2 Bad Signs

The truth in advertising is open to grammatical interpretation.

By Lester & Charlie

You've probably heard about the time Gerber’s baby food launched its products in some African country but didn’t take the face of the baby off the labels. And this unnamed place in Africa is largely illiterate, so pictures on labels are what telegraph contents to consumers. No wonder it didn’t sell.

And there's the time that Chevrolet launched their Nova model in some South American country and forgot that “no va” could be interpreted in Spanish as “not going.” How dumb is that?

Well, neither story is true. We can picture the origins, though: some guy named Bud comes home to Peoria in 1961 after a trip to Venezuela. He sees the newly introduced Chevy Nova on a car lot. “Check that out, Earl,” he tells his old friend from Our Lady of the Sycophants Elementary School. “Down where I was, the name of that car would tell people that it’s not going anywhere. Get it? NO VA. They better change that name if they ever want to make a dime in Venezuela!”

Earl laughs and thinks to himself how smart Bud is. Years later, Earl tells people Chevrolet already made this mistake, and that makes Earl sound as smart as Bud, and it made both of them sound smarter than Chevrolet. No one ever asked Earl about his sources because everybody wanted to believe that they’re smarter than a Chevy. And there you go.

According to our psychiatrist, psychologist, 311 and even the bartender that still talks to us, people relish these stories and want to believe they’re true because we like to think we're smarter than big, powerful corporations and tall people. We know better, of course. So those overpaid execs should, too. And if they don’t, God should put us in charge, right? Watch out, Goliath! David just got into town! 

But feeling like we're superior doesn’t always feel good. There are fellow “little people” out there we really do want to trust. Like educators and soldiers. We’re not talking about senile deans or drunken generals; we’re talking about real people we count on to keep us from being deported by Trump or having to live in one of his buildings. They’re the ones we count on to teach the next generation of Davids how to be smart enough to put the brakes on exporting Novas.

So it's not funny – it's foundation shaking – when the smaller authority figures we want to trust reveal that they are morons; no better than the big guys we love to hate. In the last year, two things in particular highlighted this.

First, this college course book cover, which the University of North Georgia said “was an isolated case of bad judgment.” Actually, it’s not so much bad judgment as it is that game that challenges kids to “find ten things wrong with this picture.” (Kudos, by the way, to the black guy who is almost keeping up in spite of being a double amputee.)

Second, just this month, there’s this Robins Air Force Base “Trap and Skeet Club” flyer, which, they told Reuters, was “an honest mistake.”

Well, yeah, okay. These pictures seem as funny as bigwigs trying to sell crushed babies to illiterate parents in Africa. Until we realize they’re not a laughing matter. They’re true. People we really do want to trust made them. That’s not funny, that’s a wake up call. Like Cassius said, sometimes the problems we face aren’t from the people in Star Magazine.

Published January 28th, 2016

Lester & Charlie earned oodles of fans through their videos, polls, and insightful commentary on Internet hubs like “Crooks & Liars” and “The Huffington Post.” Their essays on politics and alcoholism can be found at lesterandcharlie.com. Today, Lester & Charlie have a worldwide audience spanning five continents and whatever Iceland is. 
They have produced two books: “Please Stand By: Lester & Charlie’s 50 Favorite Television Test Patterns” and “ Losers: Lester & Charlie's Favorite Collection of Losing Lottery Tickets.” Each is surprisingly still available on amazon.com. They are currently working on their third book: “Lester & Charlie’s 100 Incredible Coffee Stains.”