Some things in life serve only to induce rage. No matter how small these annoyances may be, they are never insignificant. 'Rant List' is the chronicle of one self-loathing narcissist's seemingly unending pettiness.

Saturday, 31 August 2013

95. The never ending abuse of 'Keep Calm and Carry On'


^ I have to admit that, because 'Keep Calm' is so popular, it was really easy to find an online image maker that created the above for me. I feel so dirty.

       When thrust back in to the public eye at some point during the now-distant noughties, ‘Keep Calm and Carry On’ was an interesting relic of a bygone era; one simple propaganda poster perfectly summing up a traditional British war-time attitude of keeping a stiff upper lip, wrapped in a lovely vintage aesthetic. It makes sense that it would become a cultural icon, simply because it was so distinctly British in its enforcement of emotional repression, therefore harkening to a time when the UK just took casual things like the war on the chin. Good chaps, that lot.

       So, in some ways, it’s almost fitting that British society of the 21st century appropriated this wonderful remnant of old school cultural norms in the only way we know how to; by commercialising it. Not just commercialising it though - but by disseminating, altering, riffing on it to the point that it is essentially unrecognisable as an interesting cultural relic and instead is left tattered as the bereft husk of an artefact, it’s heart and soul robbed and sold on the black market for pittance.

       In some ways, my bigger complaint here is how Western modernity responds to anything that becomes remotely popular. Rather than finding any way to maintain the item’s integrity or exercise some degree of self-control and moderation in its usage, modernity vigorously milks the icon until its proverbial udder is sore, dry and empty. And it does it with such unoriginality - such offensively stupid lack of thought – that every successive, non-witty execution becomes yet another exercise in cringe-inducing pain.

       It’s as if every propagator creating an alternate ‘Keep Calm…’ item thinks that some of the charm of the original poster will be reflected on them; much in the same way that everyone thought that if they created a ‘Harlem Shake’ video, they too would appear to be funny and become internet famous. Of course, we all know that’s not the case (trigger warning: features 'A Question of Sport', one of the worst panel shows ever created) and the more a cultural item is poorly reproduced, the more depressing the original artefact begins to become. 

‘Keep Calm…’ is increasingly no longer a manifestation of war-time Britain, but rather a reflection of modern Britain’s complete inability to not ruin something good. This is why modernity can’t have nice things.

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