Monday, 19 November 2012

A bit of Critical Media Analysis for your Monday Morning

At the start of the autumn I remember making a rather rash promise to come back and do a post on the orgy of pleasure and escapism (and, in this house, also of wine and Mrs Patmore-esque pudding) that is Downton Abbey. Its non-appearance is, in part, due to a bit of reluctance to tarnish the joy for American readers by selfishly spilling spoilers, but also (much less nobly) because I evidently go into a mysterious trancelike state the moment I hear the title music and the instant it's finished I can't think of a single critically incisive comment to make about it. I love it all, and even when I'm howling at the television and rolling my eyes, I'm still loving it (which admittedly might have something to do with the wine and pudding.) Anyway, am feeling slightly envious of you US gals who still have it all to come. Here, we're already looking forward to the Christmas episode.

Talking of Christmas, it's still only November but already the advert breaks are full of sleigh bell sound tracks and polystyrene snow. Happily, my critical brain is in fine form when it comes to this year's crop of festive supermarket offerings. Forgive me again, non-UK residents, for whom the names Morrisons, Asda, John Lewis and Sainsburys probably mean nothing, but the following clips will tell you all you need to know. Let's start with Asda, who this year have decided it's a great idea to get us lay-deez to spend our money there by reminding us that, on the great Downton scale of things, we are definitely Team Servants. And our husbands, of course, are Lord Grantham and Matthew and King George V all rolled into one. Notice the cheeky little line at the end from the humorous boy-husband...

(No, you may not have a proper seat at the table; you might get ideas above your station. Oh, and while you're down there...)

I have a theory that Morrisons' creative team went to the same 'Feminism: Let's Pretend it Never Happened' seminar as the Asda chaps (and I bet they were chaps), but they were at the back of the queue for coffee and the biscuits ran out, giving them a darker take on it all. In their offering, our downtrodden heroine is not plucky and cheery about her lot. No. In fact, she is clearly a woman on the edge of doing herself harm and the whole thing looks a lot like an advert for a seasonal mental health helpline. 

('I wouldn't have it any other way.' WHAT???  You're not fooling anyone with that line. And PUT THE CARVING KNIFE DOWN.)

John Lewis are a definite cut above, darling, and their adverts are whimsical, high-budget and have great soundtracks. When I first saw this one I liked it, I really did. It has snowmen! And look, in snowman society the male of the species has reached a peak of evolutionary finesse way beyond human men, enabling them to go shopping! And yet... and yet... watch it back-to-back with the other two and don't you need to crack open the cooking sherry? It's all so... grim, this seasonal slog to equip ourselves with the trappings of festive overindulgence. You'd think these retail giants would have an interest in making it look easier, wouldn't you? I'd love it if John Lewis could produce a follow-up advert that showed the snow-woman whip out an ipad the moment her partner shuffles tortuously off into the blizzard, and order him something online. 

(Did you keep the receipt? I don't suppose you could take them back and swap them for another colour...?)

For me, Sainsbury's is the clear Christmas Campaign winner. Look, no tired stereotypes! Cute kids! Cute dad! And he allows the mum to sit on an actual chair at the table! I am filled with hope for Christmas Yet To Come when this boy will have grown into a man who knows how to work a dishwasher

Well done Sainsburys. And, as a reward I will do all my shopping with you this year, as always.  So, tell me - do these adverts set your teeth on edge too or do you laugh in wry recognition (because you're less uptight than I am?) Have I spent too long at the keyboard and become and joyless overthinker?