Internet, this needs to stop. You keep finding moderately cool things and driving them into the ground, and what you’ve done with “Keep Calm And Carry On” is just the worst.
I saw a bunch of people wearing “Keep Calm It’s The Henderson Family Reunion” shirts at a park recently. That’s not a parody of the poster: it’s “Keep Calm” followed by some random words. There’s no semblance of thought here, it’s just using the font and the words “Keep Calm” because they’ve been used in other places.
Which is too bad, because the poster itself is actually pretty cool. The UK government printed 2 million of these during World War II, but never hung them up. They were forgotten for half a century, until one was eventually found in an old box by the owners of Barter Bookstore in northeast England.
It’s instantly iconic. The crisp typeface looks downright contemporary, the white-on-red stands out, and the message easily resonates in a complex age when obscure things like Greek financial policy can bring western civilization to the brink of destruction overnight. The modern world is complex and frightening, and something about this message from the past stands out.
So naturally, the Internet had to ruin it.
Keep Calm and Any Combination Of Words
The parodies started early, one of the first examples being a straight-forward reversal of the concept:
Kind of funny, right? And the upside down crown is a nice touch. A sane civilization would have stopped at this point.
But we’re not sane, and eventually every niche interest on the Internet decided they wanted in on the “fun”. Zombies came quickly, of course:
Moderately amusing. Perhaps worth putting in the background of yet another comedy set in a zombie post-apocalypse. But that’s the end of the trend, right?
No. People kept making it worse, designing “parody” posters only loosely connected to the original concept.
Yep, we’re using “parody” to compare the mass-hysteria that results from needing to wait for an Apple product to a Nazi invasion of the UK. Get it?
Me neither. Don’t worry, though, because I’m sure someone made something worse.
I’m probably biased, because I’m never going to forgive Justin Bieber for making it impossible for me to Google myself. But seriously: transparent text? You’re so opposed to anything covering this guy’s face that you resorted to an overlay?
And what does “keeping calm” have to do with being a fan of a particular singer? Speaking of not having anything to do with anything:
Ahh, I see you’ve ditched the “Keep Calm” thing entirely, and replaced the solid-red backdrop with pixelated racism. Interesting choice. Now I’m probably too Canadian to really “get” what you’re trying to say here, and I’m not going to tell you what to do. Still, I bet your southern ancestors would be pretty angry you put the symbol of Abraham Lincoln’s party at the top of this nonsense.
Rise Of The Machines
So yeah, humans made some pretty terrible “parodies”, but I bet your wondering: could a computer do an even worse job? As it turns out, yes!
Holy crap that’s offensive. No person in their right mind would try to sell that shirt, right? Perhaps not, but a machine programmed to combine “Keep Calm” with random noun-verb combinations did. The above shirt was actually on Amazon, as PopSci.com explains. It clearly points out why this is a bad idea, but that it was even attempted is telling. Humans are just jumbling random words together, why not let a machine do it? Might sell a few shirts…
You might be wondering: is there a voice of reason in the midst of all this? This is the closest I could find:
It’s hard to disagree, but no one listens. These “parodies” keep happening – Keep Calm O Matic, which automates making these awful parodies, claims over six million of them have been created using their service. Think about that: for every original poster the UK printed, three people have effortlessly re-arranged words to “parody” it.
And I’m sure I haven’t found the worst ones here. Can you find anything worse? Point them out in the comments below, if you must.
Or check out these fascinating British propaganda videos from World War II. It’s a better use of your time, really.