Face it America, we deserve a visit from Krampus

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I had planned on finishing my fantasyland series this week with a look at how the 60’s Flower Power turned into the New Age power of thought, but a cold has got me down. So instead, I thought I’d follow up last week’s Christmas rant with a re-blog of my 2015 look at Krampus.

Sunday I binged watched HBO (you know I am sick when I sit and watch TV for hours on end) and wonders of wonders, the movie Krampus aired in the afternoon. It’s a movie that’s part comedy, part horror and while these two things do not pair well together, Krampus delivers on both. It’s a lesson on what happens when the spirit of Christmas is lost and how it is important to value those we love. It quickly became my second favorite Christmas movie.

So as I cough and sneeze my way back to health, I offer this. Things you may not know about the Krampus. Enjoy!

One of my biggest complaints against the war over the words “Merry Christmas” is that it isn’t all that friggin merry any more. Parents consumers battle for toys to stuff under the Christmas tree for kids who already have more than they deserve and will, without hesitation, ask for more just weeks after the season is over.

We all know about the horrors of Black Friday. Each year millions of parents rush out Thanksgiving night in the hopes of snatching up presents at low low prices. Part of this “seasonal” tradition involves trampling other parents or fist fighting over the last X-Box or big screen TV. For what? So that little Johnny or Suzie will wake up to find that Santa has visited late in the night; a man who is no relation to them, but yet for some unknown reason leaves expensive gifts for children to enjoy? Kinda creepy if you think about it. This tradition of allowing a stranger to enter your home while you are sleeping in order to shower your children with gifts. On top of that, he seems to have a naughty and nice list. Bet you’d be calling 911 if some stranger told your child “if you’re nice to me, I’ll give you a iPad”. But I digress. It’s not Santa’s fault Christmas is now a consumer’s wet dream. We’ve conditioned ourselves to take this one time of year to ensure all children, whether they are naughty or nice, get exactly what they want, even if it means running over someone else in aisle 3 to get it. What’s so merry about that?

Not that long ago Santa’s visit was used as a threat to make little children behave. They were reminded all year long that naughty deeds would ensure that Santa skipped them on the next Christmas Eve, or worse yet, leave coal as a reminder of his disapproval. I actually remember hearing a parent once sigh and say, “I was going to buy Richard a bike this Christmas, but he’s really becoming a dick, so it’s clothes and a basketball this year”.

Now that we (and by we I say Americans) are so enamored with the idea of the perfect commercialized Christmas you would be hard-pressed to find even one parent who uses Santa as a behavior modification tool. Santa is now every child’s beloved uncle whose loves is unconditional. What America needs more than ever is a reminder that not all children are worthy of such lavish gifts. Sometimes children (and their parents)need to be reminded that while they should always get what they deserve, what they deserve is not always pleasant. What we need is Krampus, Santa’s evil sidekick who plays bad cop to Santa’s good cop.

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Don’t know who Krampus is?

Well then here are 5 things Americans may not know about Krampus.

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What the hell is a Krampus?

According to Norse mythology, Krampus was once believed to be the son of Hel, ruler of the Norse underworld. In Norse mythology, Hel is the ruler of Helheim, the realm of the dead. She is the youngest child of the evil god Loki. Hel is most often described as a horrible hag, half alive and half dead, with a gloomy and grim expression.

So, what does the child of Hel look like?

His appearance is befitting of a demon from hell. Americans would recognize him as the devil, with matted fur, one cloven hoof, the other human, sharp teeth and large horns. He is usually depicted carrying chains or bundles of birch branches to hit bad children with. Other times he is depicted with a sack, which he uses to carry naughty children to the underworld where he will later torture and possibly even eat them.

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WTF? Why Christmas?!

In the 17th Century, some countries bordering the Alps reintroduced this once pagan monster into their Christmas traditions. Most likely because they thought their children were growing soft and needed to toughen up. They were experiencing extreme effects of the Little Ice Age, and thought the kiddies needed to be reminded “life is hell, deal with”. Or maybe they thought this yearly grab for presents to be getting a little out of hand. Either way, Krampus, demon from hell, became a part of the Christmas gift giving tradition.

No, seriously, WFT? Christmas?!

The night (December 5th) preceding St. Nicholas’ feast is known as Krampushnacht or Krampus Night. This is the night the Krampus comes out and chases down all the naughty children, beating them and stuffing them in his sack to take back to hell. Those that are left are given gifts by Santa (or then, St. Nicholas) during the following night. Some legends suggest the Krampus hunted down naughty children throughout the Christmas season. Today, some Austrian towns and villages continue the celebration by encouraging men to dress as the Krampus in order to scare the local children. This is known as Krampuslauf—a Krampus Run.

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The modern Krampus has a new PR agent

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While Americans may cringe at the idea of a demon sidekick for Santa, Europeans love and celebrate Krampus. These countries have access to his image in the form of candy, postcards, Christmas Cards, ornaments, T-shirts, hats, books, collectable horns, and this year thanks to Hollywood, his own horror movie, Krampus. The demon is becoming so main stream in Europe, some feel he is being overly commercialized and will soon lose his demonic power to scare naughty children into behaving. Who would have ever guessed mass marketing could be used as a tool for good?

But before Krampus becomes too cool, to hip for his original purpose I propose we bring him to America. Not to chase and steal naughty children but rather their parents, who act demonically themselves in the days leading up to Christmas. Perhaps a Krampus running around Walmart and the like is just the Christmas miracle many of us have been waiting for.

Works Referenced

NGO Who is Krampus? Explaining the Horrific Christmas Demon http://news.nationalgeographic.com/news/2013/12/131217-krampus-christmas-santa-devil/

Smithsonian.com The Origin of Krampus http://www.smithsonianmag.com/travel/krampus-could-come-you-holiday-season-180957438/?no-ist

And of course the anonymous internet and its wonderful collection of photos.

Vintage Christmas Postcard
Vintage Christmas Postcard

Merry Friggin Christmas!

Trump, As Seen on TV

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I’ve had some of my overseas friends ask about the rise of Donald Trump. “Has America gone mad?”, is the most often asked question I’ve heard lately so I thought I would devote yet anther blog post to this train wreck of a human.

I have a confession to make. About 10 years ago I was addicted to infomercials, which led to a mild form of OCD that lasted several years. Apparently if I hear the phrase, “This (fill in the blank) is a must for keeping your house clean” I have to have (fill in the blank). Thanks to this addiction I own three vacuum cleaners, a steam cleaner (I love this gadget), all sorts of cleaning agents, and two mops. I cannot blame guests who mistakenly think I own a cleaning service.

My infomercial induced OCD would, at times, override my common sense. Once, right before a date, I was on my hands and knees using my steam cleaner on the bathroom floor because I found two strands of hair on the floor. Thankfully my date didn’t run out the door when he found me wiping the floor, but he did have a hard time using my bathroom after that. Looking back, I don’t blame him. I must have looked insane as I tried to explain why I wasn’t ready to go out yet. “Two hairs, two, damn it”. Out damn hair, out!

Infomercials work because the makers of these mini horror movies have years of research behind them. Unlike traditional 60-second ads, designed to generate name recognition, infomercials use up to 30 minutes, in some cases up to 60 minutes (The Home Shopping Network has a mix of both, which is what hooked me) and are self-contained stories. Infomercials don’t just ask that you trust their brand; they have the airtime to tell you why you should. Infomercials must capture viewers’ interests, inspire them to get off the couch, grab a pen, write down an 11-digit number, dial that number and buy – product unseen. In order to do this, some psychology must be used. Good infomercials just don’t tell a story, they engage the viewer by pulling them into the story. This is done by first asking questions:

Are you tired of?

Do you ever wish?

Did you know?

Effective marketing establishes a need and tricks the viewer into thinking this is his or her need.

Next they lay out their wares as the very tools to fulfill this need by using some key phrases:

What if I told you..

This (fill in the blank) is the very thing you need.

All you need to do is..

After establishing both need and solution, the makers of infomercials spend the next 28 minutes showing you why you have this need and how to solve your problem. They use buzz words over and over again so that the gullible viewer, hearing them over and over, becomes convinced this is the very solution they need, even though minutes before, they didn’t even know the problem existed! Some buzzwords are:

Innovative

Life changing

Game changing

Huge

Beautiful

The best!

Money saving

Consumers, research has shown, will respond to positive messages/words if they hear them over and over again. Once convinced they have a problem, they will easily hand over money for the solution, especially if they think they are getting a good deal. This is why the old, “wait, there’s more” or, “We’ll throw in (fill in the blank)” catch phrases are so effective in selling crap. Viewers not only want their problems solved, they want to think they are getting one over on the company.

Research has also shown that viewers respond to fear and self-doubt. These infomercials may start with questions like:

Are you worried that…?

Does your family’s safety concern you?

Does (fill in the blank worry) keep you up at night?

Doesn’t your family deserve the best?

These types of questions rely on the viewers’ susceptibility to such questions. Once we humans are alerted to a possible danger our emotional responses replace our rational thought. It is through the manipulation of our emotions that allow infomercial companies to rake in billions of dollars each year, even though most of the stuff they sell is crap. I was once fooled into buying an “innovated cleaning cloth” that allowed colored clothes to be washed with whites. The cloth was marketed to “capture” bleeding colors so that the whites would remain white. No, no it didn’t. All it did was tie dye my then husband’s white T-shirts. He was not amused and I felt like a complete fool.

In short, infomercials prey on consumer’s vulnerabilities and insecurities by introducing a manufactured problem and cheaply designed solution. They are successful because they know what words to use and how to use them. They have years of marketing research that assists them to gain our trust and our loyalty. But underneath they are nothing but snake oil salesmen out to make a buck; not at all interested in giving the consumer something work paying for.

So what does this have to do with Donald Trump? I think you know where this is going..

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It occurred to me last night, as I watched in horror and fascination, Trump’s “press conference, in which he displayed many Trump products, that he is nothing more than a human infomercial. I tweeted this idea tout because it answered the question, “Has America gone mad?” No my friends, America has not gone mad, but some of us have sadly bought into this sleek but slimy infomercial. Trump, who is a master salesman, has taken many of the same principles found in infomercial marketing and made them his own. He is preying on our fears and has not only outlined a manufactured problem, America is in trouble” he has come up with a cheap solution, “Let’s make America great again” and has spend months selling a story that backs up his claims. Those who follow him have allowed their emotional response to override their rational thought process. They are so scared that America is not great anymore that they forget that Trump, in all his years in business, has never done anything for America. He has always been in it for himself. This quest to be our national leader is nothing more than a bid to be even more powerful; it’s a “personal best” goal. Nothing this man has ever done has been for the greater good, yet thanks to his infomercial like campaign, people are lining up to get a good deal. But a good deal he is not.

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It’s time to turn off the human infomercial and realize that though we may have real problems, this cheap suite, this snake oil, is not the solution. He is nothing more than a product, as seen on TV.

Works referenced

Consumer Reports Should you buy this now?

Research Gate Infomercials and Advertising effectiveness: An empirical study