I want to take a brief survey: Who has looked at their phone today? Within the past hour? Within the past ten minutes? I have a feeling that most of us fall into the last category. An all-consuming dependence on our "smart" devices has become the social norm — which is exactly what artist/activist Saint Hoax's "Contemporary Fairy Tale" series takes on. Depicting favorite Disney characters glued not to each other, but to their smartphones, "Contemporary Fairy Tale" makes sharp comment on the abundance — and perhaps overabundance — of technology in our lives. Just because it's there doesn't mean we should use it all the time, right?
Saint Hoax is no stranger to manipulating classic Disney images in order to drive home a point. His past works have included "Happy Never After," a campaign against domestic violence featuring battered princesses, "Save Yourself," which re-imagined princesses as the heroines of their own stories, and "Princest Diaries," an unsettling statement about the prevalence of sexual abuse, particularly that committed by victims' family members.
While "Contemporary Fairy Tale" isn't as viscerally upsetting as some of Saint Hoax's previous works, the pieces may still hit disconcertingly close to home. Archetypal couples — Aladdin and Jasmine, Beauty and the Beast, and Ariel and Eric — who have, for many of us, embodied an ideal love since we were children, are shown focusing on their phones, rather than on each other. Is this what a healthy relationship looks like now? Because it certainly seems like it's at least what the standard relationship looks like.
In a recent interview with Mic, Saint Hoax explained how the inspiration for the series came about:
"First came Twitter, then came Instagram and now with Snapchat, people are barely engaging with each other. What pushed all my buttons was when I witnessed two people who seemed to be on a date barely have four full sentences with each other."
If you feel like maybe this sounds familiar, you're not alone. There's even a term for it: nomophobia, which is literally short for "No-mobile-phone-phobia." And a recent survey found that over 50 percent of 2,000 UK residents experience this kind of anxiety. I have a feeling that that number is as high, if not higher, across the pond on our shores, too.
That's crazy, right? So the next time that you begin to feel your fingers itch for your phone, especially if you're in the presence of a loved one, try to resist. Focus on them. Look into their eyes. Do all the gross lovey-dovey things couples do when they're in love, I don't know what they are because I'm a perennial miser.
But just put down the phones, before it's too late.
Images: Courtesy of Saint Hoax/Instagram (3)