Beware Of Blonde Women: Did Marlene Dietrich Have a Point?
Updated: Feb 14
I used to, and still do, like some of Marlene Dietrich’s music, even though I found the ever-changing shape of her drawn-on eyebrows rather startling, at times. I myself am half-German, and it’s noticeable how when she sings and acts in German, she mostly sounds completely normal, and even a little squeaky. From that, I would assume that naturally, her voice was much higher. However, her later English-speaking voice, which she proceeded to hone and drone, has more in common with Gillian Anderson’s Margaret Thatcher in The Crown.
The Blue Angel (1930) was the first film of hers to make her a worldwide household name. It was, if my memory is correct, shot twice over; once in English, and once in German. There are a number of songs which I like from this movie. Although by that time the Roaring Twenties were pretty much done and dusted, and society was moving into a more depressing stage by then, public morale still needed to be kept up in some shape or form; so, you have a few jolly songs in the film, in order to move things along.
One of these is “Nimm dich in acht vor blonden Frauen” or “Beware of Blonde Women”. The original lyrics in German are here https://muzikum.eu/en/123-7377-523388/marlene-dietrich/nimm-dich-in-acht-vor-blonden-frauen-lyrics.html , but for the sake of space and time, the chorus loosely translates as:
"Beware of blonde women/ They’ve got something about them/ It’s not obviously apparent/ But it is definetely something/ You’re allowed a bit of hanky-panky with the eyes/ But watch out for the carnivore (let’s say, “man-eater”)". Okay, none of this rhymes, but you get the gist.
The recording of the song here https://m.youtube.com/watch?v=qMeqUYsWgpU is perhaps the best version; it starts off slow and mellow for about a minute, before speeding up into Jeeves-and-Wooster-theme mode. The German film version of the song, which in my opinion hasn't dated well, clearly illustrates a rather wooden Marlene's higher register German voice, and features some odd hip-swaying moves from the troupe of backing dancers, whose lack of aerodynamism, funnily enough, most closely resembles that of the model girls of "Simply Irresistible" by Robert Palmer. https://m.youtube.com/watch?v=tLbR0xNvB8E .
Anyway, where were we? Back to blondes. It can be a tough life being a blonde (or blond). This is partly because this hair colour is an unusual one, in terms of percentage of the world’s population. And partly, because people are jealous. Because, if they see a nice natural head of blonde hair, which, because of their genetics, they don’t have themselves, one can appreciate that they might well be stricken with envy. As people always are - and can’t help themselves being, because a lot of it is human nature - when you’ve got something they want, they want to take it off you, and it doesn't matter what it is.
I went through the experience recently of discovering that my now ex-partner, over several months, had been cutting chunks of my blonde hair off in my sleep. He had something of a thing about my hair; to be honest, I admit it’s pretty cool hair. It’s naturally blonde, with a soft, silky texture; and during the times of my life when it’s been grown halfway down my back, when it’s been in tip-top condition, and when I’ve spent a lot of time outside in the summer months and it’s brightened to a very light blonde, it’s looked pretty damn amazing.
I cut my hair myself periodically, and had told my partner that if he wanted a sample of my hair, he only had to ask. However, it seemed that he got more of a thrill out of cutting it in my sleep, without my having given him permission to do so. When I found conclusive evidence of this, it’s fair to say I hit the roof, and he was turned around 180 degrees, and dumped so fast it made his head spin.
There are a lot of negative connotations around blondeness, and a lot of unjustified suspicion, and judging at first sight. Nazism of course, didn’t do us blond(e)s any favours; and neither do Trump and BoJo. People look at you, as a blonde, and think “oh yeah, another one who thinks they’re the elite, and the “master race”. They think that, because you were descended from those who may have been slavemasters at one time, you must be of the same disposition. This could not be further from the truth. Cliched as it may be, there are the good and the bad in every race, for those who choose to use their brains; and race, or physical appearance, has nothing to do with it. I’m just a bod who goes about my daily life, in my own little world; and I’m not about to make things political, if I can help it.
People have said to me: “If you are bothered about being judged, why don’t you dye your hair?” No way! I’m not dyeing my hair for anyone, and if they have a problem with it, then maybe they should look within themselves, and admit that maybe they’re the problem, and not me.
My now deceased German mother (who was dark) was intensely jealous of my blonde hair. Partly, because she had had a schoolfriend who was blonde, and wished that she could have her hair. And partly, because I looked like my father, and I therefore wasn't her "Mini-Me".
When the first platinum blonde tufts of hair started to appear on my head as a baby, my mother said it was the biggest shock of her life, as she had expected me to look like her side of the family, who were all dark. Because she had never factored the element of possible surprise into her life, or that of suspended expectations, or that of things not going to plan, this gave her much consternation. As was the case, when I turned out to look much more like my father as I grew up, and nothing like her. Which, she said, was an even bigger shock; especially so, given the state of my parents’ then marriage. So it was, that she went around preaching the values of dark hair over blonde hair, through much of my childhood, and saying how “rather pale, and pasty, and colourless” blond(e)s were - in order to make herself feel better, in one of her attempts to boost her fragile self-esteem.
Personally, I would say it’s potentially unsafe to judge purely on looks alone; they are simply just one aspect of a person’s more fundamentally important “vibe”, although they are admittedly important, and can be used to great effect, to make friends and influence people. My mother wasn’t bad-looking at all herself (a very even-featured, former beauty queen); but she was one, who was trapped in the mindset of how one looked, being the most important thing. As, I’m sure, so are many; which is clear-cut evidence of why she got away with an awful lot during her life, on account of her looks. This was in spite of the fact that, if one probed deeper, and realized in horror how, at the core, she was capable of making one feel - and recognized, that she had some very ugly aspects to her personality. Blondes aren't all evil; and those with dark hair, aren't all lovey-dovey, either.
My ancestry, as far as I know, was a combination of the following: on my mother’s side, German Lutheran; on my father’s side, Welsh Anglican, English Cockney, and French Jewish. Although, on balance, there is a predominance of dark hair in the individuals from my main direct bloodlines (I figure that my blonde hair was inherited from a great-grandfather each, on both the German and Welsh sides of my family), intermarriage with blond(e)s in my parents’ generation has produced a fairly even distribution of blonde, and dark, hair in my immediate cousins. Save for one male (also now sadly deceased), the generation comprised of my cousins and myself, has consisted of 6 females. 3, including myself, are blonde, and 3 are dark.
This generation spans births dating from the mid-1960s to the mid-1990s, and as such, expectations for our generation of females differed strikingly from our own mothers’, in many ways. We all had it drilled into us very early on by a) parents, b) society, and c) possibly some of our own experiences - that “career”, and “independence”, was the most important thing for women of our generation - as well as being expected to reproduce, and to conform to impossibly high standards of child-rearing, on top of this; a recipe for hysteria.
What I found most striking, in terms of the careers that myself and my other female cousins went on to do, was the fields in which we worked, our individual personalities, and the way in which they appeared to correlate to hair colour.
For example, myself and my 2 other blonde cousins have worked in sales, administration, management, business, etc. etc….you get the picture. My view is that as blonde females, we have ended up doing what we’re doing, because we’re perhaps more aggressive, tenacious and driven, in terms of chasing the goals dictated by this particular type of career. As we’ve matured, we’re also not bad at starting up conversations, as we have greater verbal confidence and dexterity, and are on the whole, “louder”, and more feisty, caring less about what people think of us. We’re also more likely to discuss things openly, and speak our minds, myself probably being the most vocal in that regard (okay, I know for sure, that I am supposed to be the crazy one in the family).
My dark-haired female cousins, by contrast, are all in the medical profession; two work in psychotherapy, and one as a doctor. I can’t really remember any doctor I have ever consulted with - whether they were a GP, consultant, or otherwise - as being blonde. There must be some, but I don't think I've ever met them. So, maybe, blondes are taken to be “too flighty” for the medical profession? Is a dark hair colour more reassuring to patients? Who knows? In terms of social blah-blah (I appreciate my cousins and I have only ever seen each other once a decade, or so; therefore, they felt they didn’t have much to say), you’d be lucky if you got one word out of my dark-haired cousins. Hell, what do I know - perhaps they need a rest from dealing with the general public?
The 1980s was an explosive decade with a lot of personality, and I’m thoroughly glad I grew up during that time. It had its share of awfulness, but for me as a young person, it was a quite dynamic time. I think it’s fair to say, that the two most famous blondes at the A+ - grade level - at the pinnacle of that era - were a) Margaret Thatcher; b) Princess Diana. Both were very feisty, and known for doing things differently. Both were very controversial, but both had their own powerful messages, and ways of getting these across.
Broadly speaking, the subliminal, and illusory, meaning behind the focus on the status of these two feisty blondes - both of whom were very different from each other - were: that you should aim high in your career, and that yes, you could “have it all”. Of course, a lot of people from my generation, over the past few decades, have realized that that propaganda was all a con, that having it all didn’t necessarily make people any happier, and that you either had to be: very moneyed; or, very tough; or, very subservient and obsequious, in the early stages of your career.
I realized at the tender age, of 12, that the messages we were being fed as the next generation of women, were all a con, and that it was impossible to try to achieve a lot of the potential goals or milestones which we were "supposed to" achieve. My prerogative was to squeeze as much out of life as I possibly could, in terms of Art. From what I observed of other people, all the rest was built on sand; firstly, it was unlikely to outlive me (with the exception of my Art, which I consider to be my legacy), and secondly, fortunes could be made and lost at the touch of a button, and that it wouldn't take much for this to happen. That didn’t make me any less feisty; as a “tween”, I was so annoyed at the number of expectations which were foisted upon me and my generation, that I turned my back on it all very early on, and went my own way. So yes: I expect I’m another example of a “feisty” blonde!
I realized some years back, that I would only ever be likely to be hired for sales, office or administrative, work, which was almost always fast-paced; and that I would almost always be hired by all-male teams, who likely felt there was some value in having a token female working in their offices, who was also a blonde, and who would potentially liven up the day with some eye candy, if they were feeling bored. By contrast, if the team had even just one other female member already, I wouldn’t make it past the first interview.
I had to laugh, privately, when I visited the Italian city of Ravenna, some years back. Even though it’s in northeast Italy, where you’d expect at least some blonde genetic influence here and there, I was probably the only blonde in a 100-mile radius, and everywhere I went, was recognized by my features and hair as being “Inglesa”; therefore, since blonde hair is a biological rarity in those parts of the world, it attracts its fair share of Italian men - for better, or for worse!
Doubtless we blondes - as do the greater population of the world that is dark -have our own set of daftnesses; which doesn’t mean that we’re altogether daft, or that we’re thick. Indeed, natural blond(e)s are frequently very intelligent, organized and know what they’re doing, where they’re going, and, knowing they haven’t historically blended in very well, are not afraid to have their own, independent mind.
Therefore: discrimination against blondes should be a thing of the past. As I stated earlier on: not all of us are slavemasters, we’re not all privileged, we’re not all idiots, and we’re not all rich. I’m certainly none of those things; and so I would say: look before you buy. Into the propaganda, that we are subliminally fed, by news stories or otherwise, in order to turn us all against each other. As if there wasn’t a good enough job being done in that area already!