The Same World, but Two Different Realities in Paper Girls 16

By Spencer Irwin

This article contains SPOILERS. If you haven’t read the issue yet, proceed at your own risk!

One of my most vivid memories is a day in first grade when we had a substitute teacher. I opened a little tupperware container full of alphabet flash cards and it fell on the floor, scattering the cards all over. When I started to pick them up, the teacher came over and yelled at me for “crawling around on the floor,” wouldn’t listen to a word of my protest, and sent me to detention. The flash cards remained on the floor for the rest of the day.

When you’re young, it often feels like you and adults live in two different worlds, but that specific scenario was one where I quite literally felt like the teacher and I were seeing and experiencing two very different realities. That rift between generations is illustrated just as literally by Cliff Chiang, Brian K. Vaughan, and Matthew Wilson in Paper Girls 16.

The Paper Girls have arrived in the year 2000, and Tiffany’s been picked up by the police, who (understandably) chalk her ranting about time travel up to drugs (in one of multiple references to horse tranquilizers in the issue). It’s still got to be frustrating for Tiffany, though, to be so easily dismissed, especially once giant robots start using Stony Brook as their battleground. Tiffany can see them while the cops can’t, making their two different world feel all the more removed from each other — like they’re quite literally living in two different realities.

That same concept carries over to Tiffany’s childhood flashback, where her experience playing “Asteroids” starts transforming the world around her in a way her parents can’t even begin to understand (just as Tiffany can’t fully understand the mechanics behind her adoption).

It makes sense, then, that the same mechanic would carry over to the issue’s prologue with the Old Timers. The “Grand Father” can’t understand how their descendants could have “gone so wrong,” how they could reject a world crafted by the Old Timers’ centuries of wisdom and sacrifices, but that’s an opinion that only takes their own perspective into account.  Just based on the few pages of the Old Timers we’ve seen thus far, I can guarantee that the perfect timeline the Old Timers have created is anything but for the young people who have to live in it. The Old Timers seem incapable of understanding this difference in perspective, though. It’s like they’re living in an entirely different timeline altogether.

The conversation doesn’t stop there. What do you wanna talk about from this issue?

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