As any elderly person will tell you from the middle of August onwards… it’ll soon be Christmas; having reached mid November I think it’s fair to say they are now right. Indeed, the evidence of this fact is everywhere. Supermarkets and shops are full to bursting with overpriced, glitter-laden old tat; dropping temperatures and Danish detectives mean dodgy knitwear can be seen on any high street and not just on Giles Brandreth’s washing line; and men and women across the land are once more locked in the epic power struggle for control over the central heating settings.
If that’s not a big enough clue that the festive season is nearly upon us, the embarrassing neighbours are always happy to drop a hint or two – you know, the ones who can’t afford to get the rusty Capri without any wheels, or the sofa that has every dubious stain known to mankind on it, removed from their front garden, but who can afford to pinion a 6 foot inflatable Santa with a bare arse to their rooftop. And if you’re still not sure… well, you’re not the pointiest pine needle on the Christmas tree, are you. Just switch on the television and you will be left in no doubt whatsoever that ‘Crimbo’, despair and mince-pie poisoning are just around the corner.
Depending on your mindset, Christmas telly can be a thing of wrist-slitting tedium and rage or a thing of cheese-hugging comfort and joy. Personally, I fall into the latter category, but I can appreciate that large doses of cartoons, Muppets, Julie Andrews and Noddy Holder screaming ‘IT’S CHRIIIIIIIIIIIISSSSSTTTMAAAAAAAAAAS!’ isn’t to everyone’s taste. The only thing I don’t like about Christmas television is the adverts. In fact, I’d go so far as to say they push my latent homicidal tendencies to near-ninja proportions. Which isn’t very festive, is it? The only Christmas advert I like is that old Toys ‘R’ Us one, and I only like that because it amuses me to annoy my friends by breaking into song, loudly proclaiming ‘THERE’S MILLIONS SAYS GEOFFREY, ALL UNDER ONE ROOF… IT’S CALLED TOYS ‘R’ US, TOYS ‘R’ US, TOYS ‘R’ US, TOYS ‘R’ US, TOYS ‘R’ US, TOYS ‘R’ US (x infinity)’ at inappropriate moments – which, in their opinion, is pretty much any given moment .
Every year I brace myself for the onslaught of cynical, sugar-coated tweeness, and every year I am horrified anew by the sickly depths some advertisers will sink to in order to sell things that nobody, other than maybe the OXO mum and Su Pollard, would look twice at the rest of the year.
It’s always the same offenders too; the global soft drinks giant, who seems to labour under the impression that nothing says ‘Christmas’ like an articulated lorry and a man with overly rosy cheeks who may or may not be on some kind of register. The frozen food chain that sponsor a jungle-based reality show where contestants have to eat kangaroo bum holes which, no matter how crusty and chewy they might be, would still be preferable to eating one of said company’s Party Platters. Or the non-specific retail chain where middle-aged people who can’t afford to shop in Marks & Spencers go to buy fireproof nightwear, whose sole marketing gimmick consists of replacing the lyrics of a well-loathed song with brand names they’ve failed to push on their recession-hit clientele,such as ‘Rolex’, ‘Porsche’ and ‘Fabergé’ and then get as many over-enthusiastic stage school brats as they can afford on a budget of fifty quid, to sing, ‘rap’ and act like ‘normal-but-cute’ kids. *shudder* The result is something that would most definitely make the baby Jesus cry – which isn’t at all Christmassy.
Oh, but this year, we have a new winner. Watch this…
Well? Did you cry? DID YOU? If you didn’t, then watch it again. You must be watching it wrong. Because, according to a vast number of ladies on Twitter and Facebook, it is an eminently tear-worthy happening. How much this has to do with said ladies’ need to affirm their femininity by declaring their ability to weep a shed load of tears in time to their pulsating uteri, I couldn’t say. All I know is that it didn’t make me cry, and I once cried at a K-Swiss advert, so I’m no stranger to deep, emotional anguish. I just don’t get what there is to cry about? If the advert showed an itemised bill from John Lewis set to The Smiths singing ‘Heaven Knows I’m Miserable Now’, then I’m sure I could accurately re-enact an average day at Niagara Falls. But not for this advert.
Don’t get me wrong, it is cute and the message behind it, if you squint a bit so that you can’t see the blatant commercialism, is a noble one. It’s beautifully shot and it captures all those little bits of the season that make advent such fun. Which makes it all the more disappointing that they then made some very basic misjudgments that, ultimately, spoil the whole thing:
The child: OK, say this is X Factor. And say I am Louis Walsh, judging the scowly, wee moppet on… well, whatever, that part doesn’t matter… I would almost definitely say, with a fake grin and a mischievous twinkle in my eye ‘You know, you remind me of a young Adolf Hitler…’. I get that it is crucial to the storyline that he appear impatient and discontented, but I think they over-egg it; by the time it gets to the big reveal I already think he’s the most sulky, miserable little bleeder since Grace van Cutsem (whom I adore by the way), and no manner of good intentions is going to atone for weeks of anti-social behaviour and poor table manners, young man.
The ‘big reveal’: Oh, come on! That would never happen! I once spent some time as a child (yes, yes, some would argue the past tense etc *pulls face*) and I was an absolute angel , but every Christmas morning was the same, starting at approximately 4.30am when I would leap out of bed and gallop down the stairs, shouting ‘SANTAAAAAAAAA!’ and ‘PRESEEEEEEENTSSSS!’, before launching myself at the numerous parcels waiting for me with all the fervour of a Tasmanian Devil on a sugar rush. I loved my mum and my grandparents dearly, but family before presents? Screw that.
And while we’re on the subject of improbable scenarios… I don’t believe the child has something from John Lewis in that box. No. I don’t. As spoilt as he clearly is (tailored wizard’s suit, anyone?), I still think it’s unlikely that he gets enough pocket-money to make a purchase in the hallowed halls of JL… unless he’s got a couple of their carrier bags in there, in which case he’s not only the worst Christmas shopper, but also the most ungrateful brat, in the history of pretend characters. There’s been a lot of speculation on Twitter and Facebook as to the contents of that – it has to be said, rather shoddily wrapped – box; Charlie Brooker has a theory that it’s the head of the family dog, another witty soul (sorry, I can’t remember who) suggested it was the babysitter’s head… which is all rather gruesome and boy-like, and could potentially take the ‘jolly’ out of the holiday.
I think the answer is something just as terrifying, albeit not quite so bloodthirsty… I think he’s MADE them something. Probably some shit he saw made on Blue Peter, maybe a miniature of Gadhafi’s bunker made out of macaroni, or an orbital sander. Who knows, but whatever it is, I’m willing to bet a large selection box that it’s totally not worth the weeks of sulking his parents have had to endure.
The music: I like the tuneful melancholia of The Smiths. I do not like warbling bints. They’ve taken a perfectly good dirge and turned it into something mawkish, and that makes me want to growl and gnash my teeth like a bear… a cute, non-threatening, dateable bear, obviously, but a bear nonetheless. Those soulless bastards have taken a song that I’ve always thought is rather beautiful in its wistfulness and made it into something that Janet will probably sing on the Christmas edition of X Factor, if she hasn’t been consumed by her own hair or been given a Chinese burn and locked in a cupboard by Miss Misha, that is. If that happens, if Janet sings that song whilst dressed as the Ghost of Unmanageable Hair Yet to Come, then BY GOD, John Lewis will feel the mighty force of my wrath! Probably in the form of a strongly worded email. Or something.
Having said all that, and looking on the bright side, at least it makes all those post-Crimbo sofa sale ads we get bombarded with slightly more appealing.
So there you have it, a small Christmassy rant, lovingly wrapped and tied with a bow, just for you, to get you in the festive mood.
Don’t say I never give you anything.