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Get over it: Why Google’s Father’s Day doodle wasn’t offensive

google-doodle-happy-fathers-day-2011
Image used with permission by copyright holder

To celebrate Father’s Day, Google replaced the ‘L’ in its standard corporate logo with a tie and added a short, shameless plug for Gmail underneath the search bar that read: “Dad. Father. Pops. No matter what you call him, call your dad from Gmail.” The link in the sentence goes to a page that encourages you to give Gmail calling a try and for the day there was a tiny link in the Google Voice module that said “Reminder: Call dad.” The notice ran for 12 hours.

I didn’t use Gmail to do it, but I did call my dad yesterday, thanks in part to Google’s little reminder. Others weren’t as pleased with the message. Like everything, some people found the Google Father’s Day “call dad” message to be offensive, usually because they don’t have a father to call, for various reasons. Seventy-three people complained on the Google Voice Chat help forum, and a Google employee apologized to anyone who was offended, but it was enough to get the tech media in an uproar. Led by TechCrunch, which excels at stirring the pot, PC World, Forbes, and the  International Business Times have all jumped on the bandwagon, labeling Google’s nice gesture or shameless plug as an epic “social fail” and ridiculing the company for being too invasive.

google-call-your-dad-from-gmail
Image used with permission by copyright holder

TechCrunch’s Alexia Tsotsis writes: “Google, Google, Google … I don’t know if it’s that you just don’t understand the intricacies of interpersonal relationships or if getting the social stuff right is just extremely difficult … Whatever the cause, it looks like you’ve made another faux pas with your innocent Father’s Day reminder to give Dad a call via Gmail for Father’s Day, which offended the sizable number of people who for one reason or another weren’t able to call their fathers yesterday.”

While I feel bad for anyone who didn’t have a father that they want to call, or can call, Google hasn’t done anything wrong here. It was a harmless message up for 12 hours with good intent. If it offended you, you could simply not check your email for a few hours on a Sunday, disable, or minimize the chat widget. I think we all just need to lighten up and get over it.

Yesterday was Father’s Day, a national holiday that happens every year, just like Mother’s Day, Valentine’s Day, Easter, and all sorts of holidays. It’s almost impossible to roam around the streets without seeing ads for companies and products that try to capitalize on the holiday. Stores have Father’s Day sales, lame TV stations have Father’s Day marathons, and websites tend to write about what’s buzzing, and that’s Father’s Day. I just wrote up a list of Father’s Day movies yesterday and Digital Trends held a phone giveaway in honor of Dad. Is this wrong?

Unfortunately, everything offends somebody. Valentine’s Day sucks for those who aren’t in love, Mother’s Day is a sad day for those who don’t have a mother, Memorial Day is a raw day for those who have lost a family member, and Easter bothers animal rights groups. Christmas gets people even touchier. If Google were to take the high road and please everybody by saying something like “Happy Holidays,” this will annoy those who think you should just say “Merry Christmas.” Hell, a harmless joke in Portal 2, (which was made by a malevolent computer that tries to push your buttons and enslave you for science) even offended a man with an adopted daughter because it mentioned adoption and he hadn’t talked about it with her yet.

If you stop to say anything at all, you’re bound to risk offending somebody. I enjoy Google’s doodles and I’d rather they have them than not. Every one of them probably offends or bothers some remote sect of the Web. But when you run the most popular website on the Internet, that’s just how things go.

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Jeffrey Van Camp
Former Digital Trends Contributor
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