A day after the death of “the kissing sailor,” George Mendonsa, a statue that immortalizes his image has been spray-painted with the #MeToo hashtag.
Mendonsa, who died on Sunday aged 95, was photographed in New York’s Times Square at the declaration of the end of World War II, spontaneously kissing dental assistant Greta Zimmer Friedman — a stranger.
The moment, which was captured and published in Life Magazine, was the inspiration for the ‘Unconditional Surrender’ statue in Sarasota, Florida, which was vandalized on Monday. The damage was reported to police in the early hours of Tuesday morning.
In recent years, critics have questioned whether the image glorifies harassment and sexual assault. They refuse the romantic interpretation of the image, because Mendonsa, who said he was drinking, grabbed and kissed Friedman without knowing her.
Lawrence Verria, who wrote a book The Kissing Sailor, that unpacked the mystery of the photo’s subjects, rejects the image’s negative connotations. “I just don’t think this picture is the poster child for [sexual assault],” Verria says, adding that Friedman always defended Mendonsa’s actions. “She, the person herself, never saw it that way. In fact, she was adamant. She said you had to be there to understand what it was like in Times Square, everyone was kissing everybody.”
It was not, however, romantic, Friedman made clear in a 2005 interview. “I felt he was very strong, he was just holding me tight, and I’m not sure I — about the kiss because, you know, it was just somebody really celebrating. But it wasn’t a romantic event. It was just an event of thank God the war is over kind of thing because it was right in front of the sign.
“I did not see him approaching, and before I know it I was in this vice grip,” Friedman told CBS News.
— Kim Kuizon FOX 13 (@kkuizon) February 19, 2019
Graffiti has been removed from the Unconditional Surrender statue. pic.twitter.com/dSrq1MbfsJ
— City of Sarasota (@CityofSarasota) February 19, 2019
‘Unconditional Surrender’ is one of a series of similar sculptures by Seward Johnson, across America and elsewhere in the world.