It’s pretty lonely up at the North Pole these days. Oh, sure, Santa has his elves and reindeer to keep him company. But not many kids actually mail the jolly old elf letters these days—just emails and, if they’ve got connections, maybe an occasional text. Even when St. Nick makes his annual December trek to malls and shopping centers across the United States, his lap-traffic is down. With online sales expected to increase by 14% this holiday season, not as many children give Santa their in-person Christmas wish lists anymore.
But Mr. Claus isn’t going to take being marginalized sitting down (so to speak). Santa and his participating malls are going high-tech. Some malls are offering what they call “Santa HQ 5.0,” wherein folks can pick out virtual elf outfits to try on (virtually speaking, of course) and a peak at Santa’s observatory. Another series of malls offer “naughty and nice” selfies as they make their way to Santa’s lap. These packages don’t come cheap: They’ll run visitors anywhere between $40 and $50. But, says Kurt Ivey, head of marketing at Macerich malls (and, I’m assuming, a part-time elf), “This is the type of thing online shopping can’t deliver.”
Also unavailable online—at least until recently: Baby Yoda merchandise. Despite the knee-high alien being, objectively, the cutest thing in the known universe, Disney (uncharacteristically) wasn’t ready to roll out merch related to Baby Yoda. Seems the Mouse House wanted to keep the little guy under wraps until its debut on Nov. 12 (on Disney+’s show The Mandalorian), and that kept Baby Yoda products off the assembly line.
“The way the cat usually gets out of the bag with that stuff is merchandising and toy catalogues and things like that,” Mandalorian showrunner Jon Favreau told Entertainment Tonight. “We really wanted to have it be that you had to watch it yourself, so that every time you watched the show there’d be new twists and secrets coming out. But that requires a lot of restraint from the people footing the bill. Part of that was holding back on things like merchandise.”
That decision just might cost Disney around $2.7 million this Christmas season. That’s a lot of galactic credits. In fact, while you’ll find some Baby Yoda merchandise available online, much of it won’t actually ship until May.
(Still, don’t feel too bad for Disney. “Disney Plus” was the most searched term on Google in 2019. “Also, for what it’s worth, both Baby Yoda and Baby Shark beat out [searches for] the royal baby,” writes inc.com’s Jason Aten.
But toys aren’t enough for some rabid Baby Yoda fans. Travis Bramble has introduced a change.org petition to make Apple add a series of Baby Yoda emojis. It has nearly 44,000 signatures as of press time—and counting.
Stymied by the lack of Baby Yoda gifts potentially under your tree? Well, you could always get all of your friends and relations a new Mac Pro. Admittedly, they can be a bit pricey. They start at nearly $6,000. Add in enough bells and whistles, and you could wind up dropping $70K on one. That’s not quite as much as Superman’s cape fetched at auction recently, but it’s not as far off as you might think.
It’s doubtful that these Mac Pros are being manufactured in the fictional country of Wakanda (homeland for Marvel’s Black Panther). But if they were, they’d surely be more expensive now. The U.S. Department of Agriculture just removed Wakanda from its list of free trade agreement partners on its Agricultural Tariff Tracker. (The USDA says that it had used the made-up country to test the new tracker and just forgot to take it off.)
While we’re on the subject of Christmas gifts, you can cross Mariah Carey off your list. The singer already got a big present, in the form of her 19th No. 1 hit. Ironically, the song, “All I Want for Christmas is You,” is 25 years old now, and (as we documented in an earlier edition of Culture Clips) is the gift that keeps on giving to Carey. But it had never hit No. 1 before now.
Social media makes it hard for some, though, to get into the Christmas spirit. The Chicago Tribune reports that Facebook, Instagram and the like were instrumental in making most of us a little unhappier in 2019. Count Britney Spears amongst the unhappy. While wishing her own fans happy holidays, Spears explained to them why she doesn’t share much on social media: “People say the meanest things,” she tells them. Liam Hemsworth may be rethinking his social media engagement after getting hit with a $150,000 lawsuit for posting pictures he didn’t have the rights to on Instagram. Bill Belichick, the famously curmudgeonly coach for the New England Patriots, has even less use for social media.
Bill Belichick on social media: “You know, I hate social media. …It still comes back to fundamental relationships and communication. There’s no cell phones out there on the field. …Who cares how many likes you get from 2000 people you don’t even know?” pic.twitter.com/BLIJkcFxiz
— NFL Update (@MySportsUpdate) December 11, 2019
Also in the news this week: women kissing. The Hallmark Channel recently yanked gay-themed, wedding-themed commercials from its network at the request of the conservative group One Million Moms (and affiliated with the American Family Association). But that sparked its own protest from LGBTQ advocates, so Hallmark then apologized and reintroduced the ads in its rotation. “We are truly sorry for the hurt and disappointment this has caused,” said Hallmark Cards CEO Mike Perry. “Across our brand, we will continue to look for ways to be more inclusive and celebrate our differences.” Meanwhile, another lesbian kiss—this one in Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker—is stirring a bit of interest, too. (You can read our full review here.)
Since we led off this edition of Culture Clips with some allusions to the commercialization of Christmas, we’d like to point you to a nice little story on Relevant that unpacks the significance of A Charlie Brown Christmas—a television special that shined a light on that Christmas commercialism and pointed us to the true meaning of the holiday more than 50 years ago. Writes John Greco:
I watch that television special each year with a lump in my throat. I believe that the angel’s declaration to certain shepherds about the birth of the Savior in David’s city is enough to melt even the coldest of hearts. Though nostalgia tends to fade with time, Linus’s reading of Luke hasn’t as I’ve grown older. But I don’t think it’s because of any Christmas magic in that old cartoon. Instead, I think it has to do with the power of the Word of God.
Merry Christmas, everyone.