Car Art, Messages & Bumper Stickers - Funny Or Obscene?

This driver went overboard with the bumper stickers for a car.

This driver went overboard with the bumper stickers for a car.

I know it has happened to just about everyone at one time or another. You're stopped at a stop light and you happen to glance at the vehicle in front of you. Something catches your eye that is plastered to the window, the bumper or is hanging from the rear of the vehicle.

You quickly think to yourself, "I hope my 8-year-old daughter sitting next to me in the car didn't see what I'm looking at. If she did see it, then I probably have some explaining to do."

The vehicle in front of you has an obscene bumper sticker, a vinyl cartoon characterture stuck to the rear window that is depicting someone urinating on an object or there is an extremely large pair of plastic bull testicles hanging from the rear bumper.

Your feelings are paradoxical in that you first think what you observed is offensive and obscene to you. However, then your mind wanders to the First Amendment to the United States Constitution. You reflect on what the constitution says about freedom of speech and that what you just observed is offensive to you, may not be to others.

There is the "thin line" that defines what is offensive and what isn't. The phrase "patently offensive" first appeared in Roth v. United States (1957), referring to any obscene acts or materials that are considered to be openly, plainly, or clearly visible as offensive to the viewing public.

However, in Miller v. California (1973), a five-person majority agreed for the first time since "Roth" as to a test for determining constitutionally unprotected obscenity, superseding the "Roth Test."

Miller v. California was an important United States Supreme Court case involving what constitutes unprotected obscenity for First Amendment purposes. The decision reiterated that obscenity was not protected by the First Amendment and established the Miller test for determining what constituted obscene material.

The advertising or subjects being proudly displayed by individuals on their vehicles may not necessarily highlight a business. They might make you laugh, make you mad or make you think. The person who is driving the vehicle in front of you is utilizing a venue available to them to display their thoughts and opinions.

Signs and objects displayed on vehicles have been around a long time. But you might want to take into consideration that maybe the underlying justification for the bumper sticker on the bumper itself or on another portion of the vehicle isn't actually for making a political or sectarian statement, but is holding the vehicle together or is covering up a dent or some rust.

It is widely believed that bumper stickers came about prior to World War II and in 1934, the "king of the bumper sticker" Forest P. Gill, a silk screen printer from Kansas City, founded the "Gill-line" in his basement.

The first bumper stickers were attached to the bumpers of vehicles with wires; however, Gill later realized utilizing a pressure sensitive stock was a good way to replace the wire attachments.

The use of bumper stickers became very popular in political campaigns after World War II. The practice of placing bumper stickers on vehicles was deemed an outstanding way to get the message out. Many advertisers grabbed onto the concept for commercial purposes and bumper stickers appealed as a medium for all kinds of slogans, often just to get a laugh from someone who saw it.

Bumper stickers' slogans and messages can be an expression of pride in our country and military. But to others, the same bumper sticker can take on an entirely different meaning.

A prime example would be a United States Marine Corps bumper sticker:

To some, the above bumper sticker displays the pride someone has in a particular branch of the military, their parents, brothers or sisters may be serving our country in. Maybe a loved one of theirs sacrificed their life for our freedom. But to others, especially anti-war groups and certain individuals, it is an advertising bumper sticker for baby killers.

I especially like the vinyl charactertures that show the family unit of the driver of a particular vehicle. Some drivers even show if a pet is part of their family. They didn't want to leave Fido out. And when I see some of the vehicles with the vinyl stickers with a horde of little silhouettes depicting each of the family, I think someone didn't practice birth control or has adopted a lot of children.

There are numerous bumper stickers that depict the president of the United States in an unnecessarily bad way and insinuate he is the cause of many of our problems. Some of the bumper stickers even allude to him not being an American.

I take offense to politically negative bumper stickers relating to President Barack Obama. I am a republican and proudly served almost 21 years of faithful service to our country and the United States Marine Corps. I personally didn't vote for Barack Obama, but I realize he was elected to the highest office in the America and is the commander-in-chief of our military forces. Because of those facts, I am reserving judgment on President Obama, and I am going to sit back and observe what he is attempting to do for our nation and us in general. That doesn't mean I'm going to agree with everything he chooses to do. It just means I will not have either a pro or anti Obama bumper sticker on my vehicle.

Some individuals love to display bumper stickers depicting efforts by the Sierra Club. They believe the club is America's oldest, largest, and most influential grassroots environmental organization. They also boast to having more than 1.3 million friends and neighbors, working together to protect our communities and the planet.

But, to off-road enthusiast, ranchers and prospectors, many of them despise seeing Sierra Club bumper stickers and believe they are a radical-environmental group dead set on diminishing the inalienable rights of U.S. citizens.

Many believe the efforts by the Sierra Club are particularly damaging and curtail their efforts to have fun in the outdoors and also to make a living. They believe the Sierra Club is the main driving force behind certain legislature that curtails activities on Bureau of Land Management and other public lands.

I know that there have been efforts by the Sierra Club and other ecology-environmental related organizations that want to close off major blocks of acreage of public lands to motorized vehicles in order to protect a bug or a flower.

I myself would rather drive on my quad to the location where the bugs or flowers are so I could take a picture of them. That way, my camera wouldn't shake from me being out of breath from having to walk miles just to take a flick of the bug or flower.

Then there are anti-Sierra Club and other purpose-driven groups' bumper stickers. Here are a couple of examples of anti-environmental bumper stickers:

People even enjoy placing bumper stickers on their vehicles that have sexual innuendos such as "Save A Horse, Ride A Cowboy," "Firemen Have Bigger Hoses" and the most disturbing to me was the one recently spotted in Kingman on a Jeep with big tires driven by a guy that said, "If I Wanted A Hummer, I'd Ask Your Sister."

There are a myriad, if not millions, of different types of bumper stickers and other signs for vehicles out there for sale. And their subject material is wide and varied. Some are cute and others can be deemed downright disgusting.

If I was a bumper sticker kind of guy, I might choose some cute one to adorn the rear of my vehicle, but I'm not. So, if you happen to see my truck or car in town, you'll notice there are no bumper stickers, vinyl lettering or designs plastered on it.

All I suggest is to exercise a little common sense when you think about affixing a sign, characterture, bumper sticker or a plastic replica of a body part on your vehicle. Think twice to consider what you are about to do might be deemed offensive or obscene to others.

Remember the kind of message you might be sending to children and adults whom see your bumper sticker or diagram on your vehicle.

And on an ending note, I would love to hear from the readers and bloggers to find out what is the best and worst bumper stickers they have seen plastered on vehicles in our area. Respond to either this blog or email me at and tell me what you observed. If I get enough response, maybe I'll do a follow-up blog about what was discovered proudly displayed on vehicles in Mohave County.