March 15, 2014

A famous kiss: "I saw the nurse and she was smiling at me, so I just grabbed her."

Glenn McDuffie had just heard the war was over. He died last Sunday at the age of 86.

The photograph, by Alfred Eisenstaedt, appeared in Life Magazine. Here's some Life text about the scene on V-J Day:
Booze flowed, inhibitions were cast off, there were probably as many fists thrown as kisses planted; in other words, once the inconceivable had actually been confirmed and it was clear that the century's deadliest, most devastating war was finally over...

[I]n the giddy and even chaotic first few hours after the announcement, people naturally took to the streets of cities and towns all over the country. And while some of the merriment was no doubt of a quieter, G-rated variety, it's hardly surprising that countless grown men and women seized the opportunity for cathartic revelry, giving vent to joy and relief as well as to the pent-up anxieties, fears, sorrows and anger of the previous several years.
That text, quoted at the top link, which goes to NPR.org, comes from a Life webpage written long after 1945. That page includes this parenthetical:
(It’s worth noting that many people view the photo as little more than the documentation of a very public sexual assault, and not something to be celebrated.)
The words "little more" imply Life's concession that the kiss was a sexual assault. And if you read the text quoted at NPR closely, you'll see how oriented it is to explaining and justifying our love for the photograph.

57 comments:

Mark said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
richlb said...

Trigger warning...

RecChief said...

NPR can go to hell

Shouting Thomas said...

The words "little more" imply Life's concession that the kiss was a sexual assault.

You're kidding, huh, Althouse?

I'm not sure I want to share the planet with anybody who is stupid enough to make that concession.

Another argument for shutting down every women's studies department in every college in the country. As if another argument was needed.

campy said...

@ RecChief :

NPR is hell.

TosaGuy said...

A kiss is just a kiss........

Shouting Thomas said...

NPR is hell.

Demonic possession sometimes seems to be the only explanation.

Shouting Thomas said...

The lefty ladies in Woodstock are all atwitter over "rape culture." According to this theory, our dads taught their sons that raping women is our right and duty.

Preposterous shit, but the ladies are all lecturing the men over this. The hair shirt lefty men have an entirely new reason to hang their heads in shame.

FleetUSA said...

NPR specializes in faux women's studies. Real women's studies would look at the terrible jobs economy Choom has brought women. Rather NPR would prefer an article about pigmy lesbians in Africa.

FleetUSA said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
MadisonMa'am said...

I always loved that picture. The exuberance of youth and joy at the war ending come together in a kiss.

Ann Althouse said...

"NPR specializes in faux women's studies."

NPR omitted the controversy over the celebration of sexual assault.

And my point about "little more" is that Life doesn't try to defend the kiss as not a sexual assault. It's approach is to stress that it's also something more, something very important, and it tries to put us in the historical context where people were behaving impulsively and expressing immense joy.

Saint Croix said...

"When the legend becomes fact, print the legend."

clint said...

And what does the woman in the photo say? Or does that matter anymore? I can't keep up with the changing standards.

Is it rape, now, because they didn't file her written consent in triplicate at the campus sexual relations office?

Shouting Thomas said...

You need to visit the feminism de-programmer, Althouse.

We could take up a collection.

An intervention is needed.

Saint Croix said...

The wikipedia article on this is insane! Multiple people claiming the be the sailor and the nurse. I'll bet all of them are lying.

Mark said...

Clint, that headlock says a little something about it.

Shouting Thomas said...

Women's suffrage was obviously a mistake.

traditionalguy said...

Very interesting point of view policing.

1945's young fertile men and women took their roles in life so seriously because it could be taken away so quickly for them. But the Spoiled Brats of Feminism today insist that keeping fertile women safe from real men is morality.



Saint Croix said...

NPR omitted the controversy over the celebration of sexual assault.

Who is alleging it's a sexual assault? This is the first time I've heard that. I go to the link and it's Life who is bringing up this possibility, almost 70 years after the fact.

If you're going to allege a crime, shouldn't there be proof? Rather than an assumption?

that headlock says a little something about it.

I know! That was my reaction too. That's the first time I noticed that. It's a plausible accusation.

But it's hardly damning of NPR to omit a feminist rewriting-of-history. Even if the feminist rewriting is plausible, based on the headlock.

We might also note that all the people in the photograph who are watching the "crime" seem quite happy.

EDH said...

Technically, wouldn't "tongue" be the distinction between "sexual assault" (battery really) and rape in that photo, if it were deemed non-consensual?

PB Reader said...

Let's hope something similar happens to mark Obama's departure from office.

Pogo is Dead said...

Lefties are the new Puritans, and they are bossy, whining, gaysplainers.

LIFE is dead.
TIME is running out.
The Grey Lady is in hospice.

Boomers, the Me generation after the Greatest Generation, is leaving, their stars going out one by one, but flailing at the dying of the light.

And in a generation, their lunatic thought processes may have finally finally been replace by, well, non-lunatics.

This country needs an enema.

Seeing Red said...

How come all these women who were raped gravitate towards womyns' studies?

They need psychological help, they're not healthy and shouldn't be teaching. They're very angry over their lives and could be a danger.

I Have Misplaced My Pants said...

The fist in that photograph has always bothered me. It just doesn't look right.

I Have Misplaced My Pants said...

But his big rough man hand on her waist--which is almost as big as her waist--hot.

FullMoon said...

The way that the spectators form a wide circle around the participants almost make the photo look staged.

Maybe the photog asked them to "do it again".

Michael K said...

On VJ Day, my parents had a party that lasted three days. Taverns, by law, had to close so all of my father's friends who owned taverns, and there were many as he was in the juke box business, took a case of whiskey and headed for our house. The party went on 24 hours a day for three days. My cousin who was 30, washed her face and went to work each day, then came back to our house. By the end of the party, she had a ring around her neck where the washing had ended.

My sister and I had bunk beds and we would find drunks fallen asleep in our bed with us. It was just unalloyed joy that so many guys would be coming home.

After the war ended and the guys came home, my parents would have a party every couple of months to celebrate them. My cousins were cute and had many pretty girlfriends. There were at least 15 or twenty marriages from those parties. My mother kept in touch with all of them for 50 years.

I was only 7 but we could see how happy everyone was. The nonsense about the kiss would not make sense to any of those people. Only baby boomers could be that dense.

Larry Nelson said...

I always thought that photo was kinda hot, but have never heard that scene referred to as sexual assault.
Judging by the looks of every one else in the photo, they all heartily approve of sexual assault, even the elderly woman.
Thank God we have evolved past the twisted sexual depravations of the "greatest generation".
--sarcasm off--

“I have often been called a Nazi, and, although it is unfair, I don’t let it bother me. I don’t let it bother me for one simple reason. No one has ever had a fantasy about being tied to a bed and sexually ravished by someone dressed as a liberal.”
P.J. O'Rourke

LarsPorsena said...

You think these folks were happy?

Think about all the soldiers and marines who were earmarked to assault the Japanese mainland.

They were probably kissing each other.

St. George said...

Beautifully composed photograph....All those diagonal leading deliriously to the top center where their heads are...his deadly black against her popping virginal white...the onlookers delightedly smiling in the background, especially the older woman (all clearly approving of this conquest, this victory)....the way his hugely powerful right hand clutches her waist (truly she is overcome)...her left hand seemingly caressing her buttocks...the intense osculation...how she is delicately en pointe...even the word "BOND" in neon all-caps which emphasizes the action.

Sculpt this in marble!

Shouting Thomas said...

Here's a pic of the Brave New World Althouse envisions for us.

hawkeyedjb said...

"Think about all the soldiers and marines who were earmarked to assault the Japanese mainland.

They were probably kissing each other."

My father was ready to take his small ship to the coast of Japan, to serve as a forward bombardment spotter. "Sitting Duck" was the unofficial term. He and his sailors thanked president Truman from the bottom of their hearts, every day of their long, peaceful lives.

Bob Ellison said...

Michael K, thanks for that remembrance.

FullMoon said...

FROM WIKIPEDIA:
During World War II, nearly 500,000 Purple Heart medals were manufactured in anticipation of the estimated casualties resulting from the planned Allied invasion of Japan. To the present date, total combined American military casualties of the sixty-five years following the end of World War II—including the Korean and Vietnam Wars—have not exceeded that number. In 2003, there remained 120,000 Purple Heart medals in stock. The existing surplus allowed combat units in Iraq and Afghanistan to keep Purple Hearts on-hand for immediate award to soldiers wounded in the field.[6]

mccullough said...

So he would have been 17 or 18 back then. Can't blame his exuberance. He didn't have to be deployed.

NotquiteunBuckley said...

I think we should have used a slow bleed strategy in Japan, because John Murtha made a lot of sense.

And nuked Germany.

I am of German/Irish heritage but American foremost.

dwick said...

Funny how if this scene occurred today (say... perhaps to celebrate Obama's impeachment and subsequent conviction?), all the people standing around with their cell phones would either be snapping the photo moment for themselves or, apparently, dialing 911 to report a sexual assault.

NotquiteunBuckley said...

Our reactions to emotions when seeing a picture we remember say more about us than the photo.

There is always the philosophy.

This is where I appreciate Vanderleun.

American Digest.

KA-CHING and whatnot.

I think he was friends with Lennon, J., and knows then that Gram Parsons kicked a bunch of ass.

BDNYC said...

This man was a menace and would rightly be expelled from today's universities for sexual assault.

The Godfather said...

I'll remember this discussion the next time I read about some college kid or professor who's accused of "sexual assault" -- that may just mean, he bestowed an unwanted kiss. I'd confess that I did the same in my misspent youth, but I'm not sure what the Statute of Limitations is.

Ebbers Palomino I said...

There is a large sculpture in Sarasota, Florida, based on this image

CWJ said...

Did anyone actually click through to the "Life" article? The Life article and the NPR article show two different photos. It appears that the Life photo was taken somewhat prior to the NPR photo as most of the bystanders are walking by while in the NPR photo the scene has now drawn a small crowd.

So now I'm asking myself how long did this guy maintain that lip lock, and how many of these "iconic" photos are there?

CWJ said...

There would appear to be at least four such photos. It appears that the Life photo is the second of the series while the NPR photo may be the fourth.

Michael Fitzgerald said...

"It's worth noting"- No, it isn't. In fact, it's worthless to note. Except to point out how outrageous and fatuous feminist ideology is.

NotquiteunBuckley said...

Buckley heard learned men say "write..." And through Buckley's output indeed there is a silent Fuck You.

David said...

So she and he posed for four different photos or four kisses? Or there four photos of one (lengthly) kiss?

I # 1, doesn't sound like sexual assault.

Anyway, if not consented to it was sexual (a kiss) and an assault (an unwanted or uninvited touching.) But the lower degrees of sex crime had not been invented then (I think.) In 1954 it was rape rape or nothing at all.

Darleen said...

My dad was a paratrooper with the 11th Airborne ... so he ended up being in Japan as part of the occupation army (46-48) rather than a possible statistic.

MrCharlie2 said...

See William Kennedy novel "Roscoe" (somewhere in 1st 2 or 3 chapters) for fine description of VJ day

MrCharlie2 said...

Friend of mine was 18 (i.e. no combat experience), part of the massed army divisions prepping for the assault. The bomb saved his life, he figured.

He was sent to Nagasaki to fix the airfield. All good for 50 years. Then the cancer, which was defeated, for a while. Died 2008, never expressed a regret (but it was rough).

MrCharlie2 said...

Not to play into the hands of the PC police behind that obnoxious little footnote: these people were comrades in a huge effort that lasted for years (and set ground work for decades of success in this country).

This was a cathartic moment for all of them.

Pity the 16 yearolds, still in school.

Rob McLean said...

The only reason they were kissing was to sell a new clothing line!

MrCharlie2 said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
MrCharlie2 said...

^ asshole

Kirk Parker said...

Michael K,

Thanks for that personal memoir @ 10:31am.

"Only baby boomers could be that dense."

No kidding, and I'm one of them (but NOT dense, trust me!) My pampered generation and our successors have so little idea of what an existential struggle really is.

Saint Croix said...

This morning my thoughts wandered to this sailor and the nurse, and I thought of the French New Wave. They are not known for their feminism! But I like their expression much, much more.

And it's a good movie. 1968, Paris is in the middle of riots, and Truffaut wants to make a love story. Awesome.

Peter said...

If "marriage" can be radically redefined, then "sexual assault" can be redefined.

It was surely not a sexual assault by the standards of 1945.

It is, therefore, an anachronism to declare that it has, somehow, become a sexual assault.