8 Bumper Stickers It’s Time to Retire

Bumper stickers! They're funny, defiant, and occasionally offensive, and will always be with us so long as people drive cars. The bumper sticker was created shortly after World War II by a Kansas City printer named Forest P. Gill. Gill's invention, a self-sticking sticker with images realized with fluorescent ink, became a way to market public safety campaigns and support political candidates. In the '60s, thanks in part to this country's counterculture and political and social activist movements, bumper sticker messages became much more provocative, a trend that continues to this day. However, most bumper stickers are just silly. Seven of the eight bumper stickers below fall into that category, with sticker number eight, recently and thankfully discontinued by its printer, being the one exception. (Photo by Richard Masoner licensed through Creative Commons.)

  1. When this van's a-rockin' don't come a-knockin'!

    Since the '70s, the customized van has enjoyed the mystique of being a sanctuary for touring rock bands, stoned teenagers, and randy couples who prefer the smell of exhaust to that of clean sheets. In addition to decorating the outside of your van with a customized paint job, perhaps depicting an ocean filled with mermaids pursued by surfing hobbits playing Stratocasters, you'll want to slap this bumper sticker on the back fender so the whole world will know that you're not getting any. And you live with your mom.

  2. Have a nice day

    It's simple, it's retro, and it's inane as hell. Rock this sticker on the back of your wimpy ride, and the potential for you to become a victim of what any judge will deem as justifiable road rage increases about a thousand percent. "Defendant, why did you attack the plaintiff's Volkswagen Beetle with a crowbar?" "It was that bumper sticker, your honor! 'Have a nice day'? I WAS having a so-so day until I saw that damn smiley face while gridlocked in rush hour traffic!"

  3. Take a chill pill!

    A quintessentially '80s catch phrase that today is all the more menacing thanks in part to the now infamous blue pill verses red pill scene in the film The Matrix. The fact that two decades after the first Valley girl uttered this phrase, nearly every other television commercial is advertisement for some kind of mood-altering drug gives us pause.

  4. I brake for Pac-Man

    These days, everything old is new again, and so-called vintage video games are no exception. There's even an exhibit of playable video games, including Pac-Man and Space Invaders, currently touring museums across the country. The show's curator explains that video games "stand apart from so many traditional forms of art because they are an amalgam of all." But in our digital age, where games have become insanely complex narratives that immerse players into a virtual nightmare, does the image of a slow-moving, dot-gobbling yellow blob have the power to do anything except cause a driver to fall asleep at the wheel?

  5. Disco sucks

    Back in the day, disco sucked. Now, disco is respected for its multicultural appeal, its innovations in recording and production, and great singers featured on tracks like "Good Times," "I Feel Love," and "Stayin' Alive." If in 2012, you're still griping about disco, most people are going to assume you just don't know how to dance, have no sense of humor, or just haven't looked at your car's rear bumper since 1977 ("Oh, man. I thought that sticker would just fall off after a few trips to the car wash…").

  6. D.I.L.L.I.G.A.F.

    Here's an acronym that definitely works better as a tweet than a bumper sticker. Any driver right behind you who tries to sort out what word goes with which letter will most likely plow into the back of your car, sending your forehead into the steering wheel and that hot coffee you were drinking onto your lap. Then again, if you truly don't g.a.f., and the driver behind you is rocking one of those "Have a nice day" bumper stickers, this whole scenario may be what sociologists refer to as a "self-fulfilling prophecy." Hey, now that's a saying that belongs on a bumper sticker!

  7. UFOs are real

    This bumper sticker of course begs the question, if UFOs are real, then why are you driving a car? Back in the '70s, Watergate and the Vietnam War fueled the public's interest in conspiracy theories, especially those regarding the government and military. Around this time, the aphorism "UFOs are real," which sounds really silly if you say it out loud, began appearing on the rear bumpers of automobiles. Popular culture, as it had in the '50s, embraced the idea of aliens visiting Earth from outer space, inspiring films including Close Encounters of the Third Kind, and its catch ominous phrase "We are not alone." (Note to the Disco sucks crowd, there was even a disco version of the film's theme!)

  8. Don't Re-Nig, 2012!

    This offensive bumper sticker is apparently the product of a company in Hinesville, Ga., called Stickatude.com. The sticker's knee-slapping pun, "Don't Re-Nig, 2012!" refers to President Obama, the joke being that "re-nig" sounds like "renege" and "nig" is shorthand for the N-word. Forbes magazine dutifully tracked down the owner of Stickatude.com who said, without a trace of irony, "I do find it amazing and entertaining that one of our stickers has become a racist thing." Unlike the bumper stickers above, this one was retired almost as quickly as it appeared.

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