Blonde is the second of Joyce Carol Oates’s tumultuous oeuvre to be made into a film. It takes a forensic approach to Marilyn Monroe’s star image and is shaped by scholarship on stars from the same period. It also cites classic handbooks on acting by Konstantin Stanislavsky and Michael Chekhov, both of which were read by Monroe.
A blonde girl grows up in a society that tells her she is dumb. Hundreds of movies, TV shows and books feature dumb blonde characters. Hundreds of ‘blonde jokes’ reinforce this stereotype. Dumb blondes don’t take life seriously and are always up for a laugh and a party but they aren’t ambitious or sportsy.
The word ‘blond’ derives from the Old French blunt or blont, meaning a colour midway between golden and chestnut. It eclipsed the native English term fair, from Old English faeger, which had been used to describe both men and women with light complexions (though the latter was a generic adjective for ‘light complexioned’). The blond shade gradually became associated with femininity and with a specific type of beauty.
On-screen and off, a blonde is the centre of attention and is usually a celebrity. This ‘performance of blondness’ is part of the glamour they evoke and that of their roles: the contribution by Cook considers how a blonde’s hairstyle shapes her starring role. Contributions by Gmiterkova on Jirina Stepnickova’s ‘heavily decorated, multi-layered bridal wreath resembling a shining crown’; Phullar’s study of Veronica Lake’s modernist ‘peekaboo’ and Vincendeau’s analysis of Brigitte Bardot’s voluminous ‘choucroute’ demonstrate this. Blonde