'Keep Calm and Carry On' is clichéd. It's also missing two-thirds of the original message.

If you’ve ever been anywhere near a college dorm room, you’ve seen the phrase “Keep Calm and Carry On.”

The saying does have real historical context rooted in WWII Britain, but it’s better known for the period of time in the mid-2000s when it became a near-ubiquitous decorative staple.


Everywhere you went, the bold crimson and sans-serif lettering could be found taped up on walls, printed on mugs, tucked away in planners, hanging on keychains, slapped on bumper stickers — quickly followed by variations on theme, which became arguably more popular than the original.

This boom in commercial popularity quickly erased all of its original meaning and turned “Keep Calm and Carry On” into nothing more than a trite cliché.

Photo by Leon Neal/AFP/Getty Images.

But “Keep Calm and Carry On” wasn't originally designed to be a novelty. It was actually an urgent plea — one of three slogans the British government released to rally the spirits of the people against the threat of Naziism during World War II.

Just before the outbreak of the war, the British government was in the midst of developing something they called “home publicity.” Up against the threat of Nazi forces, who famously garnered much of their support through propaganda, it was imperative the British government make efforts to unite the national community under the common goal of victory.

The publicity committee ultimately distilled their message into a poster campaign consisting of three simple slogans:

The attitude the government aimed to encourage — one of resiliency and strength — relied on all three parts of the message, not just the one we're most familiar with today.

While “Keep Calm and Carry On” by itself does communicate a certain measure of resoluteness, it can also easily become a message that encourages complacency. It's only when taken together with the other two parts of the campaign that we're able to understand the tough fighting spirit the British sought to promote.

During the war, two of the three slogans could be found printed all across the U.K. Photo by H.F. Davis/Topical Press Agency/Getty Images.

Funny enough, “Keep Calm and Carry On” was the only poster of the three the government never actually published.

There are conflicting ideas as to why “Keep Calm and Carry On” was never released to the public. One such report says it was decided the phrase was too condescending or too obvious. Another theory is that while the campaign itself was designed for the war, “Keep Calm and Carry On” was a survivalist message reserved for only the direst of circumstances: a German ground invasion in Britain. Since that never happened, the message was never released.

In 2017, let’s take a page out of Britain’s book and make sure all three of these posters are the ones that define our outlook.

Everyone is talking about how much 2016 sucked, but realistically, the number on the calendar had nothing to do with it. And the number on the calendar once the ball drops on New Year's isn't going to magically make all of the terrible things that happened this year go away. If we approach 2017 intending to just "Keep Calm and Carry On," there won't be anything standing in the way of next year turning out exactly the same way.

That's why we need those missing two-thirds of this message — because they remind us that a world we're proud of is one we need to work for. And your courage, your cheerfulness, your resolution — your willingness to defend freedom and justice with all your might — these are the things that could bring us a brighter year ahead.

Most Shared

Disney has come under fire for problematic portrayals of non-white and non-western cultures in many of its older movies. They aren't the only one, of course, but since their movies are an iconic part of most American kids' childhoods, Disney's messaging holds a lot of power.

Fortunately, that power can be used for good, and Disney can serve as an example to other companies if they learn from their mistakes, account for their misdeeds, and do the right thing going forward. Without getting too many hopes up, it appears that the entertainment giant may have actually done just that with the new Frozen II film.

According to NOW Toronto, the producers of Frozen II have entered into a contract with the Sámi people—the Indigenous people of the Scandinavian regions—to ensure that they portray the culture with respect.

RELATED: This fascinating comic explains why we shouldn't use some Native American designs.

Though there was not a direct portrayal of the Sámi in the first Frozen movie, the choral chant that opens the film was inspired by an ancient Sámi vocal tradition. In addition, the clothing worn by Kristoff closely resembled what a Sámi reindeer herder would wear. The inclusion of these elements of Sámi culture with no context or acknowledgement sparked conversations about cultural appropriation and erasure on social media.

Frozen II features Indigenous culture much more directly, and even addressed the issue of Indigenous erasure. Filmmakers Jennifer Lee and Chris Buck, along with producer Peter Del Vecho, consulted with experts on how to do that respectfully—the experts, of course, being the Sámi people themselves.

Sámi leaders met with Disney producer Peter Del Vecho in September 2019.Sámediggi Sametinget/Flickr

The Sámi parliaments of Norway, Sweden and Finland, and the non-governmental Saami Council reached out to the filmmakers when they found out their culture would be highlighted in the film. They formed a Sámi expert advisory group, called Verddet, to assist filmmakers in with how to accurately and respectfully portray Sámi culture, history, and society.

In a contract signed by Walt Disney Animation Studios and Sámi leaders, the Sámi stated their position that "their collective and individual culture, including aesthetic elements, music, language, stories, histories, and other traditional cultural expressions are property that belong to the Sámi," and "that to adequately respect the rights that the Sámi have to and in their culture, it is necessary to ensure sensitivity, allow for free, prior, and informed consent, and ensure that adequate benefit sharing is employed."

RELATED: This aboriginal Australian used kindness and tea to trump the racism he overheard.

Disney agreed to work with the advisory group, to produce a version of Frozen II in one Sámi language, as well as to "pursue cross-learning opportunities" and "arrange for contributions back to the Sámi society."

Anne Lájla Utsi, managing director at the International Sámi Film Institute, was part of the Verddet advisory group. She told NOW, "This is a good example of how a big, international company like Disney acknowledges the fact that we own our own culture and stories. It hasn't happened before."

"Disney's team really wanted to make it right," said Utsi. "They didn't want to make any mistakes or hurt anybody. We felt that they took it seriously. And the film shows that. We in Verddet are truly proud of this collaboration."

Sounds like you've done well this time, Disney. Let's hope such cultural sensitivity and collaboration continues, and that other filmmakers and production companies will follow suit.

popular

Gerrymandering is a funny word, isn't it? Did you know that it's actually a mashup of the name "Gerry" and the word "salamander"? Apparently, in 1812, Massachusetts governor Elbridge Gerry had a new voting district drawn that seemed to favor his party. On a map, the district looked like a salamander, and a Boston paper published it with the title The GerryMander.

That tidbit of absurdity seems rather tame compared to an entire alphabet made from redrawn voting districts a century later, and yet here we are. God bless America.

Keep Reading Show less
popular
Facebook / Maverick Austin

Your first period is always a weird one. You know it's going to happen eventually, but you're not always expecting it. One day, everything is normal, then BAM. Puberty hits you in a way you can't ignore.

One dad is getting attention for the incredibly supportive way he handled his daughter's first period. "So today I got 'The Call,'" Maverick Austin started out a Facebook post that has now gone viral.

The only thing is, Austin didn't know he got "the call." His 13-year-old thought she pooped her pants. At that age, your body makes no sense whatsoever. It's a miracle every time you even think you know what's going on.

Keep Reading Show less
popular
Wikipedia

Women in country music are fighting to be heard. Literally. A study found that between 2000 and 2018, the amount of country songs on the radio by women had fallen by 66%. In 2018, just 11.3% of country songs on the radio were by women. The statistics don't exist in a vacuum. There are misogynistic attitudes behind them. Anyone remember the time radio consultant Keith Hill compared country radio stations to a salad, saying male artists are the lettuce and women are "the tomatoes of our salad"...? Air play of female country artists fell from 19% of songs on the radio to 10.4% of songs on the radio in the three years after he said that.

Not everyone thinks that women are tomatoes. This year's CMA Awards celebrated women, and Sugarland's Jennifer Nettles saw the opportunity to bring awareness to this issue and "inspire conversation about country music's need to play more women artists on radio and play listings," as Nettles put it on her Instagram. She did it in a uniquely feminine way – by making a fashion statement that also made a statement-statement.

Keep Reading Show less
popular