(NEXSTAR) – A 26-foot statue of Marilyn Monroe, modeled after one of her most famous scenes from “The Seven Year Itch,” is appropriately coming back to Palm Springs after a seven-year absence. But plenty of people in Palm Springs are a little too hot and bothered by the idea.
Forever Marilyn, the official name of the statue by American artist Seward Johnson, depicts Monroe in a white halterneck dress, the skirt of which is permanently suspended in the air, as if by the breeze of a subway train passing underneath, a la “The Seven Year Itch.” The statue had previously been displayed in downtown Palm Springs between 2012–2014, before being relocated for exhibitions in other parts of the country, and even Australia.
Now, the towering Forever Marilyn is coming back to Palm Springs thanks to the efforts of a local hospitality group — with plans to position her closer to the Palm Springs Art Museum, her rear end facing the entrance.
“Placing a hyper-sexualized, misogynist statue of Marilyn at the entrance to the elegant Palm Springs Art Museum sends a message to the community, its visitors (especially young, innocent children), and tourists that this somehow represents ‘the real Marilyn,’” reads a Change.org petition urging the Palm Springs City Council to find “more appropriate ways” to honor Monroe’s legacy.
The organizers of the petition, which already has over 40,000 supporters online, further alleged that Monroe herself would not have appreciated the statue, having fought to become more than just a sex symbol during her Hollywood career.
It’s blatantly sexist,” added Elizabeth Armstrong, a spokesperson for the Change.org petition, in a statement obtained by NPR. “It forces people almost to upskirt,” she said, referring to the concept of sneaking a glimpse or taking a photo from underneath a person’s skirt.
The Palm Springs Art Museum, too, opposes the statue. Not only because of its “poor taste,” but also because the public may assume the museum had something to do with it.
“Our board has been entrusted with holding the museum to a certain status and level of integrity. The artistic value of the statue has been questioned by many, and is widely thought to be in poor taste at a moment when cultural institutions across the nation are being scrutinized on all issues concerning gender, race, equity, and identity,” the museum’s board of trustees said, in part, in a statement. “It is our feeling that the statue will damage our credibility and our goal to highlight Palm Springs as a world-class destination for mid-century architecture and design for international cultural tourists.”
PS Resorts, the hospitality group that licensed the statue, instead feels that there is “perhaps no better location for this work than Palm Springs,” and will result in a tourism “boom” that will ultimately benefit the local economy.
“Marilyn Monroe loved Palm Springs and the exhibit of Forever Marilyn is a true homecoming,” PS Resorts writes on its website.
Aftab Dada, the chairman of PS Resorts, added that the statue’s presence in Palm Springs will do “nothing but benefit” the city, according to a statement obtained by NPR.
The statue would also be placed on a section of Museum Road between Museum Drive and Belardo Road — which Dada says is more than 100 yards from the entrance to the museum, according to TMZ.
At the moment, plans to install the 24,000-pound statue are still moving ahead, having been approved by the Palm Springs City Council in Nov. 2020. During that meeting, however, a councilman acknowledged that the statue was “kitschy” and would be preferrable in another part of the city, but the idea won approval, partially on the grounds that it could be a “powerful tool” for tourism.
The statue will now likely stand on Museum Way for three years.
The Palm Springs City Council did note that the city may need an “out” in case the statue causes traffic or otherwise becomes a problem within those three years. As a result, they decided on the need to include a termination clause in the agreement, as discussed in their Nov. 12 meeting.
Dada, in response to concerns over the statue’s effect on local businesses and tourism, claims he is currently planning to conduct an independent study, which he later intends to present to the city, NPR reported.
This isn’t the first time Forever Marilyn has ruffled a few feathers, either. In 2018, the statue was displayed in Connecticut with its behind facing a church. But Rev. Dr. Todd Grant Yonkman, the pastor of the church, merely questioned why the artist would depict her in such a pose.
“Maybe the city would let us give her some pants?” Yonkman joked to the Associated Press at the time.