Never have I wondered what it’s like to see the world from a vagina’s perspective. But Andrew Dominik, the director of Netflix’s gnarly, brutal, wrenching Blonde, apparently has. I assume that’s why one of the most unforgettable scenes in the (very fictionalized) Marilyn Monroe biopic involves forceps entering the actress’ vaginal cavity, shot from the vagina’s point of view.
Late into the film, a doctor is administering Marilyn’s second abortion. High on the barbiturates that would eventually kill her, Marilyn both accepts and rejects what’s happening to her in the operating room: She is in no position, mentally or otherwise, to have this baby, badly as she wants to.
Lest we want to champion the tortured actress for invoking her right to choose, Blonde forces us to see a harsh metal device scrunch its way inward and toward a fetus, terminating it. The movie clearly—and, obviously, controversially—wants us to believe that the fetus is very much alive. And not only that, but we’re meant to believe that it’s the same potential baby that Marilyn has lost twice before now, at this point.
Blonde is nothing if not chock full of moments like these, equally harrowing and gratuitous. As absurd as directorial decisions like this are, they’re also incredibly disturbing to watch—not to mention insensitively un-subtle.
Blonde announces that Marilyn is pregnant for the first time with one hilariously heavy-handed set of visuals. (Sadly, these over-the-top sequences are rarely amusing at all.) Little animated sperms race around the screen, swimming toward the beckoning ovum, begging to be inseminated. The result: a computer-generated fetus. Instead of giving her a swollen belly, the film portrays pregnant Marilyn by cutting to shots of the humanoid clump of cells growing inside of her several times.
The fetus is the product of some low-rent CGI, which becomes more off-putting the more we see it. As Marilyn coos about her love for the baby to her lovers—Charlie Chaplin, Jr. and Edward G. Robinson, Jr., her homoerotic sex pals/baes—we are asked to believe that it’s this floating PS2-era video game villain, booping around in space, that she’s referring to.
Better (???) yet, the fetus quickly takes on a mind of its own. During a meeting with studio heads about her meager paycheck, Marilyn almost throws in the towel when she’s told that her salary is fixed. Then, the fetus kicks, as if to say, “Fight back, mama!” It’s the confidence boost she needs to pick herself back up and get that bigger pay day. We call this a good outcome precipitated by a very weird moment.
But Marilyn soon aborts the baby in order to maintain her career, a decision she holds against herself for the rest of her life. (“Bye Bye Baby” immediately plays following her abortion, to remind us how sad she is about ending her pregnancy. Thanks, Blonde; it wasn’t obvious by her wails and tears!) Even when she becomes pregnant again, with husband Arthur Miller’s child, Marilyn continues to regret ending the first pregnancy. We know this not only because the movie tells us, but the dang fetus itself also says it.
No joke: Turns out this is a talking fetus we’re dealing with here. Marilyn, now playing the role of doting wife and mother-to-be, is cutting roses in her garden. The baby kicks her hard. She rubs her belly and offers gentle reminders of love, only for the scene to cut to the CGI fetus again. Why did you kill me last time? it wants to know; the voice sounds a lot like Marilyn’s as a child, as if it’s her own self that she aborted. Marilyn argues that the previous pregnancy was a different child. No, that was me, the fetus says, fighting back. I’m the same baby.
Uh. Yikes? Rosemary’s baby has nothing on Marilyn’s, apparently. This is a poorly animated fetus with a grudge. While it speaks, we don’t see the mouth move or eyes open; that’s a blessed directorial choice. But there’s something equally off-putting to the low-poly fetus talking through voiceover, which Marilyn hears and reacts to while looking down at her stomach.
Needless to say, this fetus doesn’t stick around either. Marilyn miscarries, falling on the beach and getting up to find her white floral dress stained a deep red. The film cuts back to the dark space in which we’d just seen the fetus float. It quickly becomes covered with red, too.
Losing her baby—both in this way and through her abortions—only contributes to Marilyn’s unyielding pain. She spirals further into paranoia, depression, and self-abusive behavior. Blonde, a film already jogging toward Marilyn’s untimely end, doesn’t shy away from how her unrealized desire for motherhood directly affected her final days.
But I can’t lie and say I didn’t breathe a sigh of relief here, knowing I wouldn’t be seeing that menacing talking fetus again.
When the doctor shoves those forceps inside of Marilyn years later, to end that final pregnancy, I had an extra twinge of fear alongside my discomfort. Would Blonde bring back the CGI fetus for a final bow, showing its reaction to what was happening? The answer is no. Instead, we are left to ponder the film’s wayward relationship to this woman’s body—Blonde’s Marilyn is a battered sex object, a walking wound—as we stare out from her vagina.