A 60-year-old story of joy re-entered the world of headlines this week, but this time without the joy. On February 19, the statue known as Unconditional Surrender commemorating V-J Dau by Seward Johnson was vandalized on site in Sarasota, Florida where it's been standing since 2009. And given the six-decade-long story behind this statue, you may wonder what took so long to deface it.

Unfair advantage

“Unconditional Surrender” describes a sailor clutching a female in a nurse's uniform, bending her backward and planting his mouth on hers. The image is a knock-off of Alfred Eisenstaedt's Life Magazine photograph of George Mendosa, a seaman on shore leave in Times Square.

Jubilant about Japan's surrender, he grabbing Greta Zimmer Friedman, a passerby on her lunch break from a job as a dental assistant, for the famous kiss.

Graffiti, spray-painted on the statue in red pigment, showed the hashtag “#MeToo.” The message landed on the nurse's left leg – likely the most accessible to the vandal given the towering 26-foot height of the work. Even though this tale began in 1945 and contains a lot of moving parts since then, a sub-text pervades - one violation after another. Let me count the ways.

Seeing double

Johnson capitalized on the popularity of Eisenstaedt's work, borrowing not only his idea but also the celebrity that went with it. And Johnson duplicated his infringement in a series of styrofoam copies variously installed in New Jersey, Hawaii, and France) The idea of originality, then, was also violated.

What's more, he didn't even model the copies himself. Computer technology did that.

Bigger picture

But all the above is academic when you think of what Johson monumentalized when he magnified and mass-produced the scene that Eisenstaedt captured – in a word - abuse, or as one woman said of the statue on the Sarasota police Facebook page, “it glorifies sexual assault.” Fox News believes that it was no coincidence the graffiti was spray-painted the day after reports that Mendosa died.

Behavior problem

Witness a violation of another kind.

According to The Guardian, when Mendosa strolled Times Square on V-J Day, he was accompanied by his girlfriend, Rita Perry, his future wife. Yet on hearing the news that the war was over, which freed him to plan his future, he didn't embrace her, he grabbed a stranger instead. Fox News explains that he was remembering what nurses did for his fellow servicemen and was moved to express his gratitude.

Of course, Greta Zimmer Friedman didn't know that. The Guardian notes a 2005 interview with the Veterans History Project in which she said that it wasn't her choice to be kissed: “The guy just came over and kissed or grabbed. I felt he was very strong. He was just holding me tight...”

Granted in 1945, men could still treat women cavalierly. So Eistenstaedt gets a pass. But what's Johnson's excuse when his work was installed in Sarasota well after the feminist movement took sexism out of the mainstream?