Warning: This story contains graphic descriptions of sexual assault.
Filmmaker Andrew Dominik’s Blonde, a new Netflix film about the trials and tribulations of screen icon Marilyn Monroe (played by Ana de Armas), has little fidelity to historical fact. Rather, it’s a tapestry of scenes meant to convey the actress’s loneliness, isolation, and trauma.
“I can identify with the Jews. Everybody’s always out to get them, no matter what they do, like me,” Marilyn once confided to her friend Susan Strasberg after converting to Judaism.
From early moments depicting her mentally ill mother attempting to drown a young Norma Jeane in the bathtub to her cursed entrée into Hollywood, consisting of studio exec Darryl F. Zanuck raping her over a desk during an audition, to Joe DiMaggio (Bobby Cannavale, quite the glow-up) belting Marilyn over her flying-skirt scene in The Seven Year Itch, Dominik’s isn’t a traditional biopic but a surrealist symphony of victimization.
One of the most haunting sequences in a film full of them concerns a rendezvous between Marilyn and President John F. Kennedy in 1962. It begins with Marilyn passed out on sleeping pills aboard a plane, shaken awake by a stewardess upon her arrival in New York, where she’s greeted by a pair of Secret Service agents. Believing she’s being arrested, Marilyn collapses at their feet.
“It isn’t sexual, between the president and me. It has very little to do with sex,” Marilyn says as she’s chauffeured by the Secret Service agents to an unknown location. “It’s a meeting of our souls.”
She’s then dragged by the Secret Service agents through a kitchen, down a hotel corridor, and into a room. “Am I meat to be delivered? Is that what this is, room service?” Marilyn asks.
After changing into a white dress and fur, a still disoriented Marilyn is escorted to a stately bedroom where JFK is lying on a bed, shirtless and speaking on the phone.
“Am I glad to see you, baby. It’s been one hell of a day,” the president remarks, prompting Marilyn to ask, “How can I help?”
JFK then proceeds to place her hand down his pants, commanding her to give him a handjob—all while watching the Friendship 7 rocket launch on television (subtle!). “Baby, don’t be shy, come on,” he repeatedly asserts, demanding she go faster. He then grows frustrated and grabs the back of her head, forcing it down on him. The camera homes in on Marilyn’s horrified face in close-up as she performs oral sex on him for over a minute, with JFK calling her a “dirty slut.” Marilyn then dissociates, and we hear her in voiceover say to herself, “Just don’t puke. Don’t cough. Don’t gag. You have to swallow,” before the president ejaculates into her mouth.
But JFK isn’t finished. In one frantic motion, he violently places his hand over Marilyn’s mouth, throws her onto the bed, and jumps on top of her. All we can hear is Marilyn shriek as the image cuts to black. The next thing we see is Marilyn waking up in bed bruised and battered, throwing up. Secret Service agents once again drag her out of the room, and to a bathroom. When she pees, it hurts. The implication is that she was raped.
While there is no record of JFK ever sexually assaulting Marilyn Monroe, the recent documentary The Mystery of Marilyn Monroe: The Unheard Tapes, released by Netflix in April, contained testimony from numerous supposed witnesses—including friends, biographers, and private investigators—who allege that Marilyn had engaged in consensual affairs with both John F. Kennedy and Robert Kennedy, and also that Robert Kennedy may have been present at the time of her death. As for John F. Kennedy, we know that he is said to have forced himself on White House intern Mimi Alford, then a virgin, which she recounted in her memoir Once Upon a Secret. When her friends characterized it as rape, she wrote, “I don’t see it that way,” but added that, “Resistance was out of the question.”