[This post is part of my Blind Spot Series, in which I watch, for the first time, famous movies I should have seen long ago. And seeing as the movies in this series are generally well known and regarded, I don't necessarily discuss their plots or thoroughly critique them. These movies have already been analyzed to death; so anything I could bring to the table would be superfluous at best. What follows is merely my reaction to watching Gentlemen Prefer Blondes for the first time.]
"I can be smart when it's important, but most men don't like it."
I had a hard time pinning down the source of my annoyance with Gentlemen Prefer Blondes. I am generally a huge fan of Howard Hawks, so I just couldn't understand my reaction to this picture. To be sure, I didn't hate the movie; overall, I think I found more to like about it than not, but still...I just couldn't shake a certain, however, minor, distaste for this Marilyn Monroe-starring musical.
Maybe it's because the early Monroe persona kinda irks me (yes, I went there). Yes, I respect the place she holds in film and pop culture history; I recognize that her early dumb blonde persona can be viewed as a campy subversion of the type; but still...that breathy-voiced, exaggerated sexpot caricature is like nails on a chalkboard to me. And I generally like camp.
Perhaps, my expectations for this movie were skewed by familiarity with the brassy, assertive heroines I've admired so much from Howard Hawks' earlier screwball comedies: Bringing Up Baby, His Girl Friday, Ball of Fire. Monroe's faux dumb, helpless routine seemed like sacrilege for a Hawks heroine. But then again, this was really just a ruse on her character's part. As the above quote from her character shows, she had to play dumb to get what she wanted. By the end of the film she, in her own way, does prove just as strong as any of the characters from Hawks' earlier films. And honestly, she isn't that far removed from Hepburn's flighty Bringing Up Baby character. I guess it's just an aesthetic thing. I don't like Monroe's early type for no other reason than just because. I really don't know why.
Maybe it's something else; maybe it's Lorelei's motivation. Although Lorelei may prove to be just as strong and cunning as any other Hawks heroine, her goal—diamonds—is just more pointless. There's nothing empowering about it; it's just frivolity. I guess it speaks to the fact that I just don't get diamonds. If aliens, say, were to visit our planet and discover that diamonds were one of the most valuable rocks on the planet, they'd want to know why.
"So, these diamonds—are they a rare, important food source?"
"Well, I guess—what I mean to say is, do they help you grow food at an advanced rate, efficiently using less water and soil?"
"No, they're not food-related at all?"
"So you can't get sustenance from them?"
"I know; are diamonds an advanced new super-fuel—something that will allow you to efficiently traverse the globe without emitting any pollutants?"
"No, they're not energy related."
"Hmm. Are they an addictive drug? Will they—"
"Not a drug."
"Well do they...that is, I mean to say, is there an addictive game you can use them for? Are they used for entertainment?"
"No, they don't provide any kind of use. Well, I mean, they can be used for industrial purposes, but that's not why people like them."
"Well, I don't fucking get it; what do they do?"
"They're shiny, and...and people can look at them."
"Fuck this planet. I'm outta here."
Essentially, people like these things because everyone else likes these things.
That being said Gentlemen Prefer Blondes is entertaining enough.