|THE ELF ON THE SHELF: AN ELF'S STORY (cbs, 2011)|
Why was it such a misfit?
I know -- this one isn't that old yet. But it annoys me enough that I have to target it NOW.
"The Elf on the Shelf" is a 2005 picture book that was made into a special in 2011. A lot of people want their own slice of the ecks-mas pie, but "The Elf on the Shelf" had the nerve to print "A Christmas Tradition" right on its cover. If there's anything to be taken away from the entire Misfit Christmas Special pantheon, it's that you can't force that sort of thing. You can pour millions into an aggressive marketing campaign, you can scream into consumers' ears that your product is A CHRISTMAS TRADITION FOLKS REALLY IT IS, but you cannot WILL it to be so no matter how badly you want to sell the toys.
The notion behind the gimmick is that you stick a stuffed elf on a shelf, or above the fireplace, or wherever your kids can see it but not reach it. Then you tell your kids the elf is working for Santa and will be watching them all month, so if they're naughty, the elf will report them. I don't know how you feel, but I think this is a bit too creepy to adopt as law.
The commercial opens at Santa's workshop, where happy CG elves are throwing themselves into boxes that travel down a conveyor belt into a machine where they're sealed in and wrapped. It's the exact box design of the retail model that includes the book and stuffed elf, available now! These elves will be suffocating in there for the next week until they reach the homes they were assigned to. The camera follows one particular box from this point as it arrives in a family's mailbox. Two little girls immediately cheer as they carry the box into the house, then rip it open. All is bliss, now that they have their Elf on the Shelf™!
The parents are beaming with joy and the children are ecstatic...except one. Now that they have their Elf on the Shelf, their next step is to give it a name (this will activate its magic powers, says the mom). They're so happy to take on this task, they start singing about what to name it. The gloomy kid in the corner, Taylor, offers the first suggestion: "Stinkypants." MAGIC ACTIVATED!
Taylor doesn't believe in Santa, or Elves on the Shelf. His individuality is a threat to the spirit of conformity and he's just asking for a visit from the Buddy Bears.
The family sings a lot of names, and some aren't half bad, but they settle on "Chippie." I would have preferred "Stinkypants." After they set him on the shelf and go to bed, Chippie starts moving around and finds he can fly, now that his powers have awakened. He zips back to the North Pole in about seven seconds and excitedly tells his other elf friends about his new family. There's only one problem.
problem could there be?" wonders one of the other
EVERY elf in the area gasps (and there are thousands). They've never heard of a human being who doesn't believe in Santa Claus. Taylor is the first one in the entire world.
Have you ever noticed how dogmatic some of these specials can get? The majority of them assume the reality of Santa, to cover the small children who are watching, but some of them take it way too far. The Elf on the Shelf is more like a religious indoctrination film than a Christmas special.
Chippie makes it his personal mission to get Taylor to believe again. He moves an old photo of Taylor hugging a mall Santa next to his place on the shelf. Taylor sees it, thinks "hey, I remember that" and puts it back. But it doesn't cure him of his skepticism.
Taylor points out that the Elf on the Shelf can't possibly be a real elf, or they would see it move. His little sisters retort that if the elf actually did move, it wouldn't require belief and the magic of Christmas would no longer be in their hearts. Blegh. "OH YEAH?" spouts Taylor. He has the perfect plan.
"If the elf really IS alive, he'll react when I do THIS!" He points his pointer finger at Chippie. Okay. Was Chippie supposed to jump at that?
Then Taylor moves his finger closer and closer to Chippie, veeeeery veeeeery slowly, while the girls scream "NO, NO, NO!" and his finger gets closer, and closer.....what is going on?
Finally, Taylor's finger is close enough to Chippie that it makes contact, and the finger gently nudges the elf. The elf starts teetering off the shelf in extreme slow motion. The girls are in physical pain over this. Chippie plummets off the shelf in bullet time at .000000001 miles per hour, and falls an entire foot before he softly hits the ground.
TAYLOR KILLED CHRISTMAS!!!!!
The fall was so short that it wasn't enough to harm a seam on his vest. But it seriously broke Chippie's back somehow. When everybody leaves, Chippie has a lot of trouble and pain trying to fly, and ends up collapsing onto the snow. The other elves, flying by his house on the way to Santa's, see Chippie and become distressed. They help him up and give him a lift to the Pole, where he's admitted into Elf ICU.
When Taylor returns to the room, the elf isn't there. This, more than anything, breaks Taylor's skepticism a little. It couldn't just have gotten up and walked away....or could it?
He's pushed toward the light a little more when he sees his sad his sisters are, staring at the elfless shelf. How could he break such a Christmas tradition? A corporation said it was one!
"It just doesn't feel
like Christmas without our Elf on the Shelf™,"
whimpers one of the girls.
Then they sing about it, but I don't know what they said because I couldn't take it anymore and muted the cartoon. As for Taylor, listening to that sappy melody, he grows the strength of ten Grinches, plus two.
He writes to Santa that he's very sorry he lightly pushed his Elf on the Shelf™ and made it fall twelve inches, and that he wishes it would come back. Chippie, meanwhile, is still in his hospital bed in despair at how he failed. But once Santa shows him the letter, Chippie becomes invigorated and his back heals instantly.
He flies back to the McTuttle house, where everyone is overjoyed to see him back on their shelf! The frown on Taylor's face is gone. He is now a full-fledged, born-again Santa-ist and is planning to leave for missionary work in Zaire.
Why didn't it fit in?
To make matters worse, its blatant commercialism is very thinly veiled. The main reason it exists is to convince you to buy an Elf for your Shelf. At least Holidaze was up front about the products it was shilling.