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Vol. 17 No. 1 (2023): New Lenses on Old Hollywood

"Blonde": Redefining Marilyn Monroe as Digital Artifact

May 13, 2023


Andrew Dominik’s biopic of Marilyn Monroe, Blonde (2022), uses new digital technologies, including lenses, to redefine the star image of Marilyn Monroe. As Dominik mentions, the narrative of the film is drawn from the ‘shards’ of the biographical fiction novel which was written by Joyce Carol Oates in 2000. This article begins by considering the ‘spectral’ influence of Monroe that the filmmakers cited as a presence during the production of Blonde. It then contextualizes Monroe’s screen persona with reference to research on stars that emerged during Hollywood’s Golden Age. Much of this writing was contemporaneous with the height of Monroe’s acting career. The article focuses on how Blonde revises Monroe’s star’s image, analyzing how a new digital screen persona is illuminated by flashes of light, lenses and framing that distorts and disembodies her image. It highlights how Blonde constructs Monroe primarily through the perspectives of other characters as a spectral image, one who is rarely afforded her own point of view.