Unless the reader has been nowhere near any public highway in the last few years they cannot have failed to notice the abundance of ‘My Family’ stick-figure line-ups on the rear windows of vehicles. These car stickers symbolize the composition and accomplishments of the car’s inhabitants, including types and numbers of pets. They are usually in arranged in declining height order with a cute endpoint, like a baby or a goldfish. As graphics go, they are simplistic, crude and two-dimensional. What is perhaps surprising is how many millions of families have jumped at the chance to advertise themselves in this way.
The urge to insist on complex individuality seems at odds with the cartoon figures, and yet in a strange contradiction, families choose to broadcast their uniqueness via a mass-manufactured sticker decal. Invented in Australia in 2009 by husband and wife team, Phil Barham and Monica Liebenow, My Family has had worldwide success. The car stickers cavalacade of figures have been customized to different countries. Norwegians have several types of ski-ing parents and kids, while the Israelis can pick out a family member wearing military uniform to symbolize national service. From a drum-bashing son, to a board-riding daughter, the car stickers aim to embrace all human endeavour, reduce it to a stick-figurine, and have it available to peel off and stick on a car window.
With the round-robin Christmas letter gone out of fashion, the condensation of achievement, prosperity and all-round “look how great our family is” has found a new permanent home. Now authorities are warning that there could be a downside, apart from other driver irritation, to the ubiquitous little cartoons.
The declaration of just who is in the family, what they like to do, and even the needs of the pets, are all vital clues to would-be robbers say crime watchers. Important clues to the family schedule are unwittingly revealed in the jolly illustrations. Not content with constructing a whole enviable identity via social media, the family who reduces this effort to the one liner on the car exposes themselves to theft, and possibly worse.
That stick-boy with the football is a sign he may be going to practice after school, so there will be nobody home. That stick-daddy is his uniform looks like a guy who is away a lot of the time. The cute little doggy is quite clearly not a ferocious beast that is going to defend the hearth.
Admittedly, there are no statistics to bear out this concern, but as an urban myth, it is already gathering ground. Potential emotional upset is also an issue around these decorations. A backlash in their country of origin resulted in a Brisbane firm printing a set of family members with nooses around their necks. Not in the best possible taste, certainly, but when challenged that this could hurt those who had lost a loved one to suicide, the CEO replied that the originals could hurt those who no longer had parents, or were not able to have children. Parody versions like these are now almost as popular as the wholesome versions.
Love them or hate them, My Family stick-figure car stickers have an innocent intent, and it would be a sad outcome to their inception and uptake if they end up acting as good guides to criminals.
By Kate Henderson