By Mark Frauenfelder at 11:41 am Tue, Oct 27, 2009
Oh but HI! all you virtual BoinBoing people who I don’t know, will never know, but speak to like friends anyway, sitting here alone in my kitchen. The irony is not lost on me.
The parents are involved with the lives of their children; they are all out trick or treating together. Kids at the door, parents supervising from the sidewalk.
Please notice that the parents are not engaged with each other. Each in engaged in his/her device rather than experiencing what is happening as a group.
Chris Wares is the most depressing talented, – or talented depressed, your choice – guy in comics universe.
Would it be better if they were all reading print newspapers?
I had to view it full size to get the joke.
This is a new style for Ware. Stylish and nicely done.
* * *
Where I live, Trick-or-Treating is strictly a little-kids-with-adult sort of thing. Part of the fun, when I was a kid, was the unsupervised free-roaming candy harvest. If anything, my new neighborhood is safer than the one I grew up in. Perhaps the lack of free-ranging trick or treaters is cultural, or simply that the neighborhood is too new to have older kids.
I am a 30 year old father of a 6-month old child, married and living in a very family oriented neighborhood in Queens, NY.
I noticed this magazine cover when I got home last night and had a very strong and immediate reaction to it.
This cover represents a tired, trite and downright incorrect backlash perpetrated by a small segment of our society that cannot control technology in their own lives. Lacking an understanding of our position in this revolution, they fear anything with a screen and a power source (another commenter briefly illustrated this by asking â€œWould it be better if they were all reading print newspapers?â€). Uninformed and ultimately left out, they are relegated to wagging their fingers at those of us who embrace the new superpowers afforded to us by progress.
This kind of thing simply does not go on where Iâ€™m from. The mothers and fathers that I observe and associate with seem to savor every second of their time with their children. Perhaps weâ€™re over the novelty of our gadgets?
In this version of the future, parents have figured out how to control their children via remote control. Imagine the TV-B-Gone copycats.
Here is the point I think some of you are missing. This illustration is not about Halloween or free range parenting, it’s a commentary on the mass disconnect society on mass seems to be participating in (which is entirely more troublesome between parents and young children). I see this sad scenario played out every day – kids walking 10 steps behind their parent oblivious and chattering away on a cell phone, groups sitting at tables in coffee shops all lost in their individual hand held completely ignoring each other, the single person in a public space standing in the way while talking much too loud, the person who answers their ringing cell phone without so much as an “excuse me” just as a friend, co-worker, store clerk, coffee barista, is mid-sentence, and so on.
Society seems to be slipping down the path of narcissism at an disheartening rate. I’m not a luddite, I appreciate all the ways my Blackberry makes my day easier, I love my iPod when I’d walking alone, I just like to engage with my son, my wife, my friends, co-workers, strangers, when they’re present. Not only is it gratifying, it’s courteous, and that’s a word that is sadly being forgotten by most.
At least that’s what I thought when I looked at it. Maybe we’ve all missed the point and it’s an homage to the end of “V for Vendetta”
Perhaps the lack of free-ranging trick or treaters is cultural, or simply that the neighborhood is too new to have older kids.
or perhaps that trick-or-treating without parent(s) creates the impression of being a potential troublemaker.
I don’t get it.
Is there supposed to be some kind of cultural commentary going on?
Maybe I’m missing something?
The commentators make it seem like there is something over-protective about parents going trick or treating with their kids. My parents always went with me and I think it was the same for everyone I know. If you are old enough to go alone, you are probably too old for it.
I’m 23 and didn’t have overprotective parents or a sheltered youth. I played alone or with my age-peers in the woods going back as far as I can remember. I rode my bike to school. Took busses and trains into the city alone in middle school. Shot archery, rifles, and shotguns in lower school. Made explosives and set them off in middle and high school. Lost my virginity as a sophomore.
Lower school age kids cannot be trusted to go onto the residential property of strangers (people in the US suburbs usually don’t know their neighbors except maybe right next door). It’s not so much because the kid might be kidnapped or molested (this is as rare as ever)…but because the kid might fuck something up and not know how to avoid being beaten or sued as a result. Middle and high school age kids are too old to be going trick or treating. They should be going to Halloween parties and being exposed to alcohol, sex, drugs, etc scarier things.
I don’t think the image is a commentary on parenting or parental engagement. I see adults whose internet identity is a mask that allows them to do or say things they couldn’t otherwise.
Look at the picture again. You’re missing the point.
Not being from the US I totally missed any halloween reference until I read these comments. I thought it was merely a commentary on our overly-wired always-connected society. Maybe it is. Maybe it doesn’t need to have anything to do with halloween. It just allows a scene for a lot of people to be outside at night where we can see the projection on the electronic displays on their faces.
It’s a commentary on people using electronics?
Again…this just didn’t strike me as weird. So now we have media players with LCDs on them…before people had walkmans without an LCD…before that a boom box…before that maybe people sang or played their own music…so maybe we are loosing community, but you have to go back pretty far to find it. I think not just before portable electronics, but before the suburban mode of living became the norm.
Where did you find a large version of the cover? Thanks, it’s beautiful.
It’s not halloween specific. It’s not even halloween, that’s why the people indoors are facing their TVs, instead of answering their doors.
I move through these people like a shark among minnows, I tell ya.
I don’t get it either, actually. I mean, I get what’s happening, but I don’t totally get the commentary. Are we supposed to be horrified that the parents are paying more attention to thier iPhones than their kids? I can roll with that, but what’s the significance of the trick-or-treating? Just that Halloween is also scary? Are the parents also hiding behind “masks” on the internet? I feel like there’s either too much being said here or not enough.
No, it’s commentary on people ignoring their kids. Go to a park and look around at how many parents are engaged and playing with their kids vs how many are distracted by their tiny screens (or newspapers for the older generations).
Parents are having less playful interaction with their kids. I wonder if trick or treating is the right seen to show it…again I don’t think I get the graphic.
The reasons parents are not playing with their kids is because Americans are working more hours per capita than in the past. Also, time with kids is about getting down the business. Getting the kid to do their homework, volunteering, extra-curriculars. Fill their time up with meaningless structure so that they can get a scholarship and become professionals. Perpetuate the corporate lifestyle.
Because before the iPhone, people never took books or magazines with them to the park while their kids played on jungle gyms. They were intently engaged with all their kids activities at all times.
The irony is that the people in the picture are engaged in the time honored tradition of accompanying their children through the neighborhood halloween ritual, but they are only paying it lip service. What used to be a direct, engaging, socially reinforcing activity has become a distraction from the relatively recent development of indirect, anti-social obsessive-compulsive behavior that so many of us are now hopelessly sucked into. Case in point – how many news articles like this one have I posted to instead of discussing with my friends and neighbors? How much time do I waste reading other articles or comments, or comments to my comments? How many people have I talked to today? Sadly, I suspect my answers to these questions are the same as many others – inadequate.
Love, love, love Chris Ware. I dig the (perhaps merely) visual tie between the lit faces and the masks.
This may be more of a portrait than a detailed commentary on modern parenting. Ware has a Hopper-esque knack for mood and urban solitude.
Chris Ware IS an excellent artist. My favorite New Yorker illustrator is still Drooker though…
I love the total simplicity of the illustration; it’s both beautiful and effective.
@somer andom- A friend of mine often complains about this. He has a 5 year-old son and when they’re at the park, no only he’s usually the only parent following the kid in the tire-tunnels and getting dirty in the sandbox, the other adults stare at him like he’s some asylum escapee.
His take is that he didn’t make a kid to sit on the sidelines and watch him grow like a potted plant (but he hates all the rude staring).
I don’t know your friend, but I spend a LOT of time with my kids (we homeschool, I’m with them almost 24/7), and don’t play with my kids when we go to the park. My experience is that parents who do play with their kids at the park are often completely controlling their child’s play, and it can be unnerving to watch, which may be why people are staring at your friend. And they are also often visibly horrified that we all aren’t all hovering over our kids. There are lots of ways to spend time with kids without getting in the sandbox or following them through equipment built and sized for children.
Having said that, it is annoying to be around people who must always be staring at their little screens.
I see your point, but he’s not controlling his play as much as just spending time with him (the kid is not home schooled as my friend is a single dad and has to work). If the boy wants to fantasy-play or play with kids his age, his father is happy to let him go. However, if there are only 3 or 10 year-olds at the park, he likes to goof around with his dad in tow (kids don’t tend to play with kids who are not the same age/level).
Then again …
Similar theme, more explicit commentary.
It’s Halloween, kids are trick-or-treating, and parents, instead of being involved in their kids’ lives, are wandering around in their own little electronic worlds. Who are the real ghosts here?
Yes, it’s commentary, yes, it’s brilliant, no, people aren’t going to change their ways anytime soon. But thank the stars Mr. Ware gets to do this shit for a living.
I quite like the illustration, but all the analysis is pretty funny to me. When I was a kid when went trick-or-treating alone, and I’m 26 so my experience isn’t exactly ancient history. Following a kid around would be insanely boring, and I’d be surfing the web too.
The title for the illustration is “Unmasked,” which might (or might not) help explain Ware’s intent.
It would have been better titled “Trick or Tweet.”
Ware’s cover is so simple and effective. Its genius is in the wide range of readings folks here have done–each of which has merit.
I think of it as reminding us that we dismiss trick-or-treating as “child’s play”–but who’s to say that our adult activities aren’t just as easily dismissed? We are just bigger kids, pretending to be grown-ups after all… .
Honestly, I think it’s a disservice to link to the cover but not the whole accompanying comic. It’s rather gripping when you add the extra dimension to the work.
@ Gbaji #22, the title makes sense once you read the accompanied illustration.
Oh, wow, Kylini, thanks. Now I see the black line of the mask on the fathers’ face in the house… subtle!!!
Well, that’s cute, but personally, I like this one:
What a sad, bleak image. Not only alienated from their kids, but from each other.
It will be a keeper (though I *wish* the New Yorker would use subscription labels that can be peeled off).
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