Fauxtivational Poster

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"I think that communication skills have really improved around here since we all went on that course, and put up that blue poster that says 'Communicate!'"

"I totally agree; and I think that what that course showed me is that sometimes it does help to pay someone really quite a lot of money to state the obvious."
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If you've ever been in an American school or office environment, you've seen them: Posters encouraging the viewers to Reach For The Stars and to Never Give Up. Invariably, these lessons are accompanied by a cute picture or a vaguely inspirational stock photo. Are you feeling motivated yet?

One would have to be the most cynical misanthrope in the world to disagree with concepts like "Leadership" or "Teamwork", but one would also have to be the most optimistic Pollyanna in the world to deny that the presentation varies between painfully corny and unintentionally hilarious.

Thus, the Fauxtivational Poster was born in response. It takes diverse forms, all united in their use of the poster medium to play with the Motivational Poster. Some posters present a straightforward lesson, but exaggerate the Glurge to nonsensical levels. Others preach a patently ridiculous (or just particularly cynical) lesson. Still others use the Motivational Poster format to make a humorous statement about a completely different subject.

Successories is probably the most popular brand of Motivational Posters (inspiring many imitators); consequently most parodies follow the same layout that Successories popularized: A stock photo on a black background, with a one-word title in large text below, with a pithy saying or quote beneath that.

An Undead Horse Trope: Straight motivational posters are still in use in schools, offices, and some gyms (and prisons), but the parodies and subversions far outweigh straight uses everywhere else. Therefore, it's a classic example of the Weird Al Effect. Even when media does use straight Motivational Posters, it's almost always as an ironic counterpoint to some soul-crushing environment where the poster is hanging.

Parodies are often called "Demotivators" or "Demotivational Posters", regardless of their content; the name is taken from a series of posters by Despair Inc with genuinely demotivational themes. You have been warned.

Not surprisingly, there are various websites that let you make these poster patterns very easily. Which is why there are a ton of them floating around the internet.

Compare "Faux To" Guide. A specific type of Detournement.

Examples of Fauxtivational Poster include:


Comic Books

  • In PS238, the walls of the titular school are adorned with such posters as "Super Strength: If you don't have the power to move mountains, make friends with someone who can."


Films -- Animated

  • In Megamind, upon taking over the city the titular supervillain has posters made of him in the style of the famous "Hope" poster of Barack Obama, except with the caption changed to read "No, You Can't" instead (referring to Obama's famous "Yes, We Can" message).
  • On Monsters vs. Aliens, the "Hang in there" poster is hung on Susan's cell in a pathethic attempt to make her imprisonment more tolerable. It doesn't work. "I want a real kitten, hanging from a real tree!"
  • In Igor, Dr. Glickenstein's girlfriend gets him an inspirational poster of a kitten hanging from a tree, but since the movie is set in a Bad Is Good and Good Is Bad world, the kitten is hanging from a noose. "To remind you to always take time in your day for a little torture."


Literature

  • In Who Moved My Cheese?, Haw has a habit of drawing (straight) motivational graffiti on the walls, both to motivate Hem and to act as a landmark when searching the maze for New Cheese.

Live-Action TV

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Tara: I have this sudden urge to dedicate my productive cooperation...

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  • Barney from How I Met Your Mother has a wall full of actual motivational posters, including a tailor-made one for Awesomeness, but one seems decidedly fauxtivational which he showcased for Marshall (who questioned its motivational ability). It was an image of a group of Penguins, with the the text being the uplifting "Conformity: It's the one that's different that gets left out in the cold".
  • The IT Crowd: The basement has several memetastic posters hanging up.
  • The Sarah Connor Chronicles has two: In Gnothi Seauton five bad ass resistance fighters have a cute kitten "hang in there baby" in their hideout, which conceals a safe. In Dungeons And Dragons the future resistance have a badass mural of the same theme, except it's a lion jumping out of fire, a Terminator skull in its jaws.

Videogames

  • Counter-Strike Source has a level set in an office building, with these posters on the walls. The topics are all related to Counterstrike itself, in-jokes for the established community that had played the previous version obsessively for several years. For instance, a picture of a tent, and the slogan "Camping".
  • Dead Space features motivational posters in certain areas; it would presumably be played straight, except the bright, happy posters with slogans like "Better Living through Science" etc are often seen next to scenes of Body Horror.
  • From the F.E.A.R. factory level: "Remember it's Quantity, Quality, Safety, in that order."
  • In office level of BloodRayne 2 there are several posters including
    • a sinking boat - caption "this is your life"
    • a marble with the caption "You are this sharp"
    • stick men - caption "Just remember you are an individual, just like everybody else"
  • In Sam & Max: Beyond Time and Space, Hell's office is full of motivators of the Seven Deadly Sins.


Web Animation


Webcomics

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Riff: "Hey, 'Relationships'! That one works!"

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  • An early Bizarre Uprising comic had a poster saying "Reading is KITTY!" in a classroom background.
  • Mike of Shortpacked has one in his bedroom of a koala hanging from a branch with the caption "You're fucked."
  • In the Zodiac spinoff Quetzalcoatlus, a "demotivational poster" can be seen in Leo's office contaning a picture of a nuclear explosion and the caption "Patience: Don't expect any. Ever."


Web Originals


Western Animation

  • The Simpsons featured the "Hang in there!" cat poster. Marge notices that, since the copyright on the poster dates back to the 1968, the cat must be long dead, which she thinks makes the poster actually "kind of a downer".
    • It also had, in "And Maggie Makes Three", Homer's demotivational plaque: "Don't forget, you're here forever." Homer used pictures of Maggie to turn it into "Do it for her," in a Crowning Moment of Heartwarming.
  • The "Hang in there!" poster also appears in Dr. Katz.
  • Futurama--
    • In the episode "Cryonic Woman", Leela reapplies for her old job at the cryonics center:
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"Oh, I was hoping you would come back. I even saved your poster of a chimp expressing your distaste for Mondays!"
"Monday monkey lives for the weekend, sir!"

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    • There was another one from the first episode which refers to the policy of people being assigned careers instead of choosing their own, which features a man in a hard-hat with a rather dubious look on his face giving a thumbs-up, with the caption "You Gotta Do What You Gotta Do".
    • Paying attention to the background nets a few more of these as well. In one episode, a poster outside an army recruitment office reads:
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"Join The Army Today!!
What are you, Chicken?
Bwak Buk Buk Bawk!"

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  • Peter Potamus has several posters with a hippopotamus "reaching for that thing" in Harvey Birdman, Attorney at Law.
  • Played straight but subtle in Transformers Animated. When we see Prowl's room as he meditates, there's a poster of a cute little puppy on a branch reading "Chin up!" Made hilarious as one wonders where Prowl found the poster (that size) in the first place, and what prompted the Deadpan Snarker to hang it in his zen spot.
    • This is made interesting by the fact that it appears every time that room is shown. Possibly one of the writers has it in their office.
  • Family Guy. When Peter took over his father-in-law's company, Brian had a poster of a ball in his office that said "Go Get It. Go Get It, Boy".
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"I will. I will go get it."

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Real Life

  • Successories
  • AllPosters.com's top-selling motivators. - One of the few places where real motivational posters are located.
  • Despair, Inc.
  • The famous British "Keep Calm and Carry On" poster from World War II, which either thanks to irony or nostalgia has experienced a revival.
  • The American Library Association (ALA)'s famous "READ" posters.
  • A painful example of wildly inappropriate (and probably sadistically ironic) Straight Lesson in the wrong environment would be the infamous "Arbeit macht frei" (Work makes [you] free) at the entrance of Auschwitz and Dachau concentration camps.
  • Another painful example is the use of so-called inspirational posters in a classroom whose teacher is so utterly repressive as to recite the occasional Dystopian Edict to the students.