Setting Fire to Greetings Cards isn't my Idea of the Christmas Spirit, says Griselda Heppel
Ah, December. Christmas approacheth, and what does that mean?
Television ads, of course. And, oh my, do we in the UK have a bizarre selection this year.
How did this happen, this escalation of The Christmas Advert? So that all the big hitters – John Lewis, Marks and Spencers, Aldi, Tesco etc – feel they have to go all out every year to outdo themselves in lavishness and sentimentality… And do they actually boost sales, the point of advertising in the first place (though you'd never guess it from these intensely concocted minidramas)?
What is Marks and Spencer's fault is that they created such a harsh, snide, aggressive, angry advertisement in the first place. I’ve never in my life seen anything so completely opposite to the Christmas spirit, with people pulling faces, destroying board games, turning up their noses at the wine they’ve been poured, hurling a Christmas elf through the night sky and – a scene I found truly shocking – using a blow torch to set fire to a pile of Christmas cards.
Now to the John Lewis offering. This one is truly weird. A boy magically grows a venus fly-trap into a giant, scary Christmas tree (yes, totally Little Shop of Horrors). Sensibly his family put it out in the garden and get a proper fir tree. Little boy misses his sharp-toothed friend, now sadly drooping in the snow, and goes out on Christmas Day to give it a present. Flytrap mouth bends down, seizes the present, crunches it up, wrapping and all; then explodes it in its jaws to scatter numerous gifts to the whole family.
|Stupendous New York Christmas tree.
Well, funny you should ask that (oh all right, that was me). Because, judging by the reaction to this year’s John Lewis creation, they do. Though not quite (tee hee) as the Great Retailer intended (see below).
But first to the one there’s been all the fuss about. Yup, the M & S offering, which, because of popular outcry, had the scene showing red and green paper hats burning in a fireplace removed. It isn’t M & S’s fault that these are the traditional Christmas colours, nor that the public can’t understand that Christmas advertisements are made months ahead, quite possibly in a sweltering summer, long before the appalling events in Israel and Gaza occurred. Nevertheless, the retailer took note of current sensitivities and junked that particular bit.
|Christmas cards. Please don't set them on fire.
That’s right. Those cards people write to each other to wish them a happy Christmas, to catch up, to send love, to make isolated people feel a little less lonely. A truly nasty smile forms on the face of the actress just before she does this. Never mind burning paper hats in the fireplace (though that is all part of the nihilism), what were you thinking of, Marks and Spencer, in sending out this Christmas message? Just what kind of people are you employing in your creative department and is anyone who has a heart actually checking what they do?
|The venus flytrap -
famously cuddly and vulnerable.
From which we conclude that we should ignore danger signals given out by, say, flesh-eating creatures (here anthropomorphised into something I would not like to meet on a dark street). Instead, placate and feed them... and you will be richly rewarded.
I know, I know, it’ll be about not judging by appearances. But this important moral value was never meant to make us switch off our survival instincts, surely?
Thank goodness there is some sanity left in the world.
For a simple, touching, unsentimental message that goes to the heart of Christmas and what kindness really means, see what Charlie’s Bar in Enniskillen has made, for the tiniest fraction of the budget of the giants above. No wonder it’s gone viral.
Well, garden centres all over the UK are running out of that Christmas staple, the venus flytrap. Which will do wonders for John Lewis’s own sales figures. Er...
Happy Christmas all!