The pornography of stripping without understanding the character, Marilyn Monroe and Blonde

“It is no fun to know oneself too well, or to think so. Everyone needs enough arrogance to push themselves forward and survive the ravages.”[1] When I read this excerpt from a long note she wrote when she was 17, I was intrigued to know the real Marilyn Monroe. Since then, I have watched some of the countless biographies written and filmed about him. None of them affected me as much as the notes he wrote. But I think the only biography I’ve watched with a sense of rebellion so far has been “Blonde”.

“As a business, as a business, Marilyn Monroe will never die.” In a documentary about his tragic death and the mystery behind it[2] That’s what it’s called for Marilyn Monroe. Andrew Dominik’s Netflix production “Blonde,” based on Joyce Carol Oates’ novel of the same name, takes this always profitable “business” one step further. The film does not make the slightest effort to delve into the depths of his soul, while showing the real character it is dealing with nude almost more than half of the time 60 years after his death. Filled with autobiographically distorted elements, this lengthy pornography of pain, violence, tears and abuse exploits Marilyn’s tragedy to the fullest. From the most masculine point of view possible, even for all its flamboyant aesthetics, basically the look of an ordinary porn movie. It humiliates, oppresses, objectifies, and takes great pleasure in it.

Blonde – Ana de Armas

“Blonde” depicts one of the world’s brightest stars as a victim reduced to childhood traumas. It has a simpler formula than you might encounter in your average domestic melodrama: Ana de Armas, who plays Marilyn, is sobbing halfway through the movie, and for most of the remaining half she’s raped, pushed around, or just wandering around in a daze. It’s not the player’s fault, that’s the text. The film makes its intentions clear, especially with a close-up, unnecessarily long blowjob scene that Marilyn does to President Kennedy in his hotel room. The film allegedly criticizes the brutal wheels of the system that portrays Norma Jean as the sex bomb Marilyn Monroe. But the portrait she paints is even worse than that, the victim as a sex bomb, the poor victim as a woman who tries to overcome the trauma of fatherlessness by calling every man she loves “daddy daddy”, and the victim again as a woman caught between being the woman of her house and the wheels of fame and harassment. Despite the fact that he read a lot, he can sometimes make interesting analyzes (believe that, these are the scenes like women can talk…), but at the same time, a stupid blonde portrait is drawn.

Ana de Armas (left) – Marilyn Monroe (right)

Flaubert has a saying that I love very much and use often. “When writing a biography of a friend, one should do it as if to avenge him for life.” We don’t necessarily have to have a friend, I believe that the responsibility to tell a life always requires such a compassionate and fair perspective. Here’s the worst part of the movie, which deliberately “robes” this character of an immortal star in a way that appeals to a male fantasy, by inserting it into the body of Armas, one of the most desired female stars of our time, and takes advantage of her like that: “Blonde” is not a movie about brutality, it’s all over again. It’s a brutal movie to the end and a lot of fun.

This cruelty of the movie made me want to talk about Marilyn more than the movie, to avenge her by telling her as much as I can. Kafka Reads I prepared a long portrait of Marilyn Monroe for the March 2021 issue of the magazine. In the following section, I will make great use of that portrait.

Marilyn Monroe was not the passive, always upbeat victim used in this movie for that reason as well as her beauty. She was a truth-seeking, perfectionist, hardworking, kind-hearted, progressive person. She did not suffer only because of her childhood traumas or because of her beauty, which is the most favorite exploitation object of the male world. A true artist who was not satisfied with the given world, whose problem was money, not fame, but truth, also suffered as a soul.

Born in 1926, Marilyn Monroe is one of the rare stars that people of all ages and genders can recognize by name, from the “silent generation” to the Z generation. It might even be like no other. You can still find it everywhere, from coasters to chairs. It is a strange immortality, the kind that cannot be destroyed by biting, plucking, chewing and spitting.

The world loved Marilyn very much. The world, starting from childhood, “ate” Marilyn with a cheeky appetite and could not finish it. There is so much more here than beauty and sexuality. Otherwise, at least five actresses from her generation would have been more permanent than this medium height, slender, fishy, ​​glamorous yet “imperfect” beauty. What made Marilyn immortal was her balance of vulnerability and strength, childishness and femininity, radiant self-confidence and irresistible insecurity, resignation and elusiveness, joy and melancholy. The tangle of contradictions, the indispensable contradiction of life that reminds us that we are mortal in its most intense moments: It is both very far and very close.

One of the things that makes Marilyn Marilyn is a deep misunderstanding that creates the illusion of being understood. It is alleged that her nude photos were taken in the morgue after she was found dead in her bed at the age of 36 following her scandalous affair with the Kennedys. He was known to every inch of his body, alive and dead. Yet neither his death has been fully elucidated until now, nor has his defenseless nakedness of body and soul made him more intelligible.

Marilyn Monroe

Every time the image of Marilyn lands in front of us, it evokes feelings of a highly touristic place we’ve never been to: we believe we know it like the back of our hand without even knowing it, and we are endlessly wrong. Marilyn belongs to everyone and no one can own her truth.

As we can tell from his own notes, as well as the many biographies about him, he was torn between a bright joy and a feeling of pain and loneliness that held the soul in a vise. Despite all the fame, money and shine, in no period of his short life did he have emotional comfort and peace, even as much as today’s average star. As an illegitimate child who grew up with foster families, he always wanted to start a home, yes. Always looking for affection, validation, and love, all three of her marriages ended in increasing disappointment. But Marilyn wasn’t just a sex bomb, nor was she a ‘love woman’ or basically/if she could find her a ‘home woman’. She did not fit these adjectives.

Contrary to her “dumb blonde” image, Marilyn was known to have a very high IQ, was interested in reading and writing since her childhood, and as a woman with high intellectual capacity, Marilyn was attracted to intelligent and intellectual men. The disappointment of her great love with the writer Arthur Miller was perhaps the most severe: precisely because she seemed like a man who could understand her very well. The thing that hurts a person the most is that he is treated as rudely as life, where he lowers his guards, thinks that he can be understood and accepted as he is. Ordinariness in the ordinary, the capacity of the man who seems to know everything to be enamored with the possibilities of “power”… Even more ordinary than James Dougherty, who is said to have married at the age of 16, and the famous baseball player Joe DiMaggio, who stayed in his life as a friend even though he could endure the glare of his fame for ten months. It must have hurt a lot, this marriage that started so well.

Marilyn Monroe Arthur Miller

“Blonde” doesn’t introduce Marilyn, nor does it describe the male characters and their influence on Marilyn’s life well enough. For example, we cannot recognize Arthur Miller as a man who, despite Adrien Brody’s excellent acting, cannot love the woman he loves enough and cannot avoid his ego and the cynicism of his people. The culprit is Marilyn’s traumas, her lost soul from the beginning. By the way, I can’t help but say that Armas, like all the beautiful and bright actors who played Marilyn, has not been able to reflect even a quarter of the star’s charisma. But Marilyn’s strange originality plays a part in this, as well as the disaster scenario. Otherwise, physical similarity was achieved and Armas played the text as well as possible.

It is known that while Marilyn grew up without a mother, she remained a beautiful, sweet child, although she received attention and affection, she experienced abuse. For example, it is claimed that his childhood stuttering was caused by these traumas. Childhood included in femininity has always been found sexy in the collective imagination constructed by hegemonic masculinity. Marilyn’s audibly, very slow, child-feminizing way of speaking is said to stem not from a search for sexiness, but from a stuttering treatment she struggled with for many years. The contribution of even the struggle to cope with the consequences of childhood traumas to sex offers us a key to deciphering the image of Marilyn. The film, on the other hand, does not bother to deal with such details, however, these are the things that make up the character.

“Consistent lack of love and care… The result is distrust and fear of the world. All of this has only helped me, I learned the basic needs of children, the sick and the weak.” “I have intense feelings for everyone who has been persecuted in the world,” he says. Marilyn’s comments on her own childhood reveal that she has drawn much more from her suffering than a soggy father fantasy. It shows a mature soul who has succeeded in translating the scars of his scarred childhood from a narcissistic vulnerability and an insatiable hunger for attention to an intense empathy with others, with the oppressed.

Ana de Armas

Marilyn made movie selections that showed she could easily get away with the “dumb blonde” role that the movie industry had coded her for. Even when she was a world-renowned actress, she attended acting classes without make-up, in ordinary clothes, hiding herself as much as possible. With increasing intensity, she took numerous psychotherapy sessions, taking a keen interest in psychotherapy. She was a person who always tried to improve herself and did not hesitate to dive deep into her soul. “Blonde” is so stuck in the cycle of nightmare, tragedy and pornography that we can hardly see these aspects of the star.

Although she always has to prove that she is more than meets the eye in a life that is always under the spotlight, I think that Marilyn’s main concern is to make herself liked first. A true perfectionist. The pose he gives while reading “Ulysses” is not just a “pose”. The notes he took throughout his life and the poems he wrote give hints of a sincere, artistic, deep creation. Marilyn was a truth-seeking spirit always trying to confront herself, and she had a sincere, not showy, humility.

“Only our parts will touch
to the parts of others-
one’s own truth it’s just-
one’s own truth.
Known and accepted only by others
We can share the track.
Therefore, human
mostly alone
Since it is clearly in our nature
Perhaps at most, our understanding can seek out the loneliness of another.”

This is a piece of many undated poems he wrote in the following years. It’s a very, very good poem. Although he often mentions that he feels lonely when he writes, he does not like crowded groups very much. There is a side that values ​​the bilateral relationship more, which is an indication that he is after the depth and truth that does not fit into everyday, superficial conversations, as well as trust issues.

“I think Marilyn has an almost overwhelming, overwhelming effect on people who have just met her. Not only because she is beautiful, but also because she radiates a boundless vitality and an incredible innocence. I saw the same with the lion cub brought to me by my native servants in Africa. I didn’t keep him with me because I felt it would be wrong. But I can never forget the overwhelming feeling of the unconquerable power and sweetness it radiates. All the wilds of Africa were staring at me with immense mischief.”

Danish writer Karen Blixen (Isak Dinesen), who met him at a luncheon three years before her death, expressed her observations about Monroe with these interesting sentences.

The world lost this original spirit at a very early age, both its joy, its melancholy, its passion and its fears. I believe that if he had lived, he would have been able to cope better with his anxiety and put on his best performances. But as long as he lived, he left a golden mark full of compassion, fragility, unconquerable naturalness, innocence and intelligence in the harsh memory of the world.

“Blonde” turns this intense, powerful and still worth telling trail into a pornographic nightmare. The best part for me is that it creates a need to get to know and promote the real Marilyn because of the sense of injustice it creates.


[1] “Marilyn Monroe- Notes. Edited by Stanley Buchthal and Bernard Comment. trans. Beril Tüccarbaşıoğlu Son, Artemis Publications, Istanbul, 2014. (Notes and excerpts of Marilyn Monroe in the article are from this book.)

[2] “Marilyn Monroe Declassified” documentary, Paul Davids, 2016