Blonde, directed by Andrew Dominik and starring Ana de Armas, has received harsh criticism and is currently available to stream on Netflix. The way it treats Marilyn Monroe as a defenceless victim, its obsession with depicting her suffering abuse, sexualization, and abandonment seemingly without end, and how it engages in the very behaviour it purports to criticise are all issues. Then there is its perspective on abortion.
In the nearly three-hour length of Blonde, Monroe has two abortions and miscarries a child. The latter is loosely based on actual occurrences; the actress who played a role in real life experienced ectopic pregnancies, and miscarriages, and never gave birth. Although there are only rumours that she had abortions, Blonde imagines what they could have been like from between Marilyn Monroe’s legs. (This was criticised by viewers and even Planned Parenthood, which is understandable.)
Monroe becomes pregnant before the filming of Gentlemen Prefer Blondes, and the first abortion occurs after her trio with Charlie Chaplin Jr. and Eddie G. Robinson Jr. She initially declines the position as she prepares to become a mother. She decides to have an abortion, however, in order to prevent passing on the mental disease to her unborn child after learning that her mother’s schizophrenia may be inherited. The surgery is viewed from inside the woman’s vagina, and the doctor is seen inserting a device at the start of the process.
Marilyn begins to question herself. Maybe she really does desire a child. After escaping the operation table, she is pursued. Although the remainder of the procedure is not shown, the fact that she is back at work and filming Gentlemen Prefer Blondes immediately after suggests that the abortion indeed took place.
Following her meeting with President John F. Kennedy, she had a second abortion. She is transported to the hospital while she is still sleepy and disoriented, where abortion is carried out on her. Once more, we see her vagina being forced open, and at the conclusion, she awakens in bed drenched in blood and believes she has merely had a bizarre dream.
Monroe gets pregnant again and is prepared to have a baby at some point between these abortions. A CGI rendering of her foetus communicates to her, pleading for life and calling out the abortion she had. “This time you won’t hurt me, right? Not do what you did last time?” it prompts before informing her that it’s the “same baby” as her earlier pregnancy.
The scenario is so unsettling, so strange, and so loaded with anti-abortion messages that it seems to have come straight out of a propaganda film. Even if it wasn’t, it’s easy to imagine pro-lifers using it to their advantage already. Personally, even after attending Catholic school for more than ten years—which had plenty of anti-abortion lectures and the promotion of chastity as the sole effective method of contraception—I had never before witnessed a talking foetus until Blonde.
Over the weekend, a statement from Planned Parenthood criticising the movie’s portrayal of abortion was released. “It’s crucial that these depictions accurately portray women’s real decisions and experiences,” Caren Spruch, national director of arts and entertainment engagement for Planned Parenthood Federation of America, told The Hollywood Reporter.
“Film and TV shape many people’s understanding of sexual and reproductive health.” Anti-abortion extremists have long contributed to the stigma surrounding abortion by utilising medically incorrect portrayals of foetuses and pregnancy, despite the fact that abortion is a safe, necessary form of healthcare. In Blonde, a new movie by Andrew Dominik, a talking foetus that appears to be a fully developed baby is used to support the message of the film.
“Planned Parenthood values artistic freedom and latitude. False perceptions, however, simply help to support erroneous information and sustain stigma related to sexual and reproductive health care. Every pregnancy outcome, even abortion, needs to be delicately, honestly and properly depicted in the media. For every person who has an abortion to be able to see herself on film, there is still more work to be done. It is regrettable that the writers of Blonde decided to stigmatise people’s healthcare decisions in favour of promoting anti-abortion propaganda.
You have to hand it to Andrew Dominik, extremely bold to have a scene in “Blonde” where Marilyn’s baby talks to her about her previous abortion like this pic.twitter.com/tQuHtTfgPt
— Katrina Hutchins (@katrinabhaydon) September 28, 2022
Naturally, the video also shocked other viewers. Editor of The Daily Beast Allegra Frank referred to it as “an abomination.” Evangelical Christian middle schools would play this scene from a VHS during their sex-ed lectures, according to Kady Ruth Ashcraft of Jezebel. When the movie finally debuted on Netflix, more reviews that had been earlier eclipsed by complaints about the film’s overall harshness, poured in.
i felt really uncomfortable watching Blonde. it’s the most male-gazey movie i’ve ever seen and incredibly exploitative (mmm yes 3 rape scenes are necessary) also, gave me slight anti-abortion tone (they had a talking fetus commiserating with marilyn and they over-gorified it).
— Mariamante (@MiaLossen) September 24, 2022
I had the extreme misfortune of watching Blonde on Netflix last night and let me tell you that movie is so anti-abortion, so sexist, so exploitative. CanNOT recommend it LESS. Do not watch. The abortion scenes in particular are terrible, but so is the whole entire movie.
— Steph Herold (@StephHerold) September 29, 2022
Dominik believes that the movie doesn’t contain an overtly anti-abortion message in the face of criticism. He told The Wrap, “I don’t think the movie is an anti-pro choice. The foetus scenario aims to demonstrate how Monroe is “not seeing reality,” rather. She is projecting her own aspirations and worries onto the environment around her, the filmmaker said. “You can tell she’s responding to a tale she’s carrying around inside her because you see it repeatedly. And I believe that everyone is doing the same thing by wanting to view Blonde through the perspective of Roe v.
Wade. They perceive Blonde as a devil because of their agenda, which centres around their perception that women’s rights are being violated, but the underlying issue is unrelated to that. People, in my opinion, find it very challenging to go outside of the narratives they hold within themselves and make their own independent observations. And that, in my opinion, is the main subject of the film.
Monroe wants a child to rescue herself, Dominik told Sight and Sound. Her own mother’s psychiatric hospitalisation ruined her own parenthood. Her baby is real, so you see it. Otherwise, the scene wouldn’t feel real. She’s reluctantly aborting. That’s awful. I’m imagining her life. I’m putting the audience through it. I’m not tasteful.
Monroe’s abortion scenes could have explored interesting, nuanced ideas, such as the lengths women had to go to get an abortion in the ’50s, the dangers of getting an illegal abortion then versus the access people have to the procedure now in states that still allow it, or how safe abortions can be today if they’re treated as proper, necessary healthcare.
Even 60 years ago, women chose abortions over putting their careers on wait, and abortions were routine for Hollywood stars, but studio chiefs made the decision. Between the 1920s and 1950s, actresses often had secret abortions at the studios’ request to avoid bringing dishonour to their projects with unplanned pregnancies. Dominik said these chats won’t be in the film. Repeated trauma and a talking foetus are acceptable.
Blonde’s critics say it doesn’t portray Monroe’s joys, ignores her onscreen and offscreen successes (such as co-founding a production business), and limits her goals to motherhood and locating her absent father. Blonde’s unwavering attention to her anguish and pain suggests she cared more for Monroe’s foetus than her own.