By Clay Waters
The front page of The New York Times Saturday Arts section featured a castigation of the new Marilyn Monroe “biopic.” Critic-at-large Amanda Hess’s insidious critique focused on a single scene of the film showing a “beatific, photorealistic fetus.”
Why? Hess doesn’t come out and say it, but one suspects she fears such images risk humanizing “the fetus” (which of course is already human) threatening to complicates the pro-choice “clump of cells” position.:
As [Monroe] swigs champagne on the beach with her two lovers, the stars above them realign into an expanse of wiggly sperm. Cue gestational montage! A clump of cells appears. A pulsating embryo sprouts, resembling a gelatinous crimson shrimp. Soon a beatific, photorealistic fetus is floating in a sparkling peach brine, its fully articulated form dappled in inexplicable rays of light.
Hess seems to be denying the photographic evidence regarding what a fetus actually looks and can’t stand the natural, motherly term “baby” being applied to one:
Marilyn Monroe’s chatty, regenerating fetus — she calls it “Baby” — has emerged as a scene-stealing sensation. Critics have called it “goofy,” “despicable” and “cruel.” Some have even pegged it as inadvertently propagandistic — this mode of fetal puppetry is a familiar anti-abortion gimmick….
Hess is pressed to deny the idea of expectant mothers loving their babies, insisting “[t]he maternal imagination is not, after all, a spontaneous soul connection.”
She continued with more spin fit for women’s studies course at a soulless university:
It’s a historical construction, one informed by the aesthetics, politics and technology of the time in which the pregnancy occurs. And the magic unborn in “Blonde” is an ahistoric imposition — an image that feels plucked from the narrow imagination of a modern male director. At the time of Monroe’s first pregnancy in the film’s version of her life, fetal imagery was a rudimentary fascination….
She disapprovingly discussed the famous1965 Life magazine photo spread, “Drama of Life Before Birth,” by Lennart Nilsson:
Nilsson was celebrated for capturing “living” fetuses within their “natural habitat” (women), but he largely photographed the lifeless products of surgical abortions and miscarriages, which he then submerged in aquariums, lit sumptuously, staged to appear as if they were floating amid starry skies, and shot at a remove.
Nilsson’s photographic tricks obliterated any trace of an actual woman’s body….
Hess wants to stop any representation that would assume the “fetus” is a life of its own worth protecting.
So much for science:
These images have the power to remove the fetus from the realm of a pregnant woman’s visceral experience and expose it as a public visual spectacle. And they yank the mind toward a pernicious modern suggestion: that the idealized fetus exists independent of a woman’s body; that it floats, in the cultural imagination, far above the earthbound woman herself.
She then went onto came nonsense about the “rising cultural supremacy” of the fetus.
Hess has previously treated abortion as fun and heroic, to the point of denigrating her own pregnancy in the dubious name of improving the procedure’s public image.
Editor’s note. This appeared at Newsbusters and is reposted with permission.