I make no secret of my distaste for Elf on the Shelf.
To be fair, I’m not huge on Christmas decorations in general — I like Christmas, don’t get me wrong, but decorations seem like a lot of work. Still, I’ll take 10 trees throwing needles all over my house before I’d accept one Elf.
I’m hardly alone in this view, and for me a big part of what makes the Elf so off-putting is that he’s kinda creepy and conditions children to think it’s fine to have someone spying on you all the time to make sure you’re doing what they want.
Science backs me up on this. In fact, here’s an excerpt from University of Ontario Institute of Technology professor Laura Pinto arguing that the Elf teaches kids to be comfortable with an invasive, privacy-violating government:
What is troubling is what The Elf on the Shelf represents and normalizes: anecdotal evidence reveals that children perform an identity that is not only for caretakers, but for an external authority (The Elf on the Shelf), similar to the dynamic between citizen and authority in the context of the surveillance state. Further to this, The Elf on the Shelf website offers teacher resources, integrating into both home and school not only the brand but also tacit acceptance of being monitored and always being on one’s best behavior — without question.
No thank you.
But it gets worse. Turns out a Massachusetts State Police officer has created “Statie” (seriously, that’s his name, apparently derived from a local nickname for state troopers). He’s an Elf on the Shelf who is also a cop.
As Reason’s Katherine Mangu-Ward comments, this “stranger in a weird outfit who monitors your behavior from afar” is just a little too on-the-nose.
That said, I think Statie may be a revelation of the Elf’s true self. He really encapsulates the whole spirit of invasive surveillance the Elf represents. Maybe if all the Elves on the Shelves dressed like Statie, we could end this made-up tradition and teach kids that spying is bad all at once! That would be a Christmas miracle.