Santa Claus, the prison guard

Just how controlling is Santa Claus? The child who behaves is extremely rewarded, once a year, in the form of a mystically jolly old man. Having been a child once myself, I remember just how determined I was to be on the nice list. However, Ryan Anderson on Savage Minds points out just how manipulative this myth can be. Though I’d never thought of it quite like this, Anderson describes in “Panopti-claus: Foucaultian social control for the kiddies” that such a large incentive is a great way to ensure that kids don’t misbehave. I’ve always been personally hung up on the magic and wonder of a flying sleigh and enormous man who somehow knew just what I wanted most in the world and flew ALL the way around the world just to deliver it to me. But Anderson sees it differently. In many Western societies, and especially in the United States, our parents are eager to deceive their children to make them behave. Once you’ve had a few Christmases under your belt, you’re willing to do anything you have to in order to guarantee the arrival of more gifts when December 25th rolls around again. Anderson relates this to Foucault’s study of the panopticon, or a central guard tower in a prison that provides guards with a view of every single inmate, but leaving the prisoners in total ignorance of what the guards can and can’t see. The idea that their every move is being monitored and judged is enough to keep the prisoners in line – and so, with this metaphor, Anderson equates St. Nick to a prison guard and children to inmates.