It's Christmastime, and that can only mean one thing: your Facebook timeline is flooded with pictures of your friends' kids, and their Elf on the Shelf.
The "Elf on the Shelf" calls itself a Christmas tradition. It might have been, for the lady who wrote the book about it and started the national merchandising craze in 2005; after all, knee-hugging elf figurines have been around (and creepy) since at least the 1940's. The tradition, here, is to put this elf up on a shelf in a different place in the house every day, so as to give the impression that it's moving around at night and always watching, like a tiny, dead-eyed plastic and felt Edward Cullen. (Rather conveniently, if your child touches the elf, all of the magic goes out of it and Santa stops coming, hence keeping your child from screwing up all your hard work and questioning whether Santa's really watching them through a network of nanny cams like Bruce Wayne's at the end of The Dark Knight.)
In 2011, the Elf on the Shelf joined the hallowed pantheon of My Little Pony, GI Joe, She-Ra, and He-Man by getting its very own utterly terrible half-hour special designed entirely to shill more toys. In 2012, the Elf on the Shelf muscled its way into the Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade.
At least on my timeline, Facebook gets taken over every December by photos of The Elf on the Shelf, and what it's doing for the day. Oh look, today the Elf on the Shelf sat on the mantelpiece. Today the Elf on the Shelf accosted your child on its way to school like a bloody Sphinx and refused it passage unless the child answered its pointless fact-recitation questions. Today the Elf on the Shelf drank itself into despair while watching an empty space where an allegedly competent football team used to be. Today the Elf on the Shelf bought a bunch of junk on Mommy's credit card. Today the Elf on the Shelf sealed its fate as a future dog toy. Today the Elf on the Shelf took a dump. Today, the Elf on the Shelf disguised itself as a poinsettia, in order to better condition your children to the future revelation that a shadowy entity with little government oversight is always watching them, but will ultimately deal out very few consequences.
I have a number of objections to this Elf on the Shelf thing, perhaps the most petty among them being that less than a decade does not make a "tradition." But perhaps my biggest objection is that they're boring as hell. I do not give a single fuck what your Elf on the Shelf is up to. I don't care if it finally located the Rob Ford Crackstarter video. I don't care if it went to Vegas and woke up to find that it had switched faces with Nicholas Cage. I don't care if it got an engraved invitation to the Queen of England's High Tea and Afternoon Key Party. I don't care if it takes its face off and reveals a Guy Fawkes mask, and then takes that off and reveals that it's secretly Adrien Chen.
It's not that I hate magic for kids—I love that. Dinovember was one of the coolest things I've ever seen. But this goes beyond the level of Dinovember into the cynical cashing-in phase, of selling Dinovember kits and books and tie-in movie specials, and suddenly everyone on your Facebook timeline is doing Dinovember too. If you put a lot of work into your Elf on the Shelf, that's great; keep a scrapbook so your kids can look back and remember the things they used to believe. If you're in it for Best Parents Ever points, take it to Pinterest. But don't do it because you think we care.