Opinion: I Think the Elf on the Shelf is Creepy

I realize this is an unpopular opinion, but that Elf on a Shelf is creepy.

I know this is heresy because any time I mention my feelings about it (and believe me, I do so with caution after the first time someone looked at me like I had four heads and small children locked in a basement), I get big eyes followed by a snarly face and a j’accuse tone.  It’s as if I’d slunk up and slammed their religious beliefs.  Me, a person whom they had previously thought was good-natured, balanced, and sane.  I know.  What comes next is usually a firm, no-compromise explanation about why the Elf is the second coming accompanied by an unspoken (usually) accusation about my validity as a person.  I am reduced to dust.

I’m not that person who believes in telling it like it is at all costs.  I mean, I’m honest about how I feel but I’m also diplomatic and I know when it would benefit me to keep my mouth shut.  This has served me well as December wears on: it is impolite to be overly vocal about one’s skepticism over Elf on a Shelf.  It is wise to couch any unfavorable opinion is a gentle veneer of I’m just one person and I’m sure your child loves him.  You know what else I’ve learned I shouldn’t say?  That my mother once mentioned putting a hair over doll’s legs so you could be sure they weren’t getting up at night.  She was kidding, right?  Right?

As you can imagine, last week’s holiday party brought with it a troop of elf-lovers.  I felt like a traitor in their midst.  However, I’m a strong traitor and I discovered a few allies none of whom had the balls to vocally support the cause.  I’ve learned that the Elf reports back to Santa each night on the doings of the household and sometimes the particular naughtiness or niceness of the children.  I’ve learned that the Elf is a wonderful hider, giving the children something to look forward to every day.  I’ve learned that he does funny things that make the children laugh.  I’ve learned that he is the embodiment of joy and Christmas spirit.  I’ve learned that he sometimes (though not often) stands in a for an advent calendar.  I’ve learned that he’s capable of holding a sweet direction for the day.  “Decorate the tree!” or “Bake cookies!” or “Let mama take a nap!”  But you guys, does he have to have such a creepy face?


Just so you know that I’m not alone in a) feeling this way or b) being afraid of persecution, here are some other folks saying it better than I am:

(spoiler alert: if you are an Elf fan, you may want to stone me and these people so, to save you the quarry fees, here are some quotes from these articles just for you.  We’re all afraid of you.)  

—“An object that disappears and reappears is wonderfully fun” – The Atlantic
—“So innocent! So whimsical!…my kids thought it was hilarious…Why does everyone have to take everything so darn seriously?” – The Stir
“The Elf is a handy little thing to have.” – Jen from People I want to Punch in the Throat
—“You just like the fun of moving the little guy around, and having the kids gleefully search for him each day. It’s not so different from other holiday rituals, after all, like lighting candles or opening up the windows in an advent calendar.” – Salon

On to the links:

Morality, narcs, and the fear factor.
Parental pressure and feelings of inadequacy.
Some people need two elves, mess making, and parental comparisons.
Commercialism, privacy, and Facebook (also the endearment “crumpet” which, awesome).

13 Responses

  1. Jen from People I want to punch in throat actually rants about how much she hates the elf too. She went viral last Christmas with her post about how it’s yet another thing for those overachieving supermoms to point out how they are far superior yet again.

    I think it’s ridiculous personally.

  2. I think he’s a bit creepy too! This, from a mom who diligently moves him around each night and poses him in funny ways. The kid likes it and hey, as long as the creepy little bastard stays clear of my bedroom…

    There is a Facebook page called “elf on the shelf gone bad.” You would like it lol

  3. Oh thank goodness. I also find Elf on the Shelf creepy and I wonder when he took over everything (and by everything, I mean my Facebook feed). I had never heard of Elf on the Shelf before a few years ago. I like holiday traditions, and if this is one of yours, more power to you, but our house will stay an Elf-free zone.

    • Wikipedia says the elf dates back to 2005 (I think, I’m so lazy that I can type this but not do the search again) but I work with someone who is adamant that he had one as a child some 40 years ago. This concerns me deeply – did he have the actual elf reporting back? I’d be worried if I were him.

  4. THANK HEAVENS. I am not alone. I will say it – nay, shout it – loud and proud, to anyone who will listen: I hate the Elf.

    He’s creepy-looking. He’s high-maintenance. He wants to teach my children that seasonal demonstrations of good behavior are rewarded with material possessions.

    And, this is kind of tangential, but for little ones, the lines between Santa and Baby Jesus are confusing (at best!) in the first place. When you start mixing together stories of (what our family believes to be) an all-knowing, all-seeing, compassionate God of unlimited acceptance, love, and forgiveness with a judgy elf who reports your misdeeds to a higher power who doles out rewards or punishments… no, thanks. That’s too much to try and keep sorted out for any of us, much less the toddler/preschool set.

    We try to behave well – year-round – because that’s what we do. When we behave badly, we talk about it, apologize, forgive each other, and move on. We don’t withhold affection or presents or what-have-you.

    I have enough messes to clean up at night without creating more for the sake of whimsy. It takes all of the creativity I can muster to be a (somewhat) effective parent. I cannot fathom spending additional time, effort, and energy on the make-believe hijinks of an inanimate object and his thinly-veiled threats.

    *whew* Rant over. (This is clearly a topic on which I have some strong opinions…)

  5. I think it’s creepy and weird… also, I’m Jewish so, you know, we have our own incomprehensible rituals. (Look up kapporot on YouTube for a good, if mystifying, time!)

  6. I’m sure that it’s just because I don’t have kids, but I had no idea this was a thing. A creepy, creepy thing.

  7. I don’t like the surveillance element of it or the assessment of a child being good/bad, especially as it relates to being rewarded with presents. Plus, said elf just LOOKS creepy. That being said, I really like following the Elf on the Shelf Gone Bad Facebook page (https://www.facebook.com/ElfOnAShelfGoneBad) because it’s hilarious to see the ways in which people are using this creeptastic doll to do evil deeds.

  8. Oh, dude. We had Elves on the Shelves at my former place of employment, and I haaaaated the little suckers. When we got our own (at work, never in my house), and the managers wanted to have a “Name the Elf” contest at work, they got a bunch of suggestions along the lines of “Jingle” or “Sparkles” from half the staff, and “Creeper”, or my personal favorite, the slightly more subtle “Orwell” from the other half. No one is neutral on the Elf, I’m afraid.

    We will not be doing the Elf in this household, because I don’t want to teach Critter or any other children that the way to rewards in life is by sucking up to KGB-style informers. I’m (maybe) kind of okay with an all-seeing Santa who rewards good behavior, but I’m hella not okay with some little flunky who pretends to be your friend just so he can report on you to the folks in power.

    Um. Clearly, I have strong feelings about this.

  9. OMG I cannot stand it. Can’t stand it. It’s totally creepy and totally weird and WAY too much work, and I’d rather not teach my daughter that she should be good, because there’s a creepster watching her. ugh.

  10. I agree. He’s totally creepy and I’ve got this contingent of facebook friends who think he’s awesome. I don’t get it, and I could not believe those mothers who actually make their elf make huge messes in the night, from the “people I want to punch in the throat” essay. Classic example of people with too much time on their hands.

  11. I’m totally with you! And OhHenryThomas above gives a fabulous description of why I have issues with the whole thing theologically. I have enough issues with Santa and the naughty versus nice list and the good-behavior-equals-lots-of-material-stuff, so the idea of adding in a spy/informant feels even weirder.

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