Saturday, December 15, 2012

The "Santa is real" narrative

Last year, I talked about how lots of kids actually believe in Santa.  This was surprising to me, because I  previously thought Santa-belief was a just as much a myth as Santa.

In particular, I remember lots of Santa-related movies, where the kids believe in Santa but the adults do not, and it's the kids who are right.  This is mostly a general impression, but to name a specific example, I watched The Santa Clause (starring Tim Allen) several times when I was young.  These movies did not strike me as strange at the time, but they strike me as strange now.

The moral of those movies was essentially, "Santa is real, and you kiddies should believe in him."  It just seems like a rather wacky moral to me.  It doesn't seem like the kind of thing which is appropriate to kids.

On kids shows when I was growing up, the morals were usually much more straightforward and incontrovertible.  "Don't give in to peer pressure."  "Don't be greedy.  Share."  "Be self-confident." "Eating too much candy is bad for you."  "Looting and polluting is not the way."  "One day you'll like girls.  Like like."  That kind of stuff.  The only things with questionable morals were the breakfast cereal commercials.

And then Santa.  Geez.  The moral is, "You should believe, because it's adorable when kids do that.  You should also believe because Santa happens to be real even though the parents believe otherwise.  Your parents are wrong."

I... I just don't understand the appeal of this narrative.  Why do parents promote this to kids?  I assume there's some religious appeal, but it doesn't make sense even within my mental model of a religious person.

(I believe the relevant TVTropes article would be Values Dissonance.  I also referred to Cereal Vice Reward.)


Nihilist said...

I think it's just a Tradition.
Also kids like to believe in the crap. Movies make stuff kids will drag their parents to see.

The movies/T.V. shows also help keep the myth going.

Nihilist said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Anonymous said...

I think you just about hit it on the head with 'kids are adorable when they do that'.
Why else would parents subject clearly reluctant - sometimes downright terrified - children to 'sitting on santa's knee' in shopping centres?
It's that slushy idea that childhood should be all about 'innocence' and 'wonder' (or bland, commercialized, force-fed versions of them brought to you by Disney/Pixar) - and, of course, it sells stuff.