Netflix releases near-biography of Marilyn Monroe

Unanimous applause for actress Ana de ArmasHard to think of the Hollywood star as a feminist icon and advocate for social justice. A shape-shifting figure, however, she was much more than curves and a whispering voice. New semi-fictional film invites you to rethink Marilyn. Self-determination, acceptance of one’s own body and awareness of social injustice are not qualities normally associated with 1950s Hollywood, at the height of Marilyn Monroe’s career. But the “blonde bomb”, seen as the incarnation of the sex symbol, actually rebelled against various social trends of its time. After its release at the 79th Venice Film Festival on September 8, and then in theaters in the United States and the United Kingdom, it premieres on a global scale this Wednesday (28/09), on the streaming platform Netflix, the semi-biographical film Blonde, dedicated to the dead star on August 5, 1962, aged 36, after an overdose of barbiturates. The production already arrives to the acclaim of numerous critics – although other outlets, such as the Chicago Sun-Times, have found Blonde “stretched” and “overblown”, lamenting that it “presents the life of Marilyn Monroe as a joyless nightmare”. Its protagonist, however, the Cuban-born actress Ana de Armas, received unanimous praise. According to the culture magazine Variety, Armas “gives us nothing less than what we’ve come to expect: she transforms into Marilyn Monroe”; while for the British periodical The Guardian she is “simply extraordinary” on paper. From abuse to two-dimensionality Despite faithfully recreating iconic scenes from the tormented actress’s career – such as the one in The Next Door, in which a subway fan makes her white dress flutter – the film written and directed by Andrew Dominik is mostly fiction, taking its title borrowed from the novel by Joyce Carol Oates, released in 2000. The intention was to delve into the hiatus between Norma Jeane Mortenson – the actress’ real name – and Marilyn, the persona she created. In his own words, Dominik wanted, above all, to explore the tension between the actress’s inner life and the “collective memory” that one has of her. With her mother struggling with mental health issues and her father of unknown identity, Norma Jeane grew up in foster homes where she was sexually abused. Her tumultuous private life has been meticulously dissected for decades: failed marriages, miscarriages and miscarriages, drug abuse, rumored love affairs with movie-industry moguls and prominent politicians. Professionally, the seductive curves, the whispering voice – a strategy suggested by a speech therapist to overcome stuttering – and the highly sexualized roles they gave her, reduced her to a two-dimensional character, primarily at the service of male fantasies. One of the most shocking scenes in the near-biography suggests that Monroe was raped by then-President John F. Kennedy, with whom she was said to have a consensual romance. While not based on actual records, the sequence emphasizes the actress’s victimization and demeaning of her as a sex object. The American website The Daily Beast called it “the most terrifying scene in the film”, which it defines as “a horror show full of disconcerting images”. Entrepreneur and unlikely feminist icon In the six decades since Marilyn’s death, she has come to be hailed as a feminist icon. Initially, as an illustration of why feminism is needed as an antidote to the sexual exploitation and objectification of women. In the meantime, however, she received knowledge for her own professional demands and self-determination. Hired by Twentieth Century Fox, she was fed up with the “dumb blonde” roles and demanded more from the scripts she accepted. In 1955, she created Marilyn Monroe Productions, becoming the second US woman, after Mary Pickford, to have her own production company. After much legal wrangling, Monroe and her firm reached an agreement that allowed him to negotiate retroactive payments, higher salaries and the right to choose his own scripts, directors and photographers – a rare win for any actor at the time. In the article Wolves I have known, published for the January 1963 issue of Motion Picture and Television Magazine, she denounced the sexual harassment that was rampant in Hollywood at the time. This is how the 27-year-old described the men of the industry: “There are many types of wolves. Some are sinister, some are just let’s-have-fun Charlies, trying to get something for nothing, and some turn it into a game.” At the same time, Monroe uninhibitedly accepted her curves and her sexuality. Something that was once seen as the antithesis of feminism, but which today makes her considered a pioneer of body positivity, the full acceptance of one’s own body as it is. Marilyn Monroe’s Metamorphoses Her sharp mind and well-informed views on politics and social justice – what American slang would define today as a woke person – are also often ignored. One of her most cited acts of awareness is when she used her celebrity weight so jazz star Ella Fitzgerald could sing in a club that originally turned her down. Apparently, the management of the Mocambo club felt that the black singer lacked the glamor necessary to perform in place of Hollywood fashion. But Monroe urged the owner, Charlie Morrison, to hire Fitzgerald, promising, in return, to watch all the shows in the front row. For one of the actress’ biographers, Lois Banner, a professor of history and gender studies at the University of Southern California, she was “an eternal metamorphic” whose “multiple transformations allow each generation, even each individual, to create a Marilyn.” according to your personal specifications”. Despite her fictional origins, Blonde dwells on the complex persona of a superstar who still resonates with audiences worldwide, 60 years after her death. Author: Stuart Braun

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