‘Glamour Killed Her’: Joyce Carol Oates On Marilyn

Joyce Carol Oates has spoken about Marilyn and Blonde, the upcoming movie based on her 2000 novel, in a cover story for Saturday’s Review supplement in UK newspaper The Telegraph.

“I thought it was extremely intense,” Oates says of the fictional biopic. “Very stylised and beautiful. It’s very intimate. There are elements of the movie that are quite horrific. In a very brilliant way.” And Ana de Armas “looks just like the young Marilyn,” she says – although, having only glimpsed a few paparazzi shots from the set, we’ll have to suspend judgement for now.

Marilyn’s difficult childhood reminded Oates of her own mother, “the ninth of nine children, and she had to be given away.” Oates wrote Blonde when her father was dying, which led her to reflect on Marilyn’s absent father. “A person who’s so wounded in childhood can never, never get enough love.”

“It’s possible – not probable, but possible – that she was assassinated,” Oates claims. This seems like a ruse for entertaining conspiracy theories about Marilyn’s death without subjecting them to factual analysis, as numerous other writers have done – including Norman Mailer, Oates’ literary forebear in the Monroe canon.

The article includes some factual errors – Marilyn sang ‘Happy Birthday Mr President’ to John F. Kennedy almost three months before her death, not three weeks prior as is stated. Furthermore, the very minor corrective procedures Marilyn underwent do not make her beauty “a feat of plastic surgery.”

However, these ‘factoids’ are not from Oates’ mouth, but were presumably contributed by Iona McLaren, who conducted the interview. ‘Miss Golden Dreams 1949,’ a new sci-fi story by Oates, was published separately in the Telegraph‘s books section. “It’s a surreal story, even sort of a horror story,” she says. “But it’s metaphorical. So many people tried to possess Marilyn while she was still alive.” (I’ve reviewed it here.)

Thanks to A Passion for Marilyn