Did you know that the elf on your shelf is training your children to accept the inevitability of the surveillance state? Neither did we.

Digital technology professor for the University of Ontario’s Institute of Technology Laura Pinto thinks so, and in her new paper “Who’s the Boss,” she discusses the nefarious way in which Santa’s most popular emissary is conditioning children to devalue their own privacy, and using threats (have you been naughty or nice?) to elicit acceptable behavior.

EAG News has a helpful excerpt:

When children enter the play world of The Elf on the Shelf, they accept a series of practices and rules associated with the larger story. This, of course, is not unique to The Elf on the Shelf. Many children’s games, including board games and video games, require children to participate while following a prescribed set of rules. The difference, however, is that in other games, the child role-plays a character, or the child imagines herself within a play-world of the game, but the role play does not enter the child’s real world as part of the game. As well, in most games, the time of play is delineated (while the game goes on), and the play to which the rules apply typically does not overlap with the child’s real world.

And here I thought the dead eyes and homicidal expression were the worst things the elf on my friend’s shelf had going for it.

I don’t have kids. I don’t have an Elf. Until about two days ago, I had no idea that the point of the Elf on a Shelf was to conjure up a few moments of peace for mommy and daddy in their otherwise chaotic, child-filled world:

The Elf on the Shelf®: A Christmas Tradition is a cleverly rhymed children’s book explaining the story of Santa’s scout elves, who are sent to be Santa’s eyes and ears at children’s homes around the world! Adopt your own scout elf and learn the tale of Santa’s finest helpers. The whole family will enjoy this Christmas tradition.

Scout elf, indeed. From the man who brought us the terror of, “he sees you when you’re sleeping, he knows when you’re awake” comes this weirdness, and in gallops academia to ruin the fun.

Laura Pinto is entitled to write whatever she wants about how parents condition their children to not act like total animals, but that doesn’t mean that anyone must or should listen to her. I’m not quite sure when we all became so concerned about creating tenuous metaphors with trendy holiday props and what I can only assume is a very merry version of Hitler’s Berlin, but it’s time to put down the eggnog and give it a rest.

The Elf is damaging your child’s id. Christmas trees are a microaggression against shrubbery. Sugar cookies are gluten missiles aimed at our heads.

Just stop it. Seriously. If your thesis were any less asinine I would ignore it, but Laura, please. Close the laptop and find something else to do.


Or else.

Photo via Buzzfeed.