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The Fetishization of Female Pain: The Problem with Blonde (2022)

The recent release of the biographical film Blonde caused waves of controversy for what many claimed was a fetishized, misogynistic view of the late Marilyn Monroe. This isn’t the first time, however, that female pain has been hypersexualised, exploited, and re-packaged as a way for mainstream media outlets to profit off of the lives of women who faced extensive objectification during their lifetimes and are tragically reduced to objects of male desire in posthumous artifacts such as Blonde.

What makes Blonde particularly disturbing is the emphasis on the trauma Monroe faced throughout her life, starting from childhood, and leading into her abusive relationships in both her professional and personal life. The irony lies in the very fact that Blonde is history repeating itself and is yet another example of how the film industry continues to capitalise off her trademark sex appeal and troubled past, turning her personal trauma into a spectacle that appeals to the male gaze and profits the extensive male production and directorial team behind it.

While Blonde is not a straightforward biopic and rather a fictionalised retelling of Monroe’s life, many viewers took issue with the fact that a male director chose to use Monroe’s body as a way to depict fake incidents of rape, trauma, and abortion in highly graphic, hypersexualised scenes; with the director even going so far as to shoot the death scene in the very room Monroe died in. Rather than re-telling her story with compassion, her life’s tragedies were rebranded into a way that fed the male gaze instead of honouring her life and work and represent a longstanding issue Hollywood has with fetishizing female pain and turning it into trauma porn.

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