After receiving negative reviews from every corner of the internet this weekend, Blonde can add Planned Parenthood to its list of critics. The organization released a statement condemning Blonde’s depiction of abortion and accusing the film of contributing to anti-abortion messaging with a talking-fetus scene.
If you have not watched the Netflix project yet, there is a scene in the second half of the film — which has notably been marketed as a feminist take on Marilyn Monroe — in which the star (played by Ana de Armas) speaks to her fetus early on in a pregnancy. “You won’t hurt me this time, will you? Not what you did the last time?” the fetus asks in the voice of a young child, referencing two of Monroe’s previous pregnancies and forced abortions shown in the film. The audience then sees inside Monroe’s uterus, where a full-grown baby resides (despite her not even showing yet). “I didn’t mean to,” Monroe says. “Yes, you meant to. It was your decision,” the fetus responds. Monroe ends up losing the baby soon after, which researcher Steph Herold, who studies how abortion is portrayed onscreen, said comes across as “implied punishment for the abortion” Monroe previously had.
Before the film hit Netflix on Friday, plenty of outlets were calling it out as “anti-abortion propaganda” (the Verge) or “an anti-choice statement” (Indiewire). And now Planned Parenthood has joined the chorus. “As 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,” Caren Spruch, Planned Parenthood Federation of America’s director of arts and entertainment engagement, told The Hollywood Reporter. “While abortion is safe, essential health care, anti-abortion zealots have long contributed to abortion stigma by using medically inaccurate descriptions of fetuses and pregnancy. Andrew Dominik’s new film, Blonde, bolsters their message with a CGI-talking fetus, depicted to look like a fully formed baby.”
Spruch added that, while Planned Parenthood believes in “artistic freedom,” the organization hopes abortion will be “portrayed sensitively, authentically, and accurately” onscreen. “It is a shame that the creators of Blonde chose to contribute to anti-abortion propaganda and stigmatize people’s health care decisions instead.”
Dominik has defended the scene, claiming it wasn’t intended to be a political statement or commentary on abortion rights. “I wrote the thing in 2008. I’m not trying to comment on anything,” he told Decider, seemingly trying to distance himself from the recent overturning of Roe v. Wade. “This is about Norma’s feelings about it, and Norma’s feelings about it are valid. She’s not existing in 2022. It’s not about 2022. It’s about the ’50s.”
The talking fetus isn’t the only point of contention for critics, who have also accused the film of exploiting Monroe and her legacy. The film is based on the novel by Joyce Carol Oates and is a work of fiction. But the use of Monroe’s name and likeness, coupled with her reputation as one of Hollywood’s most mythologized and mistreated starlets, has made people question the film’s intentions. Emily Ratajkowski spoke out against Blonde on TikTok, telling followers, “I’m not surprised to hear it’s yet another movie fetishizing female pain even in death.” She went on to compare the fascination with Monroe to the obsession with Amy Winehouse and Britney Spears and called on a new movement to combat this trend. “You know what’s kind of hard to fetishize? Anger,” she said. “So I have a proposal. I think we all need to be a little more pissed off. I’m gonna be in my witch era, 2022.”