Stupid Tuesday questions, Nosferatu edition

Not so long ago, I copped to reading “The Hunger Games,” and got a little bit shirty at the notion that doing so reflected negatively on my erudition.

[First aside: Blinded Trials is still graced with a steady stream of readers who got here by searching with “i finished the hunger games now what.”  Thank heavens you all gave them an answer, as this apparently remains quite a burning question.]

[Second aside: I am totally dropping the ball on “The Pale King,” y’all.  I got an eensy way into it, and then put it aside and haven’t picked it back up yet.  Is anyone else out there reading it with more success?  Dear God, could Joel Stein be right?]

Anyhow, I am not averse to enjoying the occasional book meant for younger readers.  I’ve read the whole Harry Potter series, and enjoyed the aforementioned “Hunger Games” well enough.  But I have been utterly devoid of interest in reading that other recent “literary”/cinematic juggernaut.  I refer, of course, to the “Twilight” saga.

The most exposure to the series I have had was watching the first film with friends at their home when it came out on Blu-ray.  I’m afraid to say that I checked out entirely when it was revealed that in the sunlight the vampires of “Twilight” [spoiler!] sparkle.  Friends, I have no time for sparkling vampires.  Vampires are supposed to be at least somewhat tragic, and there is nothing tragic about sparkling.  Sorry.

Though I strongly suspect otherwise, perhaps I am missing something amazing in eschewing these books.  I have no opinion in the whole Team Edward vs Team Other Guy debate.  I am ignorant of all things Cullen, including how they drive.  In fact, I would have no idea that there was anything especially noteworthy about how the vampire family in “Twilight” drives were it not for a decal I’ve seen displayed on random cars proclaiming that the person operating said motor vehicle drives like one.  Using simple inductive reasoning, I would guess that they drive poorly?  The one time I saw it on an automobile in motion, the lunatic behind the wheel very nearly caused an accident before speeding off like a reckless asshole.

Now, I happen to think it would be epically stupid for people who know they drive erratically to proclaim that fact on their very cars.  Indeed, given the higher likelihood that driving like a maniac will get you into a collision or pulled over for speeding, it strikes me as profoundly idiotic to evince a perverse pride in your bad driving right there for a cop to see as he strides toward your window.  I’m no lawyer, but I can’t imagine it’s grounds for leniency for a lawbreaker to seem sophomorically happy about it.  (I apologize if I have offended any readers who happen to have this decal on their cars, but the truth hurts.)

So that’s this week’s Question — when have you seen people proudly proclaiming something that seems totally self-defeating or pejorative to you?  I’ve already asked about bumper stickers, but this isn’t just limited to car adornments, nor is it really about statements that annoy you.  No, this week is about people choosing to display, wear, tattoo, etc. some statement about themselves that most people would consider negative, but that they themselves seem strangely smug about.  (I would tell the story of the Worst T-shirt in the World here, but sadly it’s a tale best told in person.)  What have you seen that’s like an “I’m with Stupid” t-shirt with an upward-pointing arrow?

Russell Saunders

Russell Saunders is the ridiculously flimsy pseudonym of a pediatrician in New England. He has a husband, three sons, daughter, cat and dog, though not in that order. He enjoys reading, running and cooking. He can be contacted at blindeddoc using his Gmail account. Twitter types can follow him @russellsaunder1.


  1. “My kid beat up your honor roll student” and other such incarnations. While I realize the motivation behind them, celebrating that you are apparently both anti-intellectual AND believe your child ought to inflict violence upon those who aren’t…? Seriously? Ugh.

    Also, any article of clothing or (*GASP!*) tattoo that includes terms like “slut”, “bitch”, “skank”, or “ho”. Now, I’m not talking about genuine attempts to reclaim these phrases that certain movements have undertaken in response to “slut shaming” (a broader movement I’ll confess to not fully understanding, but will at least concede they are attempting to do something, even if it might be a bad idea or failing or whathaveyou). No, I’m talking about girls who emblazon themselves with shirts glittery letters that declare them to be a “Sexy Bitch” or whathaveyou. While I realize they are often not declaring themselves to be either a female dog or the more colloquial use of that term and that it would be in even greater err if stupid young men use such shirts to justify referring to women with this language… but it does seem a bit silly, no?

    • Might be too small a sample, and for all I know he was a genius, but:

      In the airport the other day, we saw a pot-bellied dude that looked kind of like Danny Bonaduce gone to (more) seed.

      Curly red hair (with bald spot), gold earring. He was wearing matching camouflage cargo shorts and camo Vans.

      He was also wearing a hunter-green T-shirt with yellow lettering (Subway restaurant colors).

      The lettering said “$5 Footlong” with a big arrow pointing downwards to his groin.

      I elbowed my wife and said ‘Bet that dude gets CRAZY laid.’

      • If you do the math on 150 attempts in a 3 day period, you see that a 2 percent success rate results in much higher returns than the whole “I’ll wait for someone who sees me as special in and of myself” tactic.

        There’s a quality/quantity discussion possible, of course, but if one’s own personal focus is on quantity… well, why *NOT* wear the “shut up and do me” shirt?

        • I suspect he only has to declare, at most, $5-10 of extra ‘income’ on his tax return this year.

    • Kazzy along those same lines anyone one wearing/tattooing/displaying (perhaps on their mobile home) saying I’m a “Redneck” I seriously doubt they are reclaiming the working man roots of the term. Also “Thug, Ni**A, Cop killa, Gangsta” etc. I’ve seen the Godfather they didn’t need t-shirts

      • Anne-

        Perhaps I’m being unfair, but I think “redneck”, “nigga”, “thug”, etc. generally do have a certain meaning within those subgroups that I’m not sure “bitch” or “ho” or “skank” do. Now, maybe I’m selling short the female movement or maybe these women are ahead of their times, but I’ve heard genuine and thoughtful conversation around the former terms, but not the latter (which should not be construed to say all voices are in agreement). Those are still probably dumb terms to emblazon on one’s skin, but when I see a black guy with “Thug Life” on his chest, I at least understand what he thinks he is communicating, even if I may read a different message. When I see a woman with “Skank” glittering on her tube top, I’m left scratching my head.

        That’s just me, though. I will fully concede to understanding black culture better than women.

        • What’s not to understand about women (said with an entirely straight face…really) I see your point with “thug life” probably being to flippant in my comments. Agee with you totally on “ho” and “Skank” and probably “bitch”. “Slut” however is a term being reclaimed? don’t really like that word but maybe more being redefined to not be a pejorative i.e. a sexually active woman is no different or less than a sexually active man.

          • we really need to be able to edit comments sorry for the typos

          • My question is… how many women take on “slut” as part of the reclamation process and how many think it’s “cute” or something?

            “Nigga” and to a lesser extent “thug” are words that have largely been reclaimed by the black population. Yes, there is still lots of dialogue both within and outside of that community about the appropriateness of its usage, but by and large, most folks have at least a tacit acceptance and understanding of its use in that way.

            “Slut” appears to be much earlier in that process. So using it so wantonly seems a bit off, perhaps even counter-productive. Especially when we still see it being wielded as good ol’ Rush did not so long ago.

            Of course, the reclaimation of “nigga” happened before my time (far earlier than most folks realize), so I can’t speak to the specifics of that process. Perhaps it followed a similar track to what we are seeing now with “slut”.

            I just see a difference between Ice Cube and his boys identifying themselves as Niggas with Attitude (NWA) and a girl wearing a shirt like this:

            Maybe I’m being unfair, but seeing the other shirts advertised on that page (one “celebrating” the Detroit Lions 0-16 season; one for me with the phrase “Slut Free” and a picture of brass knuckles (!!!!!!!)) makes me think it is less “serious social statement” and more “I’m being cute and taboo and naughty”.

            (Hopefully this post represents the greatest frequency with which I ever type out “nigga” and “slut”…)

          • * That should read “one for men”… that shirt is certainly not for me!

        • bitch is well on its way to getting reclaimed. probably because it symbolizes power in a way that ho and skank do not.

  2. I have to concur with Kazzy.

    If your sweatpants/jogging pants/yoga pants/whatever are large enough where the word **bootylicious** (with stars, fanfare, etc) can be stitched across the cheeks… your ass is anything BUT ‘bootylicious’.

    • How about the shorts that say “Juicy” across the ass? Does anyone want to advertise that they’ve got a case of ass juice?

      • sir mix a lot, among many others, would likely disagree with your assessments.

    • I’m reminded of the episode of “The Simpsons” where Homer takes a liking to a coworker and rights his rejection speech on his hand. As he is practicing it, he walks past a man with a comically big hand reciting his own speech: “It really bothers me when you make fun of my giant hand. I find it hurtful and offensive. It all started in the 2nd grade when…” (paraphrased).

  3. IIRC, the vampires in those movies drive fast, not necessarily badly. It is possible to drive a car with skill at a high rate of speed. Much less likely than people believe of themselves, but possible.

    I see a more-than-trivial number of people showing up in court bearing face and scalp tattoos. I’m sure that getting this body art was a deeply personal choice and one intended to reflect a deep and profound aspect of their inner selves. But while the message intended is probably, “I’m a bad-ass,” to me they really say, “I’m a dumb-ass.” I must labor to overcome that prejudice, and not always successfully.

    • Burt, It is possible to be a bad ass and a dumb ass at the same time.
      Anybody that goes to court without wearing their best clothes, hiding their tats, and dissing the judge is a dumb ass.

  4. “Why Have a Six Pack When You can Have a Whole Keg?” t-shirt that is clearly referencing the stomach of the wearer.

    A positive-take on the trend: I bought my daughter (who likes to kickbox) a shirt which reads, “Damn right I hit like a girl.”

  5. I finished The Pale King and was disappointed by it.

    Critics loved the book, and I can certainly see that it had a lot of potential. But it was still very, very far from being a finished novel. Parts are clever. Parts are funny. Parts are deeply moving. But that’s all it is — parts. It doesn’t cohere. At all. Not that one should expect it to, of course, but it really doesn’t.

    Picture reading the first third of Infinite Jest, but internally inconsistent, poorly edited, and just generally lacking in oomph. That’s what it’s like, even when you’re done.

  6. The “Jebus fish” eating the “Darwin fish”

    Just screams “I care not about your ‘science’ and ‘facts’. And am so proud of my ignorance that I wish to signal it to the world”.

  7. more seriously, i am wary of anyone with a flying spaghetti monster on their car. i’d rather they just have “i take the internet far too seriously” bumper sticker. which, btw, would be a pretty great bumper sticker.

  8. People sporting corporate logos of any sort. Particularly offensive are people who wear t-shirts of fashion designer logos such as DKNY or especially Abercrombie. There’s fashion and there’s t-shirt. The intersection between them is nil.

  9. “So that’s this week’s Question — when have you seen people proudly proclaiming something that seems totally self-defeating or pejorative to you?”

    Well, I live in the Pacific Northwest, so I see a lot of people wearing Seahawk t-shirts.

  10. Not question-related, but you should save yourself the angst and just skip Twilight. I read the first book, and it’s basically an apologia for either abstinence or child rape – I honestly can’t tell. Either way, it’s creepy and horrifying down to its very core.

    • Agreed massively; the books are nightmarish!

      Consider some of the themes:

      Bella (the protagonist) wishes for her vampire boyfriend to kill her and turn her into a vampire, preferably before she gets so biologically old that her clock will be later than his was when it was stopped (shudder).

      Bella is so obsessed with this concern she has a dream in which she see’s her grandmother across a flower strewn field. She waves, granny waves back. She comes closer, waving; granny waves back. Puzzled she closes even more and discovers it wasn’t her granny she saw but her being reflected in a mirror. This is on the eve of her sixteenth birthday. She then pitches an utter fit at her boyfriend for not yet murdering her and raising her from the dead. (Projectile vomiting ensues)

      Bella decides before she’s turned she wants to try out sex mortal style. Like idiots they do it au natural and somehow Bella gets knocked up. As her half vampire baby is chewing its way out from inside her Bella’s primary and only goal is the well being of her baby, her own life is unimportant compared to that. (I know that life issues and choice issues are complex but the ham handed indifference she had to her own welfare was shudder inducing)

      The Bella/Vampire Boyfriend/Werewolf Boyfriend love triangle is quite well known. What’s not so well known is how the author squares the circle: Bella gives birth to her little half vampire infant. On first sight werewolf boyfriend is enthralled by this newborn infant who is now destined to be his “mate”. For the remainder of the book he trails around this baby infatuated. (Husband and I concurred; death would have been a more dignified ending than involuntary conversion into a child predator)

      For reasons of nieces I was much more exposed to this series than I would care to remember. In parting I’ll leave you with the default Bella decision tree:

      Problem-There is an issue which much be addressed.
      Q1: Is Edward around?
      A=Yes: Solution- Have Edward deal with it.
      A=No: Proceed to Q2.

      Q2: Is Jacob around?
      A=Yes: Solution- Have Jacob deal with it.
      A=No: Solution- Faint until either Jacob or Edward show up to deal with it.

      • I intend to never get any closer to the books or movies than this, so thanks for this massively entertaining summary. Awesome.

  11. Late entry: in court yesterday I saw a woman wearing a T-shirt bearing the phrase “naäked bitch” at about breast height. I was not favorably impressed, but then again maybe “naäked bitch” is an indie band I’ve never heard of.

  12. A late entry from the author! While strolling around Times Square this past weekend (more on that tomorrow), I passed a young gentleman wearing a t-shirt admonishing readers to “Rock Her with the Shocker,” and featuring an illustration of a hand held in a particular position. Because I am as gay as a tree full of hummingbirds, I am unfamiliar with said “shocker,” and I simply cannot bring myself to Google it. However, I gather that this is a means of offering a certain kind of excitement to woman friends of special intimacy?

    Is it unfair to wonder if the potential for intimacy of such a special nature is foreclosed should woman friends see one wearing such a shirt, which in my mind would cause them to flee rapidly in the other direction? Is the t-shirt just a helpful suggestion for other fellows less crass than the wearer, offered in the spirit of generosity? Inquiring homosexuals want to know! (Well… not really.)

    • It’s crude enough to want to Rot13 it.

      Gjb va gur cvax, bar va gur fgvax.

      If you need, erm, further clarification, please let me know and I’ll die of mortification for you.

      • Oh, dear. No, that clarifies things sufficiently, thanks. I had surmised something along those lines.

        If I were the “her” in question, I think I’d appreciate being asked before my special friend chose to “rock” me thusly. Being told “but a t-shirt told me to!” seems all but guaranteed to result in someone getting quite appropriately slapped silly.

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