Background Switcher (Hidden)

J.C. Penney FAIL

Tuesday, October 25, 2011

I grew up wearing J.C. Penney's clothes. It was always the place to go if you needed a white blouse or blue slacks for a school event. Now, as a parent, I go there to get decent-looking jeans for Phoebe, who, at 15, wears pants I can only get one leg into.

Not long ago I was made aware of this little gem being marketed by J.C. Penney. Oh, cool. Well, sure, if you're pretty it would be untoward to also be smart, right? 

Quick. Somebody tell Phoebe she's got to dumb it down to go with her looks. Oh, wait. This shirt will do it for you. I understand J.C. Penney yanked the shirt when enough people squawked. Well, good. We wouldn't have bought it anyway.

So imagine my delight when I found this similarly erudite shirt being touted as a back-to-school garment by, uh, J.C. Penney.

Yep, that's the message I want my kid to wear on his chest for the first day of school. Go Penney's.

Actually, I probably have little room to complain. Liam is running around today in a vintage Tom and Jerry shirt. One of the teachers stopped him at lunch, studied the picture (which has Jerry shocking the bejabbers out of Tom with some kind of cartoon zappy machine), frowned and shook her head at Liam.

He was unfazed. It's his favorite shirt, and I'm afraid she cemented his fondness for it with that disapproval.  

 I think, for reasons that make perfect sense only to me, that wearing a shirt showing a mouse shocking a cat is fine. I don't think walking around with FAIL on your chest is fine. Because my kids won't fail, and if Liam ever falters, Phoebe swoops in as his in-house math tutor. So much for having your brother do your homework for you because you're too pretty.

Never mind the supercool skull overlain on Liam's polo. Like I said, morbidity and electrocution: suitable shirtfodder. Failing, or acting dumb on purpose, unsuitable.

These are my standards, and I'm sticking to them.


FAIL is not a word we use in our home or promote. Looks like JC Penny's marketing team 'failed' big time on that promo. I'm not a lover of Sears either but they too have nice white shirts and navy blue slacks when you need to dress your children for a school concert !

Much as I agree with you on this, we shouldn't be too surprised given that anti-education, anti-knowledge segments within U.S. society.
I mean, after all--established science is doubted, scoffed at and ridiculed.
I really resent the presumption that pretty girls--or even any girl--would want to be seen as brainy. I will ALWAYS choose brainy over pretty. They are not, of course, mutually exclusive. But if I can only encourage my daughter to be ONE--I will choose brainy.

Oops--make that "that any girl would NOT want to be seen as brainy."

Morning fingers...

Ha! I was counting the minutes until you logged back in to correct that, Donna! Because we know that, like the Science and Grammar Chimp, you like to be seen as brainy as well as beautiful. ;)

Ah, reminds me of one of my favorite old Simpsons cartoon when they unveiled a talking Malibu Stacey doll. Lisa was so excited to get one until she pulled the string and all these awful sayings came out like: "don't ask me, I'm just a girl", or "my name is Stacey, but you can call me (insert sound of the wolf whistle)". Classic!

......Phoebe's looks sure have changed over the past year. She has grown into quite the young young lady.

With that said, FAIL does not look like it is her vocabulary, nor in your son's repertoire of words of NOT something to want to be.

Good on you for pointing out amongst the skull and crossbones of fabric surfacing now hitting the mainstream stores of American culture, that the word FAIL maybe a subliminal message to the "rest of the class" of what they, the dumb bunnies wished the bright kids will do.

Have you noticed the dark side creeping in to the education too?

Just wondering.

The little creature on the Fail shirt is Omnom, from the Cut the Rope game on iphones. The idea is to cut the rope to feed him candy. It is just a shirt that other players will recognize and adults won't get unless they savvy.
I think this would be like wearing a shirt with one of the Angry Birds on it, saying Angry. You either recognize the game and get it or don't understand why the bird is angry.

Posted by Anonymous October 25, 2011 at 3:00 PM

When my Katie was just budding in mid-middle school, she came home from Penney's with a tight T-shirt that had "DANGER HOT SURFACE!" emblazoned in big red letters across the chest area.

It never made it out of the house and still sits, at the bottom of my underwear drawer, waiting for that time in the future when she has a daughter.
She can have it back then ... we'll see if it's still cool or not.

Fair enough, but I don't think that "Fail" shirt is promoting failure any more than the T&J shirt is promoting electrocution for fun. In either case we are supposed to be laughing at an unfortunate cartoon character: one has just "failed" to catch the candy it is supposed to in the game, the other is being hilariously tortured.

"Fail" and "win" are pretty well entrenched in the vocabulary now, and actually underscores a surprisingly droll by-product of the way the internet reclaimed the power of the still frame.

Or something. Clearly the shirt at top is gross.

Also, mentioning asparagus on the radio today was cruel. It's October!

The Penney "Fail" that got big sister was when she was looking for cute t-shirts for little sister (then age 2) and found ones to fit her that had labels like "HOTTIE" on them. She was disgusted and was still on a rant when she got home.

Needless to say, her daughter, now 18 months old, does not wear them either, it still makes her mad.

You should see some of the treasures that come to school on our 9th graders some days. They get the privilege of continuing to wear them, but turned in side out. Usually takes care of the problem.

OK, color me ignorant about Omnom and the Cut the Rope game. Ignorant about Angry Birds, too, though it floats through my consciousness via my kids. Game or not, I think wearing the word FAIL on your chest infiltrates your consciousness (see below). Definitely not ignorant about the "I'm too pretty to do my homework so I'll have my brother do it for me" or a shirt for a two-year-old that says "Hottie." Ack. Please.

Words are powerful, whether or not they're related to a game everyone is supposed to recognize. As an example, I'm not usually a fan of shirts with writing on them, but I can't resist the "Life is Good" line. I wear them all the time. So much so that my friends Liz and Jeff sent me a "Life is Crap" shirt with a little guy stepping on a rake. I appreciate the clever ripoff and the joke but I have never been able to make myself wear that shirt, even to putz around the house.

If I'm having a really bad day I'll wear a Life is Good shirt inside out. Maybe I take the power of language too seriously. But maybe not. I think it's up to consumers to keep the pressure up on retailers like Penney and Abercrombie and Fitch, which has used overtly sex-based advertising and put some real stinkers out there for preteens and teens to wear. To be unaccepting and intolerant of egregious crap, and to call it when we see it.

As a retired science and computer teacher, I wish we had a different vision of failure. It is not a destination but sometimes a dead end. We just have to back up and try another way. Failures teach us what not to do.

And kids that spend a lot of time outdoors and learn to manage their environment get this a lot better than inner city children who just see themselves as victims.

But we certainly do need to teach all our kids that failure is NEVER where we stop and that shirt certainly didn't have that message.

"Unaccepting and intolerant of egregious crap." Now there's a line for a T shirt!

Posted by Anonymous October 26, 2011 at 7:29 AM

Makes me think of the "Stupid" and "I"m with Stupid" t-shirts.
Always had to hold my tongue when I saw couples wearing that.

I could have worn that shirt every time I failed my driver's test. Sort of reverse psychology. I kept taking that test until FINALLY I passed.

maybe your wonderful children would like this one with its subversive message:


I see shirts with the "fail" message around my Harvard Square neighborhood. But they spell it "F-A-L-E." Ah, Harvard-Yale game coming up soon, that explains that.


Posted by Anonymous October 27, 2011 at 8:49 AM

Fight fiercely, Harvard! Impress them with our prowess, do!

Julie, you know I agree with you 100% regarding the power of language and words.

Here's an example of how powerful words have been in our school during the first 8 weeks: Our wonderful new principal began the school year by reading a book to students about being a "bucket filler" rather than a "bucket dipper." It's all about filling up someone's bucket by making them feel good. I regularly hear kids using those words and I have noticed a real, measurable, distinct difference this year in the way the K-3 kids relate to each other. Much more kindness, compliments, and "bucket-filling" going on.

The words have definitely influenced the actions.

[Back to Top]