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16 December 2011 @ 08:19 pm
Reason number 58,962 why I will never understand America  
I have a lengthy post with serious things and stuff and so on ready to write in my head, but thanks to the stylish and non-elf-owning kerryblaze, I have learned about The Elf on the Shelf,  which as far as I can work out is the Christmas equivalent of creepy Cabbage Patch Kids*.

It's a scary red elfy doll thing, which I think only comes in one model**, allegedly sent by Santa to watch over children and check on whether they have been naughty or nice, then fly back to report at night.

Parents are meant to move the elf around the house so it looks as though it has landed somewhere new after flying back from the North Pole early each morning. Kids are not allowed to touch the elf, or it will lose its magic***.

I have three responses to this.

1. Good grief! Don't parents have enough stress over the holiday season? It's not bad enough that in most houses this will be the last discussion of the day:
'Honey, I forgot to move the elf. Could you get up and do it?'
'Nuh-ah, I did it last night. It's your turn to find somewhere for that little bastard.'
'I hate that freaking elf.'
but there are some over-achieving people out there who do things like come up with lists of 101 things you can do with your elf. Those people worry the bejeezus out of me. I prefer the blog of the woman kerryblaze linked me to, which shakes its head at this sort of behaviour and concludes with: "I think I'm just going to lay my Elf on his shelf, tape wires and hoses to him and tell my kids he's in a coma and hopefully he'll recover before Christmas.  That should give me some flexibility."

2. WILL NOBODY THINK OF THE CHILDREN??!! That creepy little stalker fairy is the sort of thing that would have terrified me when I was two or three, and then filled me with loathing for adults who thought I was stupid enough to fall for such a patronising excuse for insufficient parental attention by the time I was six.
'You have to be good, baby, or the elf will tell Santa!'
'Mom, in the immortal words of Newt, "Ripley, it's just a piece of plastic."'

Should your child be a beautiful and innocent soul who has somehow managed to escape the pervasive cynicism of this modern age, the elf will be yet another piece of stress loaded onto their tiny, sweet shoulders. Imagine a sweet little munchkin doing the sorts of things that kids just do – maybe running inside without wiping her feet, burping after a glass of milk, picking his nose, or accidentally knocking things off the coffee table. If there are no adults around, that sweet munchkin can pretend it never happened, or blame the dog. But now that bloody elf is there ... watching, watching, ever watching ... Clearly it wasn't bad enough having Twilight normalise stalking for tweens and teens, now we need to extend it to the nursery set. Gah!

3. Why do the Elf on a Shelf people hate America?

Now, Americans who read this, you need to understand that most of the rest of the world really tries to like and respect the USA. When I was born, it was comparatively easy. There were still a couple of Kennedys kicking around productively in US politics and the Republican Party was mostly made up of people whose thoughts were based on ideas, not ruled by polls and ideology. Despite the horrors of the war in Vietnam and sundry South and Central American military disasters, most of us back then thought of America as a place of progress, with great writers, great scientists and great philosophers, who would every now and then come up with something astonishing that changed the world (Messrs Jobs and Gates), or at least were warm, friendly, if slightly loud, people who would go out of their way to help visitors (albeit, you might also get shot, but probably not by the people who had just helped you!).

Then things started to go a bit downhill. I could sort of understand the Reagan thing, he definitely had charisma, but Valley Girls were a bit of a strain, and we won't talk about the creepy Cabbage Patch Kids or globalised McDonald's. Not satisfied with the overall disaster that was George W Bush, you tanked the global economy and let Rupert Murdoch destroy your media, delivering in Fox News a 'news' service that makes me long for the comparatively profound insights of George W Bush.

But we still tried to see all the good -- because there's loads of it! It's not just that most of you are still warm and friendly, you have the New Yorker, and the Chicago Symphony, you have MIT and Big Bang Theory. In any debate as to the merits of the USA, there is usually a long list of positives available to the government side.

And then you go and pull shit like Elf on a Shelf****.

I fucking despair.

* I know that some people loved these things, and I apologise for harshing your squee, as it were, but one look into their fixed soulless eyes and it is obvious they are Satan's very own poppets come to convince a generation of children that sex education is pointless as babies come from Brassicas.

** No photo, because I like you and that little bugger is SCARY!

*** Queue gales of tears when Dad has stuck Elfy back on the very edge of the shelf and a light breeze is enough to send him hurtling towards the floor, stopped mid-fall by the automatic catching reflex of little Timmy, who will then be convinced that he has KILLED THE ELF AND SANTA WILL HATE HIM FOREVER!!!

****At least there's a backlash that includes bloggers like the one above, and, from the comments there, people like this one. I love them.
E McGeemelusinahp on December 16th, 2011 09:37 am (UTC)
Fortunately the UK only has harmless holiday traditions for children, like burning effigies of ancient traitors over bonfires. The US certainly doesn't have a monopoly on unsettling Christmas traditions.. ;) The entire holiday seems ripe for use in parental blackmail, what with the threat of coal in the stocking, kidnapping or disembowelment.
blamebramptonblamebrampton on December 16th, 2011 09:42 am (UTC)
UK and European holiday traditions involve PROPER things for kiddies, like death, burning and coal!

American holiday traditions USED to be wonderful, too, involving death, explosions and pumpkins, but some bastard in marketing is ruining things for everyone!
Sometimes You Get Marshmallowsflorahart on December 16th, 2011 09:53 am (UTC)
I have never heard of Elf on a Shelf. I'm okay with that.
blamebramptonblamebrampton on December 16th, 2011 09:56 am (UTC)
I am so sorry for bringing it up, let's pretend it never happened.
(no subject) - florahart on December 16th, 2011 09:59 am (UTC) (Expand)
(no subject) - blamebrampton on December 16th, 2011 10:03 am (UTC) (Expand)
silent hallucinationalex_s9 on December 16th, 2011 10:04 am (UTC)
You, my dear lady, have just made my day, and it's still morning here.
blamebramptonblamebrampton on December 16th, 2011 10:08 am (UTC)
YOU! I need head sizes for you and your boys, am WOEFULLY behind on the knitted hats plan I hatched for you, er, about this time last year ... :-)
(no subject) - alex_s9 on December 16th, 2011 10:12 am (UTC) (Expand)
(no subject) - blamebrampton on December 16th, 2011 10:16 am (UTC) (Expand)
(no subject) - alex_s9 on December 16th, 2011 10:27 am (UTC) (Expand)
(no subject) - blamebrampton on December 16th, 2011 10:31 am (UTC) (Expand)
Sherrysherryillk on December 16th, 2011 10:36 am (UTC)
Not going to lie, I only learned about the Elf on the Shelf a week or two ago from some advertisement for a TV special even though it's supposed to have been around for years. I think it's based on a book? But I've totally already asked for one from my family for Christmas this year, even though I'm way too old for it and I don't even believe in the whole thing. But it still seems kinda cool to have and it's kinda cute...
blamebramptonblamebrampton on December 16th, 2011 10:40 am (UTC)
Because I love and respect you as a human being, and have done so for quite some time, I am going to pretend this comment never happened.
(Deleted comment)
(no subject) - blamebrampton on December 16th, 2011 10:47 am (UTC) (Expand)
(no subject) - sherryillk on December 16th, 2011 10:57 am (UTC) (Expand)
(no subject) - blamebrampton on December 16th, 2011 10:59 am (UTC) (Expand)
FEELS TERRORIST!: MCR Gerard yeah?momebie on December 16th, 2011 11:41 am (UTC)
I had never even heard of Elf on a Shelf until Chris Colfer dressed up like one for some party, and still didn't know what it was until this post so uh...there's my bit of ignorance for the morning.
blamebramptonblamebrampton on December 16th, 2011 11:45 am (UTC)
It's not ignorance, it's right thinking! Neither had I before today, and I was happier ;-)
oldenuf2nboldenuf2nb on December 16th, 2011 12:04 pm (UTC)
I hate that fucking elf, too. And George W. And Rupert Murdoch. And Donald Trump. And that fucking elf... wait, did I say that already?
blamebramptonblamebrampton on December 16th, 2011 12:20 pm (UTC)
It bears repeating!

What makes me grieve is that in centuries to come, archaeologists will dig up thousands of these and feel that they were of Deep Significance to the age. Meanwhile, all that beautiful fanfic will be gone in the first global EMP ...
(no subject) - oldenuf2nb on December 16th, 2011 12:25 pm (UTC) (Expand)
(no subject) - blamebrampton on December 16th, 2011 12:25 pm (UTC) (Expand)
Catscatsintheattic on December 16th, 2011 12:50 pm (UTC)
I needed this piece of cultural enlightenment and resulting cackle - especially with all that water coming out of my tea kitchen wall.

I'd put that elf to use and let him catch water falls in my flat. LOL
blamebramptonblamebrampton on December 16th, 2011 03:33 pm (UTC)
BUGGER! But yes, that would be a good use for him :-)
Maggie: DOH!teas_me on December 16th, 2011 02:06 pm (UTC)
Maggieteas_me on December 16th, 2011 02:07 pm (UTC)
Is completely American, btw.
(no subject) - blamebrampton on December 16th, 2011 03:24 pm (UTC) (Expand)
(no subject) - blamebrampton on December 16th, 2011 02:28 pm (UTC) (Expand)
PKgirlthatsaidno on December 16th, 2011 02:24 pm (UTC)
OMG. That thing is scary! Chucky anyone?
Why would someone do this to their kid willingly?
blamebramptonblamebrampton on December 16th, 2011 03:25 pm (UTC)
I can only assume drugs, mind control, or a really, really horrible kid ;-)
Keeper of the Superfluous Es!themostepotente on December 16th, 2011 02:34 pm (UTC)
Never even heard of Elf on the Shelf, BB.
blamebramptonblamebrampton on December 16th, 2011 03:25 pm (UTC)
Neither had I 24 hours ago. Oh, for those happy, innocent days ...
ozdobeozdobe on December 16th, 2011 02:48 pm (UTC)
I have been over here in the US of A for 20 years and married to one and I have not heard of elf on the shelf. What a fucking stupid idea - why would parents fall for this? Why would children fall for this? Seems like a nanny-cam gone feral. And who believes in Santa past 3 years old anyway? I loved the last link to the blogger - that I read with laughs and giggles - for some reason gargoyle in the garage tickled my funny-bone. Also noted that the blogger mentioned candelabra when I am sure you instructed us to use candelabrum for the singular.

Just went on rant to an Aussie friend about how certain words don't exist over here - like spelt (spelled), learnt (learned, the verb) and a new one I found on my travels - cookt (archaic past tense of cooked). I have oodles of trouble with rooves, and hooves, and beeves; and license for verb and noun.

Merry Christmas one and all.
blamebramptonblamebrampton on December 16th, 2011 03:31 pm (UTC)
HEE! I had an American editor who would always change my spelt, and while I was OK with spelled as a perfectly valid option, was a bit sad. Then one day she patiently explained to me that spelt was a grain, and I was all 'But you guys are the ones who love the 17th century spellings, how can you not have this one??'

These things cost $30!! I think that after a while, people end up so exhausted by the constant horrors of life that they can be confused into thinking things like elves on shelves are good ideas if they are exposed at a week moment. OBVIOUSLY the answer is more screenings of Labyrinth on television, as goblins and David Bowie in tights are a sovereign cure for despair.

And I'm willing to forgive a singular candelabra for gargoyle in the garage, that was genius :-)
bk7brokemybrainbk7brokemybrain on December 16th, 2011 03:42 pm (UTC)
I have never heard of this thing. Eeep!
I definitely don't agree with parents dumping 'be-good' duties on other people and objects. Wen I worked in a bookstore, I always hated the moms who said, "Don't touch that or the man/the lady will yell at you." Meaning me or the men I worked with. My bf worked there, and frequently told the kids, "No, I won't." in front of mom, then asked the kids nicely not to pull every effing book off our shelves.

Every day W was our President, I was embarrassed to be American. Unfortunately, it's only gotten worse since then, mostly due to politicians sucking up to the religious factions and using them to polarize every debate and issue. I'm ashamed that education in this country doesn't attempt to teach children how to think and reason for themselves, doesn't teach the tenets of our country's constitution, so therefore the population thinks law is a matter of might makes right. Disgusting.
I hope the Elf on the Shelf tells Santa to bypass the USA entirely. We don't deserve it.
blamebramptonblamebrampton on December 16th, 2011 03:55 pm (UTC)
You DO deserve Santa! But you also deserve much better media and schools that haven't been gutted by 20 years of funding cuts. And no Kardashians, or at least quiet, private ones.

What always amazes me is that even at a rather crap time like this, Americans don't give up, but instead come up with solutions where they can, like community tutoring and investment in their own education as adults (and watching PBS and other Kardashian-free zones). Even the GOP has small groups fighting against pandering to religious groups. This is why I could never be anti-American, even at times when I find myself anti-a-lot-of-American things. Your constitution is such a great document, and so often you guys strive to live up to it (the actual it, not the wacky interpretations of clauses and amendments that are like the Westboro Baptists' interpretation of the Bible.)

HURRAH for your bf! That's the kind of adult kids can trust!
women's lasers: dem - hillarysarcasticpixie on December 16th, 2011 04:55 pm (UTC)
hillary clinton is my "i am an american lady" userpic
This is what my thoroughly American and honestly-a-little-bit-rednecky-even-though-we-live-in-New-England* family used to do: Being good for Santa wasn't just a holiday thing. I had to be good for Santa YEAR-ROUND, because my parents had Santa's phone number and they would call him and tell him when I was being naughty. I would then burst into tears and beg to be allowed to talk to Santa, whereupon I would apologize for all my transgressions.

It took me until the second grade to figure out that Santa was just my grumpy uncle dropping his voice a few octaves. (Honestly, Uncle Bob was probably scarier than Santa. He is my godfather, so he conditioned me to call him "Godfather" and refused to let me leave the dinner table until I had eaten every last scrap of healthy grownup food on my plate.)

This elf sounds like a useless intermediary, is what I'm saying. I truly believed that once you had a baby, the Cult of Parents would give you Santa's contact information** as part of your welcome packet.

Oh, and all my presents still come from Santa. All the presents I give, however, come from Minerva, who is very thoughtful and has her own debit card.

* - We steal rolls from buffets and make dishes with Velveeta.

** - My parents also had Santa's address, where they would send the wrapping paper I picked out myself; my dad worked in a quarry that was a few towns north of where we lived, so he would drop it off on his way to work. I give my parents CRAZY credit for that one, because I was precisely the kind of little shit who would see the wrapping paper in the shopping cart in November, see it underneath the tree in December, and start asking nosy questions.
blamebramptonblamebrampton on December 17th, 2011 03:25 am (UTC)
Re: hillary clinton is my "i am an american lady" userpic
Hillary would not have an elf, you know. She would graciously hand the packaged elf back to the well meaning people who handed it to her and say, 'You know, I believe that children's imaginations can be stimulated without a whole lot of product tie-ins.' And the elf people would be ashamed and turn their factories over to the production of good-quality, low-priced, long-lasting children's play clothing of a non-sexualised nature.

Your family is pretty much my ideal American family, you know. Every story you have ever told me about them just makes me love them more. And as to stealing rolls from buffets, you're in New England! You never know when you might be trapped in a Severe Weather Event on the way home, or run into a horde of hungry squirrels!
★: spanking timeariannagray on December 16th, 2011 10:03 pm (UTC)
Wow, this "elf" looks as creepy and cheap as the concept behind it. ò_O
blamebramptonblamebrampton on December 17th, 2011 03:18 am (UTC)
True! And they cost $30. Not enough that they are all round grim, they're a rip-off!
Tarataradiane on December 17th, 2011 12:25 am (UTC)
I first found out about that ABOMINATION last year, and me and several other of the gals at work had a helluva time ripping it to shreds and coming up with creative psychological problems likely brought on by such a horrific 'toy' aka TORMENT.

Like I wasn't terrified enough by my older siblings as a child who would tell me things like "If you aren't nice to your dolls, they might come to life in the middle of the night and stab you." A 'moving' elf at that point might well have sent me into a psychiatric hospital.
blamebramptonblamebrampton on December 17th, 2011 03:18 am (UTC)
OMG! Your siblings were just mean! (Though I confess that I had several toys that were exactly the sort that would turn homicidal and I used to lock them away at night as a small child.)

I get the feeling that in the Middle Ages, owning one of these would have been reason enough to have you hauled up before the Inquisition.