Yesterday at the supermarket checkout, I saw a very young girl (let’s say about 7 or 8 tops) wearing a t-shirt emblazoned with the legend COOL VS. FREAK. Whilst the first few immediate reactions I had ranged from “Oh my God, this child clearly idolises Lana Weinberger from ‘The Princess Diaries'” to “I wonder who bought it for her?” to “The Pussycat Dolls have got a lot to answer for,” what I chiefly felt was depressed.
I could over-exaggerate and over-dramatise the impact of such aggresive t-shirt slogans by claiming that this kind of slogan encaptulates exactly why people are shooting each other so much lately, but I’m not the Daily Mail, so I’ll leave that particular thesis to them.
I do feel though that the aggressiveness of this, and other, t-shirt slogans reflects the aggressiveness of British society at large, and can be taken as being just one tiny part of the day to day psychosis of living here, and growing up here, but to say it causes teenagers to shoot each other would be over-simplistic at best, hysterical at worst.
No doubt it will be said that a t-shirt is just a t-shirt, it isn’t hurting anyone, and that the child wearing it doesn’t necessarily buy into the message on the t-shirt anyway. For this reason, you can sleep safe at night knowing it’s O.K if your ten year old is wearing a t-shirt that reads BARBIE IS A SLUT, DEAD GIRLS DON’T SAY NO, or WILL FUCK FOR SHOES/CAKE/NEW TITS. Hhmmm… Of course, if you apply this theory of naivete and being led, there’s not reason why there shouldn’t be lots of ten year olds wearing NO TO THIRD RUNWAY, THIS IS WHAT A FEMINIST LOOKS LIKE, or MARXISM: MAKING PROPERTY HISTORY t-shirts, although the fact that these t-shirts generally aren’t available in Bay Trading or Selfridges, or worn by pop stars, models, and actors might, of course, have something to do with it.
So, this is simple plea to parents, grandparents, aunties, uncles, friends… get them a different t-shirt, one with a slogan less socially divisive, less about hate, more about love, get them a slogan that means something less crass. Maybe even buy them a t-shirt that raises questions, rather than providing a list of assumptions about the wearer and the buyer.