Blonde – the fictionalisation of Marilyn Monroe’s life – has sparked controversy since its Netflix release last week. And there’s one scene in particular that’s got everyone talking.
The film follows the star, played by Ana de Armas, as she has two abortions. It’s worth saying here that Monroe never publicly spoke about having an abortion – Blonde is a fictionalisation of Monroe’s life, based on the novel by Joyce Carol Oates of the same name.
Viewers have been left shocked by a scene that shows Monroe apparently hearing (or imagining) the voice of a foetus growing inside her, which is presented on screen as the image of a full-grown baby.
“You won’t hurt me this time, will you?” the foetus asks her. After she protests that she didn’t mean to end her first pregnancy, the foetus tells her: “Yes, you meant to. It was your decision.”
It’s led to accusations that the film is anti-choice, a claim that writer-director Andrew Dominik has strongly contested.
The film comes at a time when women’s reproductive rights are being dismantled in America, with the overturning of the Roe vs Wade legislation, which protected women’s right to abortion.
Campaigners are also calling for abortion to be decriminalised in the UK. Though abortion is legal here, earlier this year two women faced criminal charges for abortions in the UK, when they were accused of accessing treatment outside of the permitted criteria.
Now, Blonde’s talking foetus scene has been shared widely on social media, with some people saying they will not be watching the movie because of it.
Caren Spruch from Planned Parenthood, a non-profit that helps people access sexual healthcare in the US, raised concerns about the scene, because “film and TV shapes many people’s understanding of sexual and reproductive health”.
“It’s critical these depictions accurately portray women’s real decisions and experiences,” she told The Hollywood Reporter.
“While abortion is safe, essential healthcare, anti-abortion zealots have long contributed to abortion stigma by using medically inaccurate descriptions of foetuses and pregnancy. Andrew Dominik’s new film, Blonde, bolsters their message with a CGI-talking foetus, depicted to look like a fully formed baby.”
But Andrew Dominik has said of his film, which got a standing ovation at its premiere in Venice: “I don’t think the movie is anti-pro choice. I don’t think it is at all.”
In an interview with The Wrap, he said “the movie is saying is she’s not seeing reality. She’s seeing her own fears and desires projected onto the world around her”.
He added that people may be looking at “Blonde through this Roe v. Wade lens”, due to the time of its release.
“I think the movie is pretty nuanced actually, and I think it’s very complex, but that doesn’t fit — people are obviously concerned with losses of freedoms, obviously they are,” he said.
“But, I mean, no one would have given a shit about that if I’d made the movie in 2008, and probably no one’s going to care about it in four years’ time. And the movie won’t have changed. It’s just what sort of going on.”