Laura Pinto and Selena Nemorin, Who’s the Boss? “The Elf on the Shelf” and the normalization of surveillance, Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives, Dec 1, 2014
The Elf on the Shelf® is a special scout elf sent from the North Pole to help Santa Claus manage his naughty and nice lists. When a family adopts an elf and gives it a name, the elf receives its Christmas magic and can fly to the North Pole each night to tell Santa Claus about all of the day’s adventures. Each morning, the elf returns to its family and perches in a different place to watch the fun.
After several years of observing parents and teachers sharing photos of Elf on the Shelf dolls in various (sometimes compromising!) poses on social media, our curiosity led us to critically examine this cultural phenomenon.
The Elf on the Shelf is a wildly popular, Christmas-themed book that comes with a doll to reinforce the story in home and school settings. The purpose of this article is to explore theoretical and conceptual concerns about the popularity and widespread educational use of The Elf on the Shelf in light of the contemporary literature on play and panoptic surveillance.