Fuck you, Elf on the Shelf.
I know your game.
Oh, hey, sure, you’re just a little elf, precious and twee. Big eyes and long limbs and that jaunty fucking cap. Sitting there on the shelf, or the counter, or riding the dog like a mount into battle.
Harmless! Fun! Elfy!
Ha ha ha!
Ha ha ha!
You piece of shit.
Listen, I was already a little dubious of Santa. Big jolly white gent. Lives in total isolation at the extreme north — the very frozen nipple of the globe. He’s a madman with a workshop. He’s got a mythological workforce — perky elves and flying reindeer and, I dunno, probably a couple Yeti and maybe a Kardashian or three. And sure, sure, he’s a little over-interested in children, but hey, whatever. A lot of mythological beings are. Tooth Fairy, Boogeyman, Captain Kangaroo, Halloween Dave. (What, you guys don’t celebrate Halloween Dave in your part of the world? Halloween Dave, who rides in on a carriage made of rat bones and who throws honey-slick figs to all the girls and boys? Who smells like toffee and hides in your toilet tank? No? Whatever.)
At the end of the day, though, I knew that Santa was a good guy.
Or maybe even, one of the Good Guys.
He’s a pretty selfless dude, that Santa. He hides in his Fortress of Solitude all year around, manically and maniacally forging toys for all the little children. Dolls, horses, soldiers, robots, spaceships. (Point of trivia: a young Fedora-ed Santa Claus actually invented Minecraft. True story!) He gets nothing out of it. He’s old and fat. Then he spends one day of the year in some kind of peppermint-flavored nocturnal emission, just exploding toys all over the world. Going house to house, leaving toys. Sure, okay, it’s kind of a home invasion, but he rarely demands recompense outside a cookie and maybe a carrot for Rudolph (though one year I did find that a stash of pornography was conspicuously missing). And yeah, he kinda steals parenting thunder a little bit because it’s not Mom and Dad who got Little Billy that really nice bike, it was Santa WINK WINK.
But Santa? You could trust Santa.
And way back when, Santa had a counterpart. Old Saint Nick was a little like the God of Christmas, and he had his opposite, the Krampus. It was Krampus who worried about if kids were good or not. Santa just had a list. He didn’t make it. You were on it or you weren’t — it was the Krampus who showed up, shoved the naughty little kids in a bag and then, I dunno, ate them or fed them to the reindeer or something. (I’m a little fuzzy on the Krampus mythology.)
But over time, a whiff of the morality police crept into the Santa myth, didn’t it? It was no longer about a guy selflessly bringing joy to the world but suddenly a less-than-jolly jerk determining what kids trigger the proper morality clauses in order to get gifts instead of coal lumps. WHICH LIST ARE YOU ON, his voice booms. ARE YOU NAUGHTY. OR YOU ARE NICE.
We have Elf on the Shelf.
He is an elf, which you — the parent — name. The theoretical elf sits somewhere in your house, and you move him every night while the child is asleep in order to give the illusion that there is an actual holy shit elf moving around at night like some kind of goblin. The kid doesn’t know what the elf is up to. Stealing his breath, probably. Drinking Mommy and Daddy’s liquor, maybe. Probably some tricksy elf bullshit is my best guess. I mean, who can sleep comfortably when some long-limbed polar elf is gamboling about your house, climbing through the heating ducts, hiding in drain holes, licking all the candy canes hanging from the tree? I mean, god, do you see how he looks? Sitting there all prim and precious like he’s blissfully taking an elf dump on your human valuables? “I’m pooping on your jewelry!” he seems to be saying. Tee hee hee! Tickle tickle!
But that’s not the corker.
No, no, no. The corker is: the elf spies on your children.
That is his entire purpose.
He’s not here to make friends, this elf. He’s not on vacation. He’s not gonna help you with laundry or start the dishwasher. The elf actually says in the (originally self-published) book:
“I watch and report on all that you do! The word will get out if you broke a rule!”
You guys? The Elf on the Shelf is Santa’s secret police. Santa literally puts him your home — as the story goes — so that said elf can gather data on your child and report this data back to Santa in order to determine your child’s moral fitness. Mortal fitness that then theoretically determines what presents your child is qualified to get.
I mean, at least the Krampus was different from Santa. He was Santa’s opposite — the Satanic adversary to Jolly Old Saint Nick. The Elf on the Shelf works for Santa. He is an agent of the North Pole. Promoted out of the workshop where he ruined his little elven fingers making iPhones and Bart Simpson t-shirts and allowed to out out into the wild. Into kid’s homes.
To spy. To surveil. To watch.
How amazingly perfect is that, though, in this modern American age? How fitting. We once thought our benevolent patron — Santa, America, to-may-to, to-mah-to — in his red, white and sometimes-blue was here to help us. That he was on our side. But now we know: the big man’s got an agenda. He has his secret police. He has his elven wiretap. Our children now live in a surveillance state that extends out and penetrates even this joyous holiday with its fiber optic microphones. Our authorities are not to be trusted. They’re always listening. They’re always judging. (What’s next? Police elves stabbing unarmed misfit toys with sharpened candy canes? Torture of insubordinate parents sanctioned by the Department of Holly Jolly Security and performed in various black site igloos around the globe? A secret team of workshop hobs using Santa-tech to spy on and dox their pixie girlfriends?)
Don’t do wrong, or we’ll know.
We can do wrong, the elves say. You’re the wrongdoers.
You can’t stop us. We are the bosses of you.
We’re here. We’re watching. We’re providing data to Big Santa.
Well, not in this house, you pajama-pants-clad, apple-cheeked little turdgoblin.
You will find no Elf on the Shelf in this home.
Screw you, Santa Surveillance State. Screw you.
*gives the Mockingjay gesture*