Tuesday, January 8, 2008

Seven Year Itch

This is the first movie I have seen Marilyn Monroe in. She's absolutely delicate! The scripting is dated, with Sears-Robuck style cultural punchlines, that mostly revolve around Marilyn's "Betty Boop with Flesh" character and her sexually intoxicating naivety. Had that "Death of a Salesman" feel to it; would probably be better suited as a play (the movie was probably just an excuse to get Marilyn onscreen): uncomfortably anxious family man facing mid-life crisis and/or life-changing circumstances (ie, 'death' of a salesman). The rest of the play/movie is essentially a character/cultural study of the moral and ethical code of conduct in the 1950's as it stands in contrast to the world we live in today.

The one thing that I notice when I see movies or advertisements from the fifties is the strong, underlying message that ethical codes were well defined and unambiguous. WWII helped foster this desire for a solid foundation. But the post-structural, anti-foundational 21st century is one in which we cannot claim the assurance of such an unchanging ethical paradigm,

But as a character study, Seven Year Itch is all about the process of temptation, specifically, against adultery. Marilyn Monroe plays "The Girl" (honest, that's her real casting tag) upstairs who Richard Shermann (Tom Ewell), invites to "come over for a drink" while his wife and son are out of town. From being forced to hide the key to the chest that holds the cigarettes (wife doesn't want him to smoke) to going to a vegetarian diner (wife says watch the diet), to rationalizing his neighborly 'drink invitation', Shermann seems to be spending his whole "family-free" swatting at these temptations, accompanied by the mosquito-like buzz of his perturbed post-war formed moral conscience.

In inviting the smoking hot 22 year old 'girl upstairs' over to his apartment for a drink while his wife is away, it appears that Shermann has put himself in a compromising situation, and in a way he has, at least in terms of the appropriateness of such an action as judged by the society in which it is undertaken. This quote, for example:

"Suppose someone sees you sneaking out of here at six in the morning. That's even worse!"

"But we're not doing anything wrong."

"Certainly not. But there's such a thing as society, you know. Laws, rules...I'm not saying I necessarily believe in them but after all, no man's an island."

I think he realizes this as well. But if there's anyone who is off on a whole other plane altogether, it's beautiful blonde Marilyn. I think this qualifies as my favorite quote so far, and it makes her especially endearing in how well she plays the role of the 1950's barbie doll:
"I think it's wonderful that you're married! I think it's just delicate!" "You do?" "Of course! I mean I wouldn't be lying on the floor in the middle of the night in some man's apartment drinking champagne if he wasn't married." "That's a very interesting line of reasoning." "Sure! With a married man, it's all so simple. I mean it can't ever possibly get drastic."

Oh Marilyn, were it so simple ye simple child of God. Guy sees: "I'm doing something wrong--after all, I'm married." Girl sees: "I'm doing nothing wrong--after all, he's married!). Same situation. Funny! Also interesting snipet about how trust and jealously:

"If Helen came in here and found you in the shower, you know what she would think? She would think you were the plumber."

"A blonde plumber?"

"Absolutely. She trusts me implicitly."

"What's the matter with her? Doesn't she love you?" And then after listing all his wonderful qualities: "If I was your wife I'd be jealous of you. Very, very jealous"

I will say that if I ever have a daughter, I will watch this movie with her because men are dogs and they deserve to be regarded with suspicion. Since the post-structural ground of ethics is shifting beneath my feet as I type, it seems that the age of the 'do's and don'ts'--at least in terms of moral education--has come and past. Maybe it's time for a new ethical paradigm...

No comments: