Blogger Caroline Colvin takes a closer look at Gentlemen Prefer Blondes in her RomCom of the Week series, arguing that its portrayal of female sexuality is far more progressive than early critics realised.
“When the film first came out, critics berated Lorelei and Dorothy (and by extension, Monroe and Russell) for their sexual confidence. Their forwardness, by modern standards, however, is considered praiseworthy. It’s two sides of the same coin: either the women’s sexiness makes them solely objects for male consumption or their fearless sex appeal is a mark of empowerment, making them subjects, autonomous, active players in their own adult lives.
Are Dorothy and Lorelei villains of female sexuality, preying on and victimizing men? Or are they modern-day heroes for finessing the patriarchal, capitalist framework they’re living in?
Often, the process of unpacking gendered implications in film is like looking for a diamond in the rough. And as seen with with Gentlemen Prefer Blondes, sometimes, it takes a little extra sifting.”
Scottish TV and radio presenter Edith Bowman declares her undying love for Gentlemen Prefer Blondes in an article about classic romantic comedies for The Sun today.
“From almost the moment people started making romantic comedies, it seems that the roles of female characters in cinema have been passive. One way or another, our heroines do little more than sit at home, like Bridget Jones in her pyjamas, waiting for Mr Right.
Or do they?
Perhaps not. In fact, perhaps it was never really like that at all. Because while conducting research and thinking in more detail about the hundreds of films I’ve watched over the years, I have to say that fewer leading ladies belong to this category than I originally thought.
The first female characters I remember being in awe of were Marilyn Monroe and Jane Russell in Gentlemen Prefer Blondes.
Watching those two dominate the movie, completely in control of every situation, is still an eye-opener: here are two stunning women who may appear vulnerable and needy but are obviously very smart, blatantly using their beauty and sex appeal to manipulate every situation for their own benefit.
And that film was released in 1953. Amazing!
So have women in film evolved from blushing eye candy to strong, funny, independent leads in their own right? Sure they have… but perhaps only because of the work put in by the likes of Marilyn Monroe, Diane Keaton and Julia Roberts back in the day – all stars of what appeared to be traditional romcoms, but who brought something else entirely to their films. Without Monroe, perhaps there would be no [Amy] Schumer.”
Gentlemen Prefer Blondes lies under ‘G’ in an A to Z of Romantic Comedy posted by A.V. Club. Interestingly though, it is Marilyn’s onscreen friendship with Jane Russell that gets the plaudits, not their respective squeezes. A female buddy movie and a musical burlesque, Gentlemen Prefer Blondes is multi-faceted. While perhaps not quite so raucously funny, I’d argue that How to Marry a Millionaire – which Marilyn starred in directly after Blondes – is another fine example of the classic Hollywood rom-com.
“Gentlemen Prefer Blondes rises merrily into the clouds, a lighter-than-air concoction of whimsy and screwball absurdism. Marilyn Monroe and Jane Russell give note-perfect performances … Monroe’s naïve gold-digger (and killer performance of ‘Diamonds Are A Girl’s Best Friend’) is what sticks with most people, but Howard Hawks’ masterful orchestration of all the narrative wheels—especially Russell’s exasperated efforts to protect her BFF from disaster—is what keeps the film timeless.”