Is anybody else bugged by how ubiquitous these poster remakes are?
They are frigging everywhere, and each time I roll my eyes at one, I get closer to a self-induced aneurism. I can’t pin down why they get to me: the lack of creativity is grating, but that’s not quite it.
Most of the time, they’re dad-caliber jokes, the kind of thing that makes you go, “Oh, heh. Yeah.” Occasionally a good one will sneak through (Who could forget “Keep calm and carrion”?), but gems are few and far between.
The “Keep Calm and Carry On” originals were produced by the British government in World War Two and meant to be displayed when the Germans invaded Britain, and/or in the event of a catastrophic attack.
They were never displayed (since there was no German occupation after all), and they were stored in government basements until the year 2000, when they were unearthed.
Cue the non-stop comedy parade.
There’s something beautiful in how concise the poster is, but that concision also makes it profoundly bleak. It’s a message of hopelessness, packaged with such dignified British repression that it is almost a parody of itself. Most importantly, though, “Keep Calm and Carry On” is a relic of a wartime that we modern-day meme-makers can’t even begin to fathom. To that end, bringing a “keep calm and work out” tote bag to the gym or toasting a “keep calm and drink wine!” poster seems a bit like kicking a tombstone.
It’s not that the subject matter is somehow too dark. Gallows humor is one of the few consolation prizes for living in an unjust world. The darker the topic, though, the smarter you have to be in your treatment of it, and these endless recreations just…aren’t that smart.
In short, these posters aren’t offensive because they exist; they’re offensive because they totally miss what they reference.
Take as a case in point “Keep Calm and Chi Omega,” which wins for using five words in two languages and still means absolutely nothing. If you’re going to be cheeky about having your national spirit broken, guys, at least include a verb.
So, next time I see a dude in the grocery store wearing a tank top emblazoned with “Keep Calm and Party On,” part of me wants to corner him. Is “partying on” part of his strategy for overcoming food shortages, foreign occupation, and uncertain wartime futures? If so, that’s totally cool. I just hope he’s put together a bangin’ playlist.