Home > Lessons > The Problem with FAIL (Update)

The Problem with FAIL (Update)

This picture was on the FAIL blog yesterday:


I have increasingly seen pictures like this on the FAIL site. My problem is this: how is this a fail? Yes, the audience the sign seemed aimed at is the very audience who can’t read that, but if it’s obvious to us, how much more obvious to the person who put the sign there. Clearly, the intended audience are the parents of those who can’t read the sign. The restaurant could have put a boring sign that said ‘Parents, please help your shorter children with the ice cream toppings.” Instead they went for a laugh; they went for something outside of the norm—something I find clever.

My problem isn’t the person who snapped the photo and put it on FAIL blog, per se. That person is just too literal to understand a joke. That’s fine, the world is full of such. I hope to write at such a level that at least some, but not too many, people just don’t ‘get it’. My problem is, with this sign on the site, or rather with signs like this on the site, there is the possibility people who might, in the future, think to put a clever sign up will instead put up the boring sign. None of us, at least a statistically insignificant number of us, want to be humiliated in public.

I suppose, then, as I think this through, my problem is the FAIL blog can, promote a culture of uncleverness. Uncleverness is not risky. Unclever signs will not ever be put on the Internet to be laughed at. And that’s a real shame, because cleverness, and a desire to take a risk on being clever, are some of the little joys in life.

Maybe ‘I’ve just had my get off my lawn’ moment of the week.

Update: Another post today furthers my point:


This father is cleverly holding on to his child in a public place while taking care of a biological necessity. Whoever posted this has never faced this conundrum and is less than clever.

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