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Apparently This Matters: Teatime for Hitler

Some people see Hitler when they look at this teapot from JCPenney. The company says that any resemblance was unintentional.
Some people see Hitler when they look at this teapot from JCPenney. The company says that any resemblance was unintentional.
STORY HIGHLIGHTS
  • The Hitler-like teapot on a JCPenney billboard caught the attention of motorists
  • JCPenney says any similarities to Hitler were unintentional
  • Culver City mayor was offended by the ad placement in his city

Editor's note: Each week in "Apparently This Matters," CNN's Jarrett Bellini applies his warped sensibilities to trending topics in social media and random items of interest on the Web.

(CNN) -- Sing it with me, kids!

I'm a little Nazi short and stout, here is mein handle, here is mein spout.

So, JCPenney is selling a new teapot that looks sort of like Adolf Hitler. Well, inasmuch as a teapot can actually appear like a fascist dictator. But it does. And, really, it might be the greatest advertising gaffe you'll ever see.

At least until Gilbert Gottfried somehow becomes a spokesman for Tampax.

"Damn it, Jim, what were we thinking?"

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"Apparently This Matters" Is Jarrett Bellini's weekly (and somewhat random) look at social-media trends.

Back to the teapot: It didn't take long for motorists on Southern California's 405 freeway -- where evening plans go to die -- to notice something in the sky that looked a little unusual. It was a billboard promoting this new kitchen essential. And there was no mistaking its resemblance.

Pure Hitler.

(Not to be confused with the classic Eagles double album by the same name.)

Now, in case you can't quite figure out the similarities in the teapot image, notice that the top handle swoops wider to one side mimicking Hitler's dark, curtained hair. The knob on the lid closely resembles his infamous trademark toothbrush moustache. And the spout rises into the air as though he's giving a Nazi salute.

That, or he's just waving to the Eva Braun coffee maker.

Either way, it's him.

However, at this time I can't confirm whether or not the Hitler teapot is designed with only one testicle. Clearly, that little attention to detail would prove this was far more than a simple coincidence.

Mind you, the standard two testicles would be equally concerning.

Regardless, I'm still willing to give JCPenney the benefit of the doubt that this was all just an accident. (The retailer didn't respond to our request for comment.)

Though, to be fair, as a spectator of life with a front row seat, I do enjoy the controversy. For if you're going to accidentally have your product resemble a famous person, somehow, by a strange law of comedy that can't be explained, the absolute worst human being in the history of the world is far more amusing than, say, Tom Hanks.

Now, understand that this particular teapot, from JCPenney's exclusive Michael Graves Design collection, quickly went viral after images of the billboard appeared on Reddit and Twitter.

And that's when things turned delightfully melodramatic.

Culver City's Democratic mayor, Jeffrey Cooper, complained to Mother Jones magazine: "I am disappointed JCPenney actually put that billboard up in the first place. ... As a Jew, I am offended, (and) as an elected official, I am mad that the city I represent is linked to this."

Presumably, he then breathed heavily into a paper bag for half an hour while listening to Enya.

Seriously, pull yourself together, man. If anything, here's all you had to say:

"Yep. Definitely looks like Hitler. Surprised they didn't see it, but I'm pretty sure there was no intention to offend anyone. My guess is they'll take down the billboard and apologize."

Which is exactly what JCPenney did. They took down the billboard and even had some fun on Twitter replying to comments.

In fact, when comedian Patton Oswalt tweeted, "Well, JC Penney, get ready to sell a S***LOAD of these teakettles to a lot of ironic hipsters," the retailer quickly responded with, "Totally unintentional. But they'll need to grab it in stores since it's sold out online. #SadHipsters."

Naturally, sales skyrocketed after the photos went viral. The $40 teapot is now back-ordered on JCPenney's site until late June, and some of the teapots even started listing on eBay for $200. Sadly, I have to admit that now I kind of want one for my house as a conversation piece.

"So, what do you think of my Hitler teapot?"

"I think you need to put on pants."

Not surprisingly, the sales boom started when it all became one big social media circus. Which is why you sort of have to applaud the seemingly levelheaded responses by JCPenney, which never equaled the drama of Cooper's outrage culture hysteria.

Even the Anti-Defamation League took it in stride, commenting to Mother Jones that "JCPenney did the right thing by responding to public concerns and removing the tea pot from their product line. We take JCPenney at their word that any resemblance to the Nazi dictator was completely unintended."

In the end, it's just a minor blip in the cosmos. But, from a social perspective, what's truly interesting is that Hitler -- at least as an iconic image -- doesn't seem to have the same meaning to a newer generation which is further removed from his horrors and unthinkable crimes. Kind of like Genghis Khan to anyone during the last 700 years.

These days, to many, Hitler has become just sort of a caricature, having transcended his evil reality into something far more abstract. Like a teapot.

And this explains why we nonchalantly have the website Cats That Look Like Hitler.

Which, clearly, by the laws of comedy, is way more fun than dogs that look like Tom Hanks.

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