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BY BILL EGBERT
Just weeks after the now-iconic statue “Fearless Girl” took her place in Bowling Green staring down the “Charging Bull,” and instantly became a social media sensation and international symbol of “girl power,” another sculpture has joined her in the park in the hope of getting in on the publicity.
A group calling itself Refugees United Seeking Entry has installed, directly in front of “Fearless Girl,” another bronze piece depicting several refugee children seeking asylum and safety in America — but being symbolically blocked from entry by the stubbornly defiant young girl.
“The symbolism works perfectly,” said the group’s communications director, Ima Joshin. “Just look at her — standing in front of them, arms akimbo, chin jutting out as if to say ‘Not in Trump’s America!’ That’s just the kind of pugnaciously bigoted attitude we want to call out denounce.”
The idea for the installation came to Joshin when she witnessed all the attention the park’s new selfie sensation was enjoying, and her group wanted to harness that energy for their own agenda.
“We were looking for a way to bring attention to our cause, and the Girl just came to us,” Joshin said. “She had become such a popular image of defiance and empowerment, and we just had to figure out a way to change the meaning of the symbol. The image of her blocking the refugee children came out of that.”
In the wake of the new installation, the fresh-faced refugee children have suddenly become a cause célèbre among twittizens — who have likewise turned on their erstwhile bullfighting heroine, with the hashtag #FearlessGirl quickly swamped by #HeartlessGirl. Within hours, the trending tag #TeamRefugees outnumbered #TeamFearlessGirl nearly seven to one.
Not everyone hates Fearless Girl’s new role as a standard-bearer of anti-immigrant xenophobia. She has been embraced by the alt-right as the new “Pepe the Frog,” and has shown up in various memes, for example, photoshopped in front of public restrooms smugly blocking entrance to transgenders.
And it was not lost on many observers that the group of refugee children is actually a reproduction of London’s Liverpool Street monument to the Kindertransport — the rescue of thousands of Jewish children from the Nazis prior to WWII — leading some to speculate whether “Fearless Girl” should now be considered a symbol of anti-Semitism.
Asked whether she thought “Fearless Girl” sculptor Kristen Visbal might resent the appropriation and negative transformation of her most famous work, Joshin expressed some sympathy.
“Poor Kirsten!” she said. “The girl is beautiful — it’s a stunning piece of art. But the world changes, and we are now running with this idea.”
Perhaps most aggrieved by this turn of events would be State Street, the financial firm that originally commissioned “Fearless Girl” as an advertisement for its new gender-diversity-tracking “SHE” exchange traded fund, which launched the same day the statute was placed in front of the “Charging Bull.”
But State Street could still recover a return on its ad budget, suggests marketing researcher Vin Alitty.
“They could launch an ‘America First’ fund that invests only in companies that Trump tweets good things about,” Alitty said. “Or maybe a fund that invests in companies bidding to build the wall. There’s lots of ways State Street can keep making money off this.”
EDITOR’S NOTE: If you’re read this far and still haven’t gotten the gag, I would recommend to you a highly reliable news service called The Onion.com.