Even Planned Parenthood Is Calling Out Blonde’s Anti-Abortion Messaging

There’s quite a bit to select apart in Blonde, Andrew Dominik’s highly criticized Marilyn Monroe film starring Ana de Armas, which is now streaming on Netflix. There’s the way in which it reduces Hollywood’s biggest icon to a helpless victim; its obsession with showing Monroe endure abuse, sexualization, and abandonment seemingly endlessly; and the way it participates within the very behavior it means to critique. After which there’s its tackle abortion.

In Blonde’s almost three-hour runtime, Monroe undergoes two abortions and loses a pregnancy. The latter is somewhat based on true events; the real-life actress did suffer from ectopic pregnancies and miscarriages through her life and never had children. Accounts of her having abortions, nevertheless, were only alleged, but Blonde goes on to assume what they could’ve been like—with a view from between Monroe’s legs. (Understandably, audiences and even Planned Parenthood took issue with this.)

The primary abortion comes after her threesome with Charlie Chaplin Jr. and Eddie G. Robinson Jr.; Monroe becomes pregnant ahead of filming Gentlemen Prefer Blondes. At first, she turns down the role, able to grow to be a mother. But when she learns her mother’s schizophrenia may very well be inherited, she decides to undergo with an abortion to avoid passing on the mental illness to her child. The operation takes the attitude of looking from her vagina, with a view of the doctor inserting a tool at the start of the procedure. Marilyn starts having second thoughts. Perhaps she desires to have a baby in spite of everything. She runs from the operating table and gets chased down. We don’t see the remainder of the procedure, but the next scene of her filming Gentlemen Prefer Blondes implies that the abortion did, the truth is, occur now that she’s back to work.


The second abortion comes after she meets President John F. Kennedy. She is taken in her sleep to the hospital, where an abortion is performed on her when she’s still groggy and in a daze. Again, we get the shot of her vagina being pried open, and in the long run, she wakes up in bed, covered in blood, considering she’s just had a crazy dream.

In some unspecified time in the future between these abortions, Monroe becomes pregnant again and is able to have a baby. Her fetus, represented by a CGI rendering, speaks to her, begging for all times and shaming her for her abortion. “You won’t hurt me this time will you? Not do what you probably did last time?” it asks, before telling her it’s the “same baby” as her previous pregnancy. The scene is so eerie, so bizarre, so coded with anti-abortion sentiments that it feels straight out of a propaganda video. Even when it wasn’t, one can already picture anti-choicers making one with it now. Personally, after over 10 years of Catholic school, which included its justifiable share of anti-abortion lectures and teaching chastity because the only contraception, I had still never seen a talking fetus until Blonde.

Planned Parenthood released an announcement over the weekend denouncing the film’s portrayal of abortion. “As film and TV shapes many individuals’s understanding of sexual and reproductive health, it’s critical these depictions accurately portray women’s real decisions and experiences,” Caren Spruch, Planned Parenthood Federation of America’s national director of arts and entertainment engagement, told The Hollywood Reporter. “While abortion is secure, essential health care, anti-abortion zealots have long contributed to abortion stigma through the use of medically inaccurate descriptions of fetuses and pregnancy. Andrew Dominik’s recent film, Blonde, bolsters their message with a CGI-talking fetus, depicted to appear like a completely formed baby.

“Planned Parenthood respects artistic license and freedom. Nevertheless, false images only serve to bolster misinformation and perpetuate stigma around sexual and reproductive health care. Every pregnancy final result—especially abortion—needs to be portrayed sensitively, authentically and accurately within the media. We still have much work to do to be certain that everyone who has an abortion can see themselves onscreen. It’s a shame that the creators of Blonde selected to contribute to anti-abortion propaganda and stigmatize people’s health care decisions as an alternative.”

The footage understandably shook other viewers too. The Each day Beast editor Allegra Frank called it “an abomination.” Jezebel’s Kady Ruth Ashcraft described it as “fully a scene from a VHS that an evangelical Christian middle school would play for its sex-ed classes.” When the film finally hit Netflix, more reactions, previously overshadowed by criticisms of the film’s general brutality, got here rushing in.

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You’ve gotten handy it to Andrew Dominik, extremely daring to have a scene in “Blonde” where Marilyn’s baby talks to her about her previous abortion like this pic.twitter.com/tQuHtTfgPt

— Katrina Hutchins (@katrinabhaydon) September 28, 2022

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i felt really uncomfortable watching Blonde. it’s essentially the most male-gazey movie i’ve ever seen and incredibly exploitative (mmm yes 3 rape scenes are crucial) also, gave me slight anti-abortion tone (they’d a talking fetus commiserating with marilyn and so they over-gorified it).

— Mariamante (@MiaLossen) September 24, 2022

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I saw Blonde yesterday and the throughline of Marilyn’s inability to have children along with her talking fetus is sort of parody level men tryng to know a girl’s suffering shit

— tyler “llewyn” taing (@tylerllewtaing) September 27, 2022

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I had the intense misfortune of watching Blonde on Netflix last night and let me inform you that movie is so anti-abortion, so sexist, so exploitative. CanNOT recommend it LESS. Don’t watch. The abortion scenes specifically are terrible, but so is the entire entire movie.

— Steph Herold (@StephHerold) September 29, 2022

Within the face of the outcry, Dominik insists that the film doesn’t have an outright anti-abortion message. “I don’t think the movie is anti-pro selection,” he told The Wrap. As an alternative, the fetus scene intends to indicate how Monroe is “not seeing reality. She’s seeing her own fears and desires projected onto the world round her,” the director explained. “You see it continuously repeatedly that she’s reacting to a story that she’s carrying inside her. And I feel type of this desire to have a look at Blonde through this Roe v. Wade lens is everybody else doing the identical thing. They’ve got a certain agenda where they feel just like the freedoms of ladies are being compromised, and they give the impression of being at Blonde and so they see a demon, however it’s not likely about that. I feel it’s very difficult for people to step outside of the stories they carry inside themselves and see things of their very own volition. And I feel that’s really what the movie is about. The risks of that.”

He also thinks the backlash is because of bad timing. “I mean, nobody would have given a s–t about that if I’d made the movie in 2008, and doubtless nobody’s going to care about it in 4 years’ time. And the movie won’t have modified. It’s just what type of occurring,” he told The Wrap. Perhaps the uproar wouldn’t have been as loud 14 years ago, however the pro-choice movement still existed then (and has for many years prior). Ultimately, Blonde was released in 2022, just three months after Roe v. Wade was overturned and amidst continuous additional attacks on abortion rights. Couldn’t anyone aware of that notice that any portrayal of abortion now—especially one which shames women and assumes they’ll regret their decisions—could mean something? Did no person think this was a nasty idea? (And aren’t scenes cut and deleted from movies on a regular basis?)

The fetus dialogue is tailored from a moment in Oates’ novel, through which Monroe imagines this thought coming from her womb, in accordance with Decider. But depicting it onscreen with a CGI fetus feels cringeworthy and compelled. Dominik explained to the outlet, “The rationale to indicate it was because that’s the way in which Joyce [Carol Oates] handled it. Baby was real. I wanted Baby to be real.”

It’s meant to represent Monroe’s deep longing to grow to be a mother, as Dominik told Sight and Sound: “Well, she desires to have a baby because she desires to rescue herself. Her own experience of motherhood is disastrous, based on her own mother [who spent years in a psychiatric institution]. But that baby is real to her, and in order that’s why you see the newborn. I don’t think the scene would feel as real [otherwise]. And likewise, she’s having a reluctant abortion. So it will be pretty horrible. I’m attempting to create her experience. I’m attempting to put the audience through the identical thing. I’m not concerned with being tasteful.”

There could’ve been interesting, nuanced ideas to explore in Monroe’s abortion scenes, just like the lengths women needed to go in the event that they did want an abortion within the ’50s; or the risks of getting an illegal abortion then versus the access people need to the procedure now in states that also allow it; or how secure abortions could be today if it were treated as proper, crucial healthcare. It may very well be value exploring how even 60-plus years ago, women were selecting to have abortions as an alternative of putting their careers on hold; or how commonplace abortions were if you happen to had the privilege of being a movie star, though the choice was also made by male studio heads. In that, there’s also the larger conversation of how actresses often did get secret abortions between the Nineteen Twenties and Nineteen Fifties, often on the behest of their studios, to avoid bringing shame to their projects with unplanned pregnancies. But Dominik has made it clear that there is no such thing as a space for those conversations on this movie. There’s, nevertheless, room for repeated trauma and a cartoonish talking fetus.

The widespread critiques of Blonde appear to repeat the identical point, that the film doesn’t show Monroe’s joys, it pushes aside her accomplishments onscreen and off (like co-founding a production company), and limits her dreams to those of motherhood and finding her absent father. With an unyielding deal with her suffering and pain, it’s almost as if Blonde cared more in regards to the imagined life and potential of Monroe’s fetus than her own.

Erica Gonzales is the Senior Culture Editor at ELLE.com, where she oversees coverage on TV, movies, music, books, and more. She was previously an editor at HarpersBAZAAR.com. There’s a 75 percent likelihood she’s listening to Lorde without delay. 

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