If any of your Facebook friends are parents with small “the Easter bunny is totally real”-aged children, then you know what the Elf on the Shelf meme is. It haunts us all on every social media channel like a creepy holiday version of the Slender Man. To make matters worse, some academics argue it conditions young children for life in a totalitarian police state. Good thing we’re all mature, unimpressionable adults who won’t be swayed by a terrifying doll dressed in Christmas colors. Right?
Depends on what we mean by the words “mature” and “unimpressionable” — especially when purveyors of Elf on the Shelf memes blur the lines between “cool/kinda funny joke” and “sketchy tradition for people with poor judgement.” Are we supposed to teach kids about right and wrong? Yes. Should we do it by scaring the sh*t out of them with a frightening toy? Probably not, but it’s already too late.
The 2009 children’s book and accompanying toy have already become the stuff of holiday nightmares. Here are a few of our favorites:
When the Elf could burn everything to the ground.
The Disaster Girl meme is horrifying in and of itself. (Adults have films like Carrie and Firestarter to thank for that.) When combined with the Elf on the Shelf meme, however, the fear of one smaller than yourself possessing terrible abilities like pyromancy and telekinesis simply becomes more palpable.
Besides, whoever keeps posing the little guy in awkward positions for their children’s delight probably deserves to have everything burn to the ground.
When he tortures you while you’re sleeping.
Imagine being one of the three kids in this photo, but 10 to 15 years later when they’re “hitting the books” in college. When they go to a party, drink too much, and wake up to see a wang drawn across their cheeks, they’ll be reminded of that one time their parents’ possessed Elf doll came to life. Odd nostalgia, that.
Family? What family?
It’s bad enough believing that this little Slender Man has actually come to life and is trying to teach you important life lessons during the holidays. Discovering a sick family “shrine” such as this, however, would probably be the Elf on the Shelf’s version of taking things to 11. Does he want to be a member of the family? Does he want to replace the family you currently have? If it’s the latter, then how might the little bastard go about doing so?
The family dog may sneer and snarl at the imposing Elf as it sits on the ledge, staring and plotting, but this meme takes things a little too far in response.
When he’s the Pablo Escobar of Christmas.
Let’s not talk about that judgy Elf and his hypocrisy as he swims in cocaine. Let’s talk about how he got that much of it. Is The Elf on the Shelf secretly operating a cartel out of your house and behind your back?
When he sits in judgement.
Shouldn’t Christmas be about spreading good cheer and spending time with loved ones? Sure, Santa Claus famously boasts of having a list with everyone’s name on it, and using it to judge whether they’ve been naughty or nice, but it’s not like he’s going around punishing them. At least, not with anything more dangerous than a lump of coal. Like the recent anti-holidays film Krampus, however, Elf on the Shelf suggests that we’re all going to be harshly judged — possibly as harshly as Fluffy.
When he tries to force his way into the family.
Not sure if this one implies that the Elf has murdered someone’s significant other or if they’re simply trying to make some kind of perverted romantic power move. Either way, it’s entirely crazy.
When people want to be just like him.
No. Just… no. Maybe this guy and his wife thought it was funny, and maybe their children were laughing at the time the photos were posed and taken, but what about the distant consequences of these actions? When their kids are adults, and have to explain to their therapists (or the cops) how the life-sized Elf confused their moral compass?
When people try to take the Elf’s job.
When real, actual, everyday life imitates art, it’s usually called art. A grown man offering his services on Craigslist as a “Living Elf on the Shelf” for Christmas parties is not performance art. Who knows what is? A reminder that there are still a few people out there with a lot of disposable time on their hands? In interview, the performer offered this explanation of the gig:
It’s fun, and I really enjoy people watching; this is an extremely funny way to do so. I sit wherever I am assigned, and remain in character throughout the duration of the event. Creeping [sic] staring definitely adds to the character, but I’m not interested in creeping people out so I feel out each situation before fully diving in. Bringing laughter to people during the holidays is important; a lot of folks feel overwhelmed around the holidays so I like to take the edge off.
He really enjoys “people watching.” He does whatever he’s told. He creepily stares at others in character but isn’t “interested in creeping people out.” He wants to help people “take the edge off.” Right…