The Scary Effin Capitalism On The Shelf


I was having a discussion with a coworker today about the Elf On The Shelf. I hate that thing. Seriously. Hate. It. And let me tell you why.

First, let’s start with some history. The Elf On The Shelf is based on a book that was written by Carol Aebersold and Chanda Bell, a mother and her daughter. Back in 2004, if Wikipedia is to be believed, it was conceived by mother and daughter over a cup of coffee to provide a backstory for their own holiday tradition. Apparently they had their own version of the Elf On The Shelf that “moved” around and reported back to Santa the goings-on of the children in the house. Once the book was published, the toy was introduced as an additional product, followed by a TV special, etc, etc.

There are two reasons I loathe this thing.

The first is ideological. I find the idea of a “purchased” folk tale character incredibly crass. Here we have capitalism at its most noisome. You can walk into any Target or Toys R Us in America and buy the elf for $30. What do you get for your $30? Along with the book, you buy a fairy tale creature that magically comes to life the moment the cellophane comes off. Suddenly the elf is watching you and flying home to Santa nightly to report your foibles. This “magic” has been introduced to countless children who delight at the idea that they might have some sort of direct line to Santa. Never mind the obvious questions that children are too young to conceptualize. Questions like: how does the elf end up in the cellophane in the first place? What’s he living off of while under wraps? What happens to the leftover elves that stores don’t sell? A fairy glue factory? And of course, the incredibly cynical side of me is asking darker questions like: does Santa get a cut of the profits of each elfin sale? With each transaction, given that Santa is selling his own factory workers, is he the single largest and most egregious plantation owner of all time?

The second reason I don’t like this thing is cause it’s Just. Frickin. Scary. Hey, look kids, here’s a little creature that’s watching you ALL THE TIME and during the night MOVES AROUND THE HOUSE. If I brought that kind of mythos into my house my kids would never sleep again. “What if it comes up the stairs? What of it comes in my room?? What if it’s an EVIL ELF???”

I’m like Charlie Brown. I find Christmas to be an incredible commercial enterprise that has moved, and continues to move, further and further away from the heart of the season. But, for me, the Elf On The Shelf sets a new low. Apologies to you have one and if your family loves it. But it will never–I mean NEVER–find its way into my house.

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