Much Ado About ‘Forever Marilyn’

Montage by Silver/Technicolor

The row over returning ‘Forever Marilyn’ to Palm Springs has now moved to the courts, the Desert Sun reports.

“The Committee to Relocate Marilyn is suing the city of Palm Springs over the city’s decision to allow local hotel association PS Resorts to place the ‘Forever Marilyn’ statue on Museum Way. The status hearing primarily focused on the timeline for the case, with the next status hearing scheduled for July 20, 2021.”

Meanwhile, Wall Street Journal reader Don Anderson of Ojai, California shot back at the sculpture’s critics on the letters page…

“Palm Springs isn’t the culture capital of anywhere, so stop pretending the statue of Marilyn Monroe is an affront to local tastes. Your city has its charms, but its real appeal is its history as a hideaway for the glitterati and mobsters. In fact, Marilyn might be the one to object.”

But as Marilyn’s 95th birthday approaches, the debate over Seward Johnson’s sculpture is making headlines all over the world. Tribute artist Suzie Kennedy defended ‘Forever Marilyn’ on ITV’s Good Morning Britain this week, the Daily Mail reports.

“Journalist Olivia Petter called the statue ‘wildly out of touch’ and argued that it encourages tourists to ‘run in between her legs and take a photograph’. But Kennedy said she hates the idea of perceiving Marilyn as a victim, and that other women should be ‘building her up’, rather than wanting to tear her statue down.

She went on: ‘Whatever statue you have, you are going to get someone take a picture that is lewd. It doesn’t mean we should get rid of Michael Angelo’s David. We cannot say people are photographing her from underneath if the odd person does that. I’ve been there, I’ve seen the reaction from people when they see it.'”

Tribute artist Suzie Kennedy

Over on Instagram, Monroe fan Silver/Technicolor compared the sculpture to the larger-than-life, and often controversial work of artist Christo.

“Christo was an art legend. He famously wrapped the Pont Neuf and the Reichstag and did numerous outdoor installations, one of which I was lucky enough to see … His art was divisive and generated strong reactions and criticism.

Art should always provoke a discussion. Protesting to remove a piece of art altogether is fighting freedom of expression itself and denying everyone an opportunity to be part of that discussion. Attempting to reconcile morality and art has too often proven to be a disastrous strategy in the past.”

And finally, filmmaker and activist Gabriella Apicella commented on the debate via Twitter.

“Upskirting is done to people in real life in an insidious deceitful and covert way. It is not done to 26 ft. inanimate statues. To connect a crime that requires close up in person contact with a tourist destination and celebration of film iconography is absurd. If we’re going to start censoring art and policing how people are allowed to view and experience it, we are heading into a prohibitive and worryingly conservative mentality. Let’s keep feminism focused on crimes done to women rather than an academic and so far imaginary one on a statue.

For the record a) MM created her sexually charged persona deliberately and relished it; b) she was angry at the number of takes Billy Wilder took of this very scene as she felt they were lewd; c) she campaigned for this role as it was from an acclaimed Broadway play. So there is contradiction and nuance in the scene itself, and its filming. This role was a turning point in her career and demonstrated her skill as a comedienne beyond doubt to critics, audiences and crucially the studio, and she was able to negotiate a better contract as a result.

The tension between the Marilyn Monroe character created by Norma Jeane and her true persona is captured in this exact moment of film history. She knew it at the time and used it to her benefit. Sexy, beautiful, strong, intelligent while also exploited by others for their own ends.”