It used to be the case that until once glimpsed the Coco Cola lorry pulling into town, Christmas hadn’t arrived. Now, a different company gives you the okay to start bedecking your home with realms of tinsel, lights and inflatable father Christmases acting drunk in the wind as they wobble on your front lawn. The company? John Lewis.
Their advert not only now signifies the start of Christmas, it is also a cue for people to get offended about their money-grabbing take on merriment each year. I only knew that John Lewis had rewarded us once more when I noticed people talking on twitter about the man on the moon being a paedophile. Some people even decided this old guy was Jimmy Saville, which is a bit of a stretch for even my imagination.
In the advert, a little girl spies a man on the moon through her telescope. I quite like the idea; it plays into our childlike imaginations and reminds us of bedtime stories told to us by mother as we glimpse the mysterious, paternal half-crescent from our bedroom window. It also reminds me of religion now I come to think about it. Anyway, she ends up feeling a bit sorry for this lonely old guy, by himself on his cold, barren looking moon with not a friend in sight, she surrounded by a large family and a home decked out in the warm, inviting tones of Christmas cheer. By the end of the advert, after several failed attempts of contacting the man, including using a paper aeroplane, this thoughtful little girl manages to deliver him a telescope by tying balloons to the brightly wrapped red box. The man can now look at the little girl, she can look at him, and all is right with the world.
I wasn’t thinking of long-haired Saville or paedophilia when I watched the advert. Instead, my focus was on the message behind the man on the moon. How many people will be alone this Christmas? A time where children are jumping out of beds to rip open presents, families sat around tables full of food, wine, crackers and the cantankerous relative that always upsets everyone, many people sit alone, in cold homes with dismal Christmas television and a cheap microwave meal for company. This is what John Lewis was trying to get at, a not so subtle reminder of one of our greatest fears. Many people struck by the commercial probably thought more about themselves not being alone afterwards. Busy working out where the twelve people coming to dinner were going to sit in their tinselled lounge with the over large Christmas tree in the corner and battery operated singing snow men on the fireplace and making sure they’d ordered their turkey from the butchers rather than think about how one day the ping on that microwave might be the only sound they hear.
But, if our fears have been exposed by a shrewd advertising campaign that gets to the heart of what it means to be social animals, then do they also have a salve that we can rub on the wound?
It appears not. According to John Lewis the only way to quieten these feelings, subdue your humanity, and that would include feeling alone even if surrounded by others drunk on Prosecco is to get your wallet out. Loneliness as yet another commodity, used as another manipulative argument for rampant consumerism to act as a balm to our existential concerns whilst pretending they care about the aged.
Happy Christmas everyone.
© Copyright Henrietta M Ross