When I was five years old, I remember being asked by my grandmother to show her how well I could read, while she sat on the verandah and had a smoke. I had my copy of The Lion, The Witch, and the Wardrobe on hand, and, dutifully, showed off by reading a passage near the start that outlined how the story started. It starts, if you’re unfamiliar, with the Pevensie children being sent to visit their uncle Digory out in the country, to get away from the city that’s being bombed by the Nazis. There’s only the briefest mention of that, a tiny little sliver of a mention of the air sirens and bomb shelters before we move on to the Christ Allegories, but it was enough that my grandmother asked me if I knew what it was talking about.
My grandmother told me about hiding in air shelters. She talked about her sister and her, in London, listening for the siren to stop, hoping their relatives were alright. She talkd about how it happened sometimes day after day. She talked about the Blitz, as an experience she lived. And she shrugged at the end, and murmured, ‘Oh well. Keep calm and carry on.’
I think of this every time I see this poster. Then I get really, quite angry. Every time I see these words turned to fandom-specific bullshit, or to make a short joke, I want to grab the person responsible and shake them by the shoulders. “Keep Calm and Love Dr Who?” Oh yes, oh yes, because your love of Dr Who is under the same kind of attack as kids huddling in air raid shelters.
I know I’m not allowed much cultural pride, especially since, you know, my grandmother only ever resulted in me because of colonialism and empire. This is a poster that underscored a harrowing period of human history, that was strength and succor to people I knew and loved, and that speaks of a time when in the face of a great evil, tiny people did the smallest thing, and went about their days.
I choose the strangest things to be bothered by.
Really, it’s like I don’t choose them at all.