.
In a world where so many podcasts, movies and TV shows center around the gruesome murders and acts of violence committed against young and vulnerable women, it’s come increasingly apparent how much we consume women’s pain as entertainment. As much as we’re afraid to name and hold the systems that harm women and others accountable, like rape culture and the patriarchy, we’re all too comfortable with using its trickle-down effects as late-night binge-watching material. We have such difficulty believing women while they’re alive, yet we love to pour over every sordid detail of their abuse in their deaths and lament over the loss of talent.
Blonde fails in the presentation of its content and directorial decisions as Dominik has a relentless focus on the late star’s trauma and sexuality than her cinematic career and contributions. Most of the movie focuses on Monroe’s terrible relationships. Even more, Dominik chooses to depict the actor’s forced and illegal abortions from the perspective of her vaginal cavity and feature a CGI portrayal of her unborn fetus.
Netflix’s latest exploration into Monroe’s life arrives at an interesting time as the sexualities and bodies of many are being policed and our society as a whole has been reckoning with our deeply misogynistic and predatory treatment of female entertainers. From Anna Nicole Smith to Britney Spears and Paris Hilton, our culture’s commodification of female suffering is undeniable.
For far too long, we’ve found a sick joy in either laughing at or fetishizing women’s pain. Whether we’re making fun of a 20-year-old hotel heiress for being a victim of revenge porn or using a domestic violence trial as content for TikToks, our society is addicted to exploiting women at every stage — exercising unwarranted ownership and control over their bodies, selling them with or without consent, and making a profit off of our society’s own mistreatment of women.
With the rise of the femcel trend, which encourages young women to look at their toxic habits and mental illnesses with rose-colored glasses and the long-standing romanticization of the damsel in distress, Ratajkowski may have the right idea.
Anger is a far more useful emotion and one that has the potential to free women from this woeful cycle. Anger opens your eyes to how you’ve been violated, giving you the power to yell, fight back and call out your abusers. While our society seeks to pacify and make us docile, encouraging and validating female anger may be the key to liberation.