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Is ‘Blonde’ Based on a True Story?

Ana de Armas, as Marilyn Monroe, sits on a couch with a newspaper in her hand.

Blonde hit Netflix on September 28, 2022, after a limited theatrical run, and tackles the life of Marilyn Monroe. The film is based on Joyce Carol Oates’s 1999 novel of the same name. Ana de Armas stars in the titular role as Monroe, and is joined onscreen by Adrien Brody, Sara Paxton, Bobby Cannavale, Julianne Nicholson, and Xavier Samuel. Initially, Naomi Watts, and later Jessica Chastain, had been tapped to star as Monroe, until the role eventually went to de Armas. de Armas’ performance has been the most-praised aspect of the film, which has received fairly tentative reviews so far.

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Blonde follows Monroe’s life, all the way from her tumultuous childhood as Norma Jeane Mortenson, to her breakthrough as one of America’s biggest stars, to the exploitation and abuse she suffered in the industry. Many recognize Monroe as one of the biggest pop culture icons and greatest Hollywood stars in American history, whose popularity and recognition are rivaled by few others. However, lesser known is her convoluted personal life in which she struggled with a traumatic childhood, mental health issues, and drug addiction. The public image of Monroe and her private life were in stark contrast with one another.

Blonde is an attempt to explore that dissociation between the public Monroe and the private Monroe. The majority of the film is black-and-white, while certain poignant scenes are in color. Blonde also clocks in at 3 hours long, giving the impression of being a thorough exploration of Monroe’s life. Instead, though, many are accusing the film of being only more exploitative of Monroe and steeped in misery. Part of the reason for discontent in early reviews may be because of the odd way the film chooses to frame a real-life story.

Is Blonde based on a true story?

Marilyn Monroe in River of No Return (1954)
(Image: 20th Century Studios)

Blonde departs from the traditional biopic in that it is not wholly based on a true story. Instead, Blonde is a mixture of truth and fiction. It does focus on a real-life figure, Monroe, and vaguely explores her history, but it is a fictionalized take on her life. IMDb describes the film as, “A fictionalized chronicle of the inner life of Marilyn Monroe.” Meanwhile, Netflix’s description of the film reads, “‘Blonde’ blurs the lines of fact and fiction to explore the widening split between her public and private selves.”

Ultimately, Blonde is an attempt to imagine what Monroe’s thoughts, struggles, and private life were like, as well as to make a direct point about the ways she was exploited. However, since the actress never wrote an autobiography, many of the words and experiences aren’t actually Monroe’s. In fact, some aspects of the film are completely fictional. For example, the film depicts Monroe’s supposed polygamous relationship with Charlie Chaplin, Jr. and Edward “Eddy” G. Robinson, Jr., her supposed abortion, and several harrowing scenes of sexual violence. These elements of the film are all creative liberties with no historical evidence behind them.

Hence, Blonde certainly shouldn’t be taken as a traditional biopic. The best way to describe it is a fictionalized take on Monroe’s life; certain aspects of it should certainly be taken with a grain of salt. It remains up to the viewers how they interpret the reimagining. For some, it’s an experimental and unique departure from typical biopics. However, for others, it seems to be a ploy to further exploit Monroe in a gritty tale that seemingly fetishizes and exaggerates the tragedies of her life.

(featured image: Netflix)

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Rachel Ulatowski
Rachel Ulatowski is an SEO writer for The Mary Sue, who frequently covers DC, Marvel, Star Wars, YA literature, celebrity news, and coming-of-age films. She has over two years of experience in the digital media and entertainment industry, and her works can also be found on Screen Rant and Tell-Tale TV. She enjoys running, reading, snarking on YouTube personalities, and working on her future novel when she's not writing professionally. You can find more of her writing on Twitter at @RachelUlatowski.

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