Read the Room: Marilyn Monroe biopic ‘Blonde’ is reinforcing abortion stigma

6 mins read

“You won’t hurt me this time, will you?” the CGI foetus asks Marilyn from within its embryonic sac. She stutters that she didn’t mean to, she didn’t mean to abort her first baby. “Yes, you meant to,” the alien like infant replies emotionlessly, “it was your decision.”

Netflix’s recent Marilyn Monroe biopic Blonde is a surreal torture-porn-esque reimagining of the starlet’s life. It also features two historically unevidenced abortions for added pizzazz.

I wonder how feminist writer Roxane Gay would react to the film. Her viewing would no doubt be punctuated by many “GIRL whattt’s”.

Gay constantly questions the engrained misogyny of popular culture. “I’m raising my voice to show all the ways we have room to want more, to do better,” she says in her book Bad Feminist.

Witnessing the release of this horrifying anti-abortion film at a time when women’s reproductive rights are under such threat, I too feel a duty to raise my voice. We need to do better.

Ana de Armas as Marilyn, crying in 'Blonde'
Image Credit: Cosmopolitan

On Friday the 24th of June 2022, Roe v. Wade was overturned and 50 years of US women having the constitutional right to choose abortion came to a devastating end.

13 US states have already enacted a complete ban. Others are likely to follow.

Blonde examines this right to choose but in a dystopian-like role reversal Marilyn (Ana de Armas) is refused the choice of motherhood by way of forced abortions.

“I’ve changed my mind,” she exclaims, imploring the driver to turn around. “Won’t you listen? I’ve changed my mind,” she pleads, as menacing surgeons force her legs apart. A point-of-view shot from inside her cervix forces us to watch through the walls of her vagina as a threatening needle is prepared.

Drifting off to sleep, the sequence turns to hallucination.

She is in a bedroom immersed in flames. A shrieking baby is burning to death in a cabinet drawer. This is hell, we are urged to believe.

Abortion is hell.

Abortion scene in 'Blonde'
Image Credit: Netflix

A productive discussion could have been had here surrounding Hollywood’s dark past of forced abortions.

Instead, director Andrew Dominik uses abortion as a horror trope. He wants us to see the sharp metal abortion tools, the blinding surgical lamp, the blood smeared across Marilyn’s lower body when she wakes.

Historical context? Boring, he thinks. Let’s leave everything ambiguous.

Rip the baby out of the womb. Rip the baby out of the womb.

Donald Trump used this misinformed expression twice during the final presidential debate of 2016. The rhetoric that abortion is an unsafe and violent procedure has been a constant among pro-life men in power.

Let us just ignore the fact that when legal, for many women abortion is an unfussy and unthreatening procedure. Let us ignore the evidence showing it is far safer than childbirth.

Rarely do we see a woman onscreen simply take an abortion pill and move on with her life. Rather, we are gifted films like Blonde where dramatic surgical portrayals perpetuate the stereotype that abortion is dangerous. The same stereotype that largely influenced the overturning of Roe.

CGI foetus in 'Blonde'
Image Credit: Netflix

“You won’t hurt me this time, will you?” the talking CGI foetus asks Marilyn.

It has a cute little button nose, defined eyelids that appear on the brink of opening, and a pursed wrinkly mouth. Cut the umbilical cord and this could be a newborn snuggled up in its cot.

As a young girl battles towards an abortion clinic, a placard with an image almost identical to this is thrust in her face.

“God loves you.” “Your baby loves you.” “Can’t you feel its little heartbeat?”

“God will send you to hell.” “Your baby feels pain you know.” “Baby killer.”

Pro-life activists have long used medically inaccurate propaganda as a ploy to deter women from seeking abortions. Even Planned Parenthood has condemned Blonde and its CGI foetus which “bolsters their message” and serves to “reinforce misinformation and perpetuate stigma around sexual and reproductive health care”.

Ana de Armas as Marilyn in 'Blonde'
Image Credit: Netflix

Producers, directors, cinematographers. I ask you to read the room.

The reproductive rights of women across the US hang in the balance.

We feel betrayed. Broken. Angry.

Now more than ever we need responsible, medically accurate, and sympathetic portrayals of abortion onscreen. We need to see the story of a woman who has travelled from Oklahoma to New Mexico just to exercise control over her body. We need to see this injustice played out onscreen if we are to convince people to open their eyes.

We do not need a film like Blonde, a fever dream spawned from the minds of all the pro-lifers who have told us that abortion is violent. As if forcing us to give birth is not.

Featured Image Credit: Forbes

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