A Sticky Family Issue

In honour of National Family Week, let’s unpack a controversial issue: stick-figure family stickers.

If it sounds like I just invented a poor tongue twister, you can’t be blamed. There are relatively few in the Yukon. As with many trends, Whitehorse is late (see also: bubble tea).

I’m referring to the white stick figure decals placed on the back windshield of cars, each figure representing a member of the family who ostensibly rides inside.

Stick-figure stickers engage in a variety of activities — stick barbecuing, stick shopping, stick soccer. They can be customized with names, and come in a wide array of identities, such as Star Wars characters and fuzzy animals. Disturbingly, there are even stick-figure families of assault rifles to be found on the Internet.

The stick-figure trend has been strong for at least five years. They’ve been around long enough that a contemptuous backlash industry has sprung up, which includes decals of a zombie eating a stick family and a car running into a pile of stick-figures with the caption, “Nobody cares about your stick family.”

Presumably Yukoners eschew this sticky trend because in small towns such as ours, everyone already knows how many family members, dogs, cats, and ex-spouses you have. However, for those in the know, local opinion remains firmly divided on the merit of stick figure families.

To the “in favour” camp, stick figures are cute decals that celebrate one’s family, pets, and hobbies. They’re a bit like Smurf figurines, but way better because there’s more than one female.

In the “against” camp, well, pull up a chair and get comfortable.

The main reason people object to stick family stickers is that they broadcast a certain smugness. It’s one thing to do a family portrait and send it out at Christmas, but you would never tape it to the inside of your windshield (see also: Baby on Board, circa 1984).

I know, I know, you’re thinking, “They’re just stick figures.” But therein lies the second issue. They reduce a family’s identity down to a dad playing golf, a mom cooking, and two kids holding hockey sticks.

A few parents I talked to said they don’t encourage their kids to pin their identity on one activity at a young age. One mom would not consider the stickers because they can never reflect the range of experiences that make up a family.

Furthermore, in five years when the hockey-playing kids become pot-smoking teens, they won’t even be accurate, except for maybe the ironic mullets.

The third main complaint is that this sticker phenomenon is not particularly inclusive of a variety of family types. The stickers are sold individually, so yes, a solo mom can put a sticker of herself with her kids on her car, but would she? Would an infertile couple? A divorced dad with shared custody? Finally — thank you Brigitte Jones — what about single people? Though technically not excluded from the stick figure phenomenon, these population swaths might find the “family-value” judgements of passing motorists too much to bare.

Aside from these major philosophical objections, there is also a general objection to any kind of decal on vehicles (see also: Protect the Peel, circa 2001).

This is all food for thought on the eve of the winter season, when there will be so much ice fog in the air we won’t be able to see the decals on the car in front of us.

My prediction? Until a local store starts selling stick figures wearing Bogs, attending city council meetings, and selling raffle tickets, the stick family trend will eventually flat-line in Yukon.

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