There was quite a thing around here, for a few years, which involved putting frangipani decals on the rear windscreen of cars. It mystified me, still does, though I’ve read that this is a way for white, working class young women to communicate their femininity and general suitability for pair bonding to men of roughly the same circumstances. I’m not sure I believe this. I still see them around, I’m not sure where people buy them (I’m sure the internet is to blame), but mostly they’re on old shitty-looking Hyundai Excels or the cheaper kind of SUV. Do cars look sexier with flowers?
More recently there has been a big thing for ‘My Family’ stickers which are a series of identikit stick figures representing the number and status of the family that own the car. There are many variations to choose from in order to most accurately represent the family: a golfing/cycling/working dad, a shopping/drinking/yoga-ing mum, a surfing/shredding/guitar playing teen son, a horse riding/facebooking/netballing daughter, a laughing/dummy sucking/gurgling baby. And so on, in many completely banal variants of domestic identity. Plus there are stickers for grandparents, aunts, uncles, and many pet stickers too.
Lately I’ve been noticing anti-My Family stickers (or My anti-Family), not all them simply ironic. There are those that feature drunken, overweight dads; couch bound and huge busted mums; devil worshipping emo daughters; gang member, revolver toting sons; and plainly evil, Damien-esque babies. Perhaps unsurprisingly these aren’t as popular as the regular My Family stickers, but perhaps they just haven’t been on the markets as long. There are also some horrid ones that feature whole family lynchings. Admittedly I have only seen these ones in Queensland and I don’t see them very often.
The mystery of these decorations being fixed to the family car is not one I’m likely to solve, and while I disapprove (for reasons that are mainly about the invention of another tool by which we caricature ourselves and ensure our compliance with existing frameworks for family life) they don’t bug me as much as some of the other car decorations currently en vogue. Frangipanis and My Family decals are simply stupid, like the teenage practice of writing bands you like on your pencil case, but the stickers that provoke a kind of rage are the declarations of nationalism.
There are two kinds currently popular, firstly the Southern Cross. The Southern Cross is being used as a kind of whitefella pride signifier, joining pathetic and distressing dots between the Eureka Stockade, Stringybark Creek, Gallipoli, Kokoda, Nui Dat, and Cronulla. The Southern Cross has become a celebration of belonging to Old Australia, of being able to trace a continuity from Arthur Philip’s convict cargo to the goldfields to Anzac Cove and through to the narrators of Cold Chisel tunes. It has become a horrid Union Jack for Aussie Pride and is especially popular on utes.
The other fashionable addition to the rear windscreen are the words ‘Such Is Life’, usually in gothic script. This is a reference to Ned Kelly’s execution in 1880 before which, when informed he was to be hanged at ten, Kelly said those words. Our Ned wasn’t the first to say it, and way not the last (see Ben Cousins). It reflects the put upon, brow beaten sense that things were in place in the before time and nothing can be done about it, and from this that we are who we are and it’s best to celebrate it, to love your fate.
In managing to get all this across what those words are really saying is that there’s a terrible conspiracy that means poor white folk never get what they deserve. They never get the rewards for being white Australians; someone else has stolen something, a thing someone else deserved. This drives me bonkers. It’s a horrid statement that just absolves responsibility for the world being what it is, the product of some trickle down conspiracy theory in which others are always the beneficiary and poor white folk are unfairly left out in the cold until they rebel and suffer the punishment as per our Ned. ‘Such is Life’ is so close to being the cultural love child of Romper Stomper it makes me twitch.
Interestingly, Kelly also commented on the warden’s garden as he walked through Melbourne Gaol’s central courtyard to his death, saying: “what a nice little garden.”
No-one ever puts that on their car.