He knows when you’ve been sleeping; he knows when you’re awake


I guess in retrospect, this almost seems too obvious of a connection. You should read the whole article (Elf on a Shelf as training children to live with panopticism), but here’s one excerpt:

Elf on the Shelf presents a unique (and prescriptive) form of play that blurs the distinction between play time and real life. Children who participate in play with The Elf on the Shelf doll have to contend with rules at all times during the day: they may not touch the doll, and they must accept that the doll watches them at all times with the purpose of reporting to Santa Claus. This is different from more conventional play with dolls, where children create play-worlds born of their imagination, moving dolls and determining interactions with other people and other dolls. Rather, the hands-off “play” demanded by the elf is limited to finding (but not touching!) The Elf on the Shelf every morning, and acquiescing to surveillance during waking hours under the elf’s watchful eye. The Elf on the Shelf controls all parameters of play, who can do and touch what, and ultimately attempts to dictate the child’s behavior outside of time used for play.


2 Responses to “He knows when you’ve been sleeping; he knows when you’re awake”

  1. givenarnold Says:

    Isn’t a distinctive feature of the panopticon that it cannot keep a constant surveillance, but its subjects are unaware of when it is and isn’t watching… resulting in constant good behavior. In this article the idea is that “Elf on a Shelf” has perfect surveillance. And if this is the case, could we also view religion as another form of panopticism?

  2. evanritter Says:

    To Given’s comment: Perhaps the Elf on the Shelf functions more like the watchtower in the panopticon than the actual surveyor. The fact that the Elf itself takes no action of its own but will report to santa claus at unknown times and in secret gives the child the sense that they must in turn become the watcher of their own behavior. In this way, it exhibits both traits of being omnipotent and limited- the child does not know if they are currently being watched, but they are promised that the seemingly-lifeless elf sees all.

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