Blonde (with a silent “e”) and blonde (without) refer to the same thing: light-colored hair. Generally, it is female hair, but sometimes males are referred to as blond(e). There are many shades of blond(e), from pale yellowish to golden blond, and there are both natural and bleached blondes.

This issue brings together a range of contributions that consider the significance of blondeness in our culture: from the glamorization of blond stars in films like Gentlemen Prefer Blondes and Legally Blonde, to the representation of a ‘flaxen sex goddess’ (Stepnickova, Kelly) or the’stylish white swan’ (Kouros’s Head of a Woman, c. 480 BC) to the cult of blond beauty in pornography. The articles also examine the role of blondness in cultural debates about class, beauty and identity: Pam Cook on Grace Kelly and Nicole Kidman; Julie Lobalzo Wright on Robert Redford; Aurore Fossard de Almeida on Mercouri and ‘blondness’ in Brazil; and Simone Vincendeau on Brigitte Bardot.

The biggest flaw of Blonde, though, is its failure to explore any of the complex strands that make up Monroe’s true life story. The class system that she was born into is barely mentioned, and the traumas that Norma Jean experienced in childhood (a cracked bedroom wall, a mentally ill mother) are reduced to a hellish rape scene for audience gratification. This is the one area where Oates’s playfulness and artistic aptitude fails, and the truth about Marilyn Monroe is ultimately reduced to a Hollywood ‘fluff’. Blonde

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