It’s the middle of November and winter is well and truly upon us: the clocks have gone back (how is it the dead of night at 4.30? Just HOW), my Halloween eyelashes are back in their box for another year*, and dogs around the country can yelp a sigh of relief as the last sparkler gets stubbed out by a teenager on the back of a neighbour’s wall. This can only mean one thing. Hit it, Bing.
Well, yes, it is beginning to look a lot like Christmas because, thanks to our national obsession with television the Christmas advert has become unavoidable. They have become the topic of magazine articles, blogs and #newsfeeds. From the sentimental (John Lewis’ loved up snowmen with a peculiar choice of presents) to the scantily clad and questionably edited (See M&S’ contribution) to the downright sexist. Yes, Asda, I’m pointing my feminist finger at you.
To those who aren’t glued to the rollercoaster ride that is the X-Factor Weekend (will it be Ella? Which member of Union J is the least offensive looking? Can Jahmene hold it together this week?**) and therefore haven’t been privy to ITV’s barrage of commercials (or ceebs to click on this link) here is a quick run-down of the advert in question. We see a relatively young woman choosing a tree with what we perceive to be her other half. The scene slowly degenerates into showing her run around like a proverbial headless chicken with a baby on one arm and a box of crackers in the other, sacrificing the real chair for a puff to eat the Christmas dinner she’s slaved over, only to sit down with a glass of wine and have her husband ask in a hilarious aside: “what’s for tea love?” The final blow is dealt with the tagline: “Behind every Christmas, there’s Mum.”
Well, this just sums it up really. At best (and if this is best, imagine how bad worst is), the advert is just monumentally short-sighted: ignoring the millions of people in Britain whose family don’t fit the nuclear-2.3-kids-semi-detatched-house mould. The advert is nonsensical and, quite frankly, upsetting to gay families, single parents and people with no kids at all.
At worst, it’s an advert endorsing some of the worst traditionalist and misogynist opinions of women in the home. It’s an advert which celebrates women as shouldering all the domestic burdens. It’s an advert which, after all, says it’s totally fine that women’s place in the modern household is very much still situated in the 1950’s as its all they can cope with, and men are only good for putting the tree in the car and metaphorical pats-on-the-head in the form of bad jokes. On top of that, she remains looking young and unflappable throughout: suggesting that women are expected to do all the work and still look attractive at the end of it. Moreover, dialogue about the advert, with the exception of the Guardian, tends to be that the ‘handful’ of people who did complain overreacted, made more frustrating by the fact that many put the word sexist in inverted commas.
Perhaps I am overreacting. “Chill out Cat”, I hear you cry, “it’s just an advert”. But the truth is that anyone with a TV set is bound to stumble across this footage, to the extent where “the Xmas Ad” practically becomes a defining factor in what it means to have a modern British Christmas. There just isn’t room for another generation of young people thinking that it’s OK for women to undertake this outdated and ridiculous role within the family unit, and the backlash against the criticism just isn’t helping. And that, my friends, is the Asda price*** of an advert which has nothing Christmassy about it.
*They are fabulous. They look like someone stuck pins in my eyes.
** Meh, meh and almost certainly not.
*** Please forgive the outrageous pun.
– Cathryn Turhan @cattyfantastic