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Christmas Ads, Naff Stereotypes and Festive Hysteria

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Christmas ads have become such a 'thing' in recent years that they now get their own trailers to help whip up a bit more festive hysteria.

Channel 4 actually had teasers before the 'release' of the John Lewis advert this year and it only takes a cursory glance at Twitter to reveal the extent of the love for them with multifaceted tweets such as, "I love Christmas adverts" or, (my favourite) "CHRISTMAS ADVERTS ARE THE ONLY ADVERTS THAT MAKE ME REALLY REALLY REALLY REALLY REALLY HAPPY" (which was re-tweeted 15 times if you can believe it).

But this isn't about the merits of the Twitterati, and rather the awfulness of the Christmas adverts themselves. Advertisers know that selling fantasy works and if Christmas is nothing else, it's most definitely a fantasy (I'm thinking the fat, bearded man who lives in the North Pole and has flying reindeer rather than the Jesus stuff here). But in selling the fantasy, advertisers perpetuate some truly awful stereotypes.

Take Asda, whose advert has (rightly) been criticised for its depiction of a stressed out Mum running around with a baby seemingly permanently strapped to one hip and a trolley choc-a-bloc full of useless tat her children will probably never play with and will no doubt end up as land-fill. Ahh, sexism and consumerism all wrapped up in a Christmas bundle, just what I always wanted.

Asda have said the ad reflects how mothers who shop at the supermarket feel about how much they do at Christmas. I get that Christmas is stressful for Mums, I understand that they want to create a magical day for everyone and that there's a lot of pressure. But where do you think that pressure comes from? Yep, it's adverts like Asda's. Watching it, you'd be forgiven for thinking that, unless you're peeling five thousand potatoes by yourself while feeding a baby and simultaneously vacuuming, then you're not really doing a proper Christmas and you should bloody well work a bit harder.

Well I'm tired of these ridiculous adverts that want women to either be prancing about in fancy festive underwear while shopping for sparkly shoes and sequined frocks (why does Christmas have to mean sequins?) for the "party season" like in the Debenhams ad or some kind of martyr mother-figure as the supermarkets would have us be. And for that matter, don't men get bored of the tired old cliché that they're too useless to do anything bar maybe man-handling the Christmas tree?

Of course you can't write a blog about Christmas adverts and not mention the big dog: John Lewis. This year's offering is a classic hero-rescue tale of a snowman that braves the weather to buy his lady-love some festive gloves (won't she melt?) accompanied by a breathy rendition of 80s pop song The Power of Love. It's sickly and sentimental and people love it.

Don't get me wrong, I like John Lewis and I like that the staff are shareholders (why aren't more businesses like this, by the way?). Their ads are famed for their ability to leave viewers in a blubbing mess. They do this by romanticising a fairy-tale version of the festive season which is nice, I suppose. The thing is, it's completely impossible to recreate - unless of course you spend fifty quid on a reindeer-shaped advent calendar.

In the past, once I'd bought the tree and the chic little decorations, wrapped the presents with some artisan ribbon, crafted a home-made wreath with hand-picked holly and ivy, baked some festive cookies and lit the cinnamon-scented candles, for some reason I would find myself completely sloshed on Christmas Eve after polishing off a bottle of wine and wondering what the hell was going on. And I don't even have kids! It's all just so much pressure. But it doesn't have to be this way.

This year I've resolved to try something different. It's called a presentless Christmas and it is awesome. And very simple. All you have to do is inform everyone in your life that you won't be buying presents and you don't want to receive any either. You might get a few whingers who accuse you of being a Scrooge but I've found most people heave a massive sigh of relief and totally get it.

And remember, big retailers don't create Christmas ads to make you feel all warm and fuzzy inside; they do it because they want you to buy stuff. But how about you don't ask for anything from Santa this Christmas and maybe then we'll see the end of high-street hysteria and all be a hell of a lot happier (not to mention richer).

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