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? 


ros said...

I hadn't seen the Morrisons ad. That's dreadful. Poor woman.

I mostly hate them all. So much pressure to pretend that everything is perfect, or worse to attempt to make everything be perfect. We will not be having a perfect Christmas in our family this year. I am fully expecting my sister-in-law's waters to break just as the turkey comes out of the oven. It will be hilarious(ly dreadful).

Scarlet Wilson said...

I find the Santa in the John Lewis advert more than just a little creepy!

Caroline said...

Soooo disapointed with the John Lewis one this year. I read in the Daily Mail (must be true ;o)) that it cost an absolute bomb to make - in New Zealand of all places. They shipped over red post and telephone boxes and made the roads in New Zealand look like UK ones with road signs etc. And if that wasn't enough - and get this - a lot of it wasn't real! The robin was computer generated, as was the town in the valley and so was some of the snow! OMG can you believe it! Next, they will tell us there is no such thing as santa! Caroline x p.s just realised I sound a bit sad - but hey ho - not much else to do on a windy, soggy island stuck on the west coast of Wales but read the Daily Mail and watch telly!

India said...

Ros, Marks and Spencer are usually the worst for that kind of poncetastic perfection - everyone capering around an Elizabethan manor house in the Cotswolds wearing evening dress and passing around an endless supply of high-budget presents. I wonder if Morrisons and Asda were trying to redress the balance with their wrist-slitting view of 'normal'?

Your Christmas sounds like great fun! (Make the most of it - just think, next year the day might be given over to a small person's birthday...!)

Scarlet, I just had to endure the angst of watching it again to search for the sinister Santa, and I can't see one! The kid outside the shop is pretty scary though, with his death-stare. (Did you mean Snowman? Because if so, I'm totally with you. Imagine him and his friends creeping up your garden path in the night with their beady, unblinking eyes...)

Caroline, noooooo!!! HOW COULD THEY? The robin was the best bit in it, too. Am totally gutted he's as fake as the rest of it. However, am emphatically not feeling sorry for you in Wales, Missis. Had idyllic few days there at half term and didn't want to come home. Shall invite myself to stay if you're not careful!

Michelle Styles said...

Okay, I don't understand the anti-women feel of ASDA, Morrison's and John Lewis.
None of which made me want to go out and buy.They made me want to go home, pull the covers over my head and not come out until Boxing Day.

India said...

Yes, that's EXACTLY IT Michelle! Where's the seasonal joy? (I suppose that's never going to be found anywhere near a supermarket though...) x

Sharon Kendrick said...

The Matalan one is brilliant - really cheesy but kind of believable.

After all the hype, I was distinctly underwhelmed by the John Lewis ad. How dare they feature a snowman and not even have Aled Jones in the background warbling: "We're Walking In The Air"?

But come on, India - do the decent thing and retitle this blog BAH! HUMBUG!

India said...

Haven't seen Matalan's offering - shall rectify that immediately!

(And why didn't I think of that title?! Was toying with something right-on and lentily about Wimmin but the obvious was right under my nose!)

Annie West said...

India, those first two in particular set my teeth on edge. What was everyone else in the family doing? I haven't seen any Christmas ads here in Australia yet. I'm hoping they don't have the same tone. Thanks for sharing.

India said...

Annie - so sorry, I completely missed your comment there!!

Hope you're now being as bombarded with Christmas advertising in Australia as we are here. I assume yours don't all feature snow, which ours seem to, in spite of the fact we only get a white Christmas once every 10 years. (I also hope they don't feature women doing all the drudgery.) Merry Christmas to you and your lovely family! x