Ronald Reagan has been making numerous cultural reappearances lately: I wrote not long ago about how the sudden surge of TV series (The Americans, Narcos, Fargo, Wet Hot American Summer) using Reagan as a backdrop seemed indicative of a rekindled interest with the Reagan era. It was an era that sowed the seeds of many contemporary American problems, including our polar bipartisanism, which has been festering in the decades since and has given us an election featuring both someone as left-leaning as Bernie Sanders and someone as openly bigoted as Donald Trump.
Following that, we’ve seen a production of American Psycho: The Musical, the announcement of the (potential) Will Ferrell movie about Reagan (which was then seemingly unannounced after people took issue with the subject of the satire being the President’s Alzheimer’s), and, as actual news, Nancy Reagan’s death, followed by Hillary Clinton’s widely-reported (and then revoked) gaffe about the former First Lady’s “low key advocacy” for AIDS awareness. The continued pervasiveness of all things Reagan-related reinforces the ways in which the current obsession with a former celebrity-turned-president speaks to fears about the coming election, and also to people’s desires to find the roots of particular American predicaments.
Though they won’t help you scrutinize said roots, this series of photos — from the upcoming book Nude Reagan — certainly reifies the aforementioned fears, presenting the former President’s iconically rubber-masked face placed atop a series of dimly lit, twisted nude women’s bodies, all shot by Los Angeles photographer John Brian King. In a press release from publisher Spurl Editions, the photographs are referred to as “deliberately unsettling…depict[ing] Reagan as a demon and specter haunting the modern world.”
Indeed, Reagan as a symbol whose repercussions still feel forced upon American citizens makes for rather disquieting photography, particularly when they seek to highlight, as the press release describes, Reagan’s “own frozen, Brylcreem-lathered satanic countenance” against “mold green…muddy gray… brilliant white…[and] dense, all-encompassing black” and resting imposingly atop displays of bare female triumph, self-presentation, and sexuality, complicating the country’s fervent obsession with and the Right’s frequent rapturous praise of the former President. Here, he’s both a grotesque imposition and an ugly seduction.
[The following slideshow is NSFW, especially if your W is teeming with Reagan enthusiasts]