The Degenerate Bottom Revisited

Monroe 05

“Forever Marilyn” (2011) by John Seward (born 1930) in Palm Springs

Kristor’s recent essay, “The Arms Race to the Degenerate Bottom,” reminded its readers of the downward or subscendent trend of aesthetics under the by now longstanding regime of liberal modernity.  Recently also JM Smith made reference in one of his Orthosphere entries to Billy Wilder’s film The Seven-Year Itch (1955), starring among others Marilyn Monroe. Miss Monroe is my topic. In a state of heightened awareness after reading Kristor and JM (if “heightened” were the word, which it is likely not), I was quick to notice that the cultural mudslide in whose beginnings Miss Monroe participated — in various ways — is still prone to feature her prominently, as though honoring its own inception (if “inception” were the word, which it is likely not).

John Seward Johnson II, a.k.a. John Seward (born 1930), is a sculptor apparently well-known to the art-world, but hitherto unknown to me. Johnson created his twenty-six-foot tall bronze statue of Monroe in 2011, basing it on the skirt-lifting scene from Wilder’s film, where Monroe stands over a grate in the sidewalk. The statue, which resembles Seward’s other work, all of which looks like it was intended for audioanimatronic display at one of the Disney parks, originally stood in Palm Springs, but has recently gone on tour to Stamford, Connecticut, where it is spending the summer.

The sculpture’s painted garishness no doubt accords itself with the prim sleaziness of Palm Springs, which I would describe as Las Vegas without the casinos but with at least as many cocktail waitresses, pole-dancers, and call-girls. When one thinks of primly sleazy places, however, one hardly thinks of Stamford.

The photograph below shows “Forever Marilyn” from a frontal perspective. —

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“Forever Marilyn” in Stamford (Angle 1)

The photograph that I have placed below the “continue reading” toggle again shows “Forever Marilyn” frontally but from a different and revealing angle. —

Monroe 02

“Forever Marilyn” in Stamford (Angle 2)

But this is what one sees supposing that he stands on the steps of the church looking at Marilyn. —

Monroe 01

“Forever Marilyn” in Stamford (Angle 3)

I invite commentary.

28 thoughts on “The Degenerate Bottom Revisited

  1. Presumedly this, as opposed to a confederate, statue is one you would wish to see displaced. Praise God there is no monument code legally blocking such a wise disposition.

    • It would be difficult to imagine a female Confederate general, much less one who lifts up her skirts and shows her silk-clad gluteous maximus in the direction of a (presumably) Protestant church.

      • “…in the direction of a (presumably) Protestant church.”

        Am I crazy or there is a rainbow flag at that church?

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  3. I’m glad I’m not the only one to notice that honest attempts to characterize modern degeneracy often unwittingly take a literal, descriptive, factual turn.

    • I am a normal male person, attracted to women, but I experience no attraction in respect of Marilyn’s lifted skirts.

  4. My dear mother has always been rather harsh towards the female sex. This was probably a result of having a quiver full of boys to raise. Anyway, I distinctly remember one of my older brothers wondering out loud why men of Marilyn Monroe’s generation found such a weird chunky bleached girl so attractive. To which my mom responded: “Ugh, because she was such a put-on.” I’m not entirely sure, but I believe my mom meant by “put-on” something like a particular sort of whore – where “particular” means a dangerous wink-wink-nod-nod whore-as-faux-dumb-innocence. That may not be fair to either my mom or Monroe, but it sure served as a warning to us boys about what kind of girls would be darkening my parents’ doors.
    The irony of “Forever Marilyn” is that there will – literally – forever be Marilyn’s. It is a profound indictment of America that we now memorializing put-on’s.

    • Like you, I have never understood the allure of Marilyn Monroe. I could respond to the allure, say, of Yvette Mimieux, who played Weena opposite Rod Taylor in The Time Machine (1960), of Susan Dey who played Laurie in The Partridge Family, of Eve Plumb who played Jan Brady in The Brady Bunch, of Melissa Milano who played Tony Danza’s daughter in Who’s the Boss, of Valerie Bertinelli who played the younger daughter in One Day at a Time; of Stevie Nicks in her solo prime; of Jennifer Aniston in Office Space; of Kiera Knightley in the King Arthur film; or currently of Kaley Cuoco as Penny in The Big Bang Theory — but of Miss Monroe: No. And for the nothing-there reason that you cite. There is nothing there except the lifted skirts.

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  6. This is just so crass. It is utterly devoid of good taste. If I recall correctly, much less was revealed in the film. Imagine the kind of mindset one requires to believe this serves the memory of this deceased lady. Almost a public necrophilia, and an enforced one if one has the misfortune to have to see it against one’s will.

  7. There are two different photographs of MM on the subway grate. One is the still from the movie, the other is from a reenactment at a publicity stunt. “Forever Marliyn” appears to be modeled on the second photo. Like the film and the photo, the statue must be interpreted as an expression of the Freudian doctrine of subconscious erotic desire. The original play “The Seven Year itch” was explicitly Freudian,” and the subway train barreling through its tunnel is a pretty obvious symbol of subconscious erotic desire. The blast of air that lifts MM’s skirt is therefore sexual desire coming “above ground,” as it were, and into consciousness. So the billowing dress is simply a Freudian dream-symbol of pulling her clothes off. The tempted husband cannot face the raw truth of his desire to strip MM and ravish her, so the desire comes out in this not-so-sublte symbol of “undressing.”

    Of course the photographs and the statue strongly suggests that MM enjoys being stripped and ravished, since her expression is one of pleasure, not shock or shame. In Freudland, she is saying “let’s do this for real.” And this is why celebration of this statue is odd in this age of #metoo.

    Or on second thought, not odd at all.

    • I confess that I have never watched The Seven-Year Itch although I am familiar with other Monroe films. One characteristic of the iconic “pose” is its (pardoning the expression) “take me from behind” attitude, which has the effect of lowering the human content of the sexual act, which would normally be face-to-face, while heightening its degree of animal spontaneity. It is essentially meretricious, and yet not, since the meretrix presumably does not enjoy her encounters, but merely profits from them and moves farther along the alleyway in search of new customers. Marilyn-of-the-Lifted-Skirts is the essentially pornographic image of the girlish looking woman, with whom intercourse is safely not an instance of statutory rape, who positively enjoys her random encounters and makes no subsequent demands on her partners. Monroe is entangled in the establishment of the pornography industry by her having been the featured girl in the first issue of Hefner’s Playboy. She was also way ahead of Monica Lewinski in being the mistress of a sitting and married president.

      • Yes, she was ahead of her time in all the wrong ways. I’ve always had a soft spot for her though, the sort of tender regard one has for classic tragic figures. She believed the world offered her a pedestal from which to adore her, but it turned out to be the altar on which her heart would be cut out.

  8. Semtex should do the job.

    A time is coming in which every man of virtue will have the duty of destroying those craftworks that attempt against virtue.

  9. One can consider a positive side to the appearance and tolerance for such ‘artistic expression’ in the sense that the day it is removed or destroyed would be the day one can celebrate the start of a spiritual and philosophical recovery movement. In political terms: ochlocratic support for its maintenance will have vanished.

  10. I hardly believe that the building facing Mrs. Monroe’s posterior anatomy is a true Church (Catholic, that is), they seem to have a gay flag hanging in one of their walls

  11. It is interesting to me that the assumption on this blog seems to be that the “degeneracy” will always head in one direction, inevitably towards societal collapse after which there will be some grand reordering presumably. Why does no one consider the possibility that the pendulum is reaching its apogee and will at some point swing back or some other form of course correction?

    • Insofar as degeneracy implies degeneration, and insofar as degeneration is unidirectional, the heading-in-one-direction motif is difficult to avoid. As for a breakdown of society and a dissolution of culture — these things have already happened. I assume that recovery is possible. Indeed, not so to assume would be to give in to despair, and I am not the despairing type, but meaningful recovery requires that a mass of people gain awareness of the rot. This has not yet happened. The Orthosphere in its modest way aims to increase the number of people who see the rot so that they might feel moved to act.

      The problem with the pendulum metaphor is that it is passive. It implies that no one is responsible and that no one is really in control, but that everything is predetermined and cyclical.

    • It is hard to argue that people are not influenced by the culture in which they live and the larger events which are occurring around them. But people also have agency within this context. It seems to me that both dynamic are not mutually exclusive and are at work independently and together to varying degrees depending on the context.


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