I've noticed that more and more cars are displaying stick figure families on their back windshield. It seems to be a growing trend, not only in South Africa where I live, but also in the United States and Australia. There's even a Facebook game called 'My Family' (with more than 2.5 million likes) that allows you to add stick figure icons to your Facebook profile and name them.
I must confess that I don't understand it. I'm far too private to update the world driving behind me on my family's status. I am, however, curious and fascinated by the many variations I've seen, and believe that each family sticker arrangement may be broadcasting both a conscious and unconscious message.
Below are five possible messages:
- We belong. The conscious story of the stickers is one of socially accepted identities and norms. The most commonly sold stick figures in South Africa are mom with shopping and hand bag and a dad holding a can of beer (I assume) and barbeque-tongs with a piece of meat — both reflecting typical and acceptable South African stereotypes.
- My defintion of 'family.' Your stickers also tell the world how you define 'family' — do you include only your pets or everyone — your immediate and extended family, such as in-laws and grandparents? Some use this space to make a statement about their less stereotypical family — e.g. single parent or same sex partners.
- Issues in my family. A much more unconscious message is shared by the choice of sticker as well as how they are stickers placed. Coincidence? I would say no, since every sticker reflects a choice and therefore a possible clue about issues in your family. For example, is technology sometimes a communication barrier (mp3 players, cell phones in the ears and hands of most family members)? If the dog is stuck between the couple, how close are mom and dad? Who's more important and comes first, the dog or the husband? If the sticker of mom is placed highest, is mom the head of the family, the matriarch and main decision maker of the family? If mom is placed in the center, surrounded by her children, is mom the center of the family? Where's dad?
- My biggest fear. The person driving in front of me is showing herself to the world as 'sporty mom'. I'm curious if her fear may be being an unhealthy, overweight, ageing mom?
- Rebelling against social norms and the projected fake stereotypes. It's interesting that everyone has an opinion about or reaction to these stickers. Some are so irritated by the 'My Family' stickers they've joined Facebook groups like 'My Family Stickers Suck' or 'I hate My Family Stickers.' The main comment is "who cares." Some drivers have even rebelled by adding their own anti-family stickers, either with a violent (brutally slain family members with blood gushing) or sexual message (practicing making a family), or making an ironic statement on the imperfection of families (overweight, beer drinking, drugging, asocial).
No matter what your view, it seems that the stickers are being launched in more and more countries, including Norway just last month. I'm endlessly entertained by the family stickers and I'm curious to see how long it will be in vogue.
How does this article influence your sticker choices? Would you reconsider the one's you've added to your car? I would love to hear your comments.
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