The great Christmas advert battle has commenced.
You can’t make it through an advert break (especially if you’re watching ITV) without the peddling of yuletide fare. If you’re like me, you won’t mind that telly gets all festive in November but there are those who disagree vehemently and whose ice-cold hearts fail to be thawed by singing carrots and adorable mythical creatures.
When John Lewis dropped this year’s Christmas advert featuring Edgar the Dragon, an endearingly enthusiastic creature which tends to accidentally set things on fire much to the dismay of the villagers, it was met mostly with praise. Viewers applauded the retail giant for returning to its roots after last year’s Elton John advert fell flat (personally, I enjoyed it) and we all celebrated as Edgar is given a Christmas pudding to set alight. I can’t lie, it was an emotional rollercoaster and I’ve never been so invested in the wellbeing of a fictional dragon.
Even before its official launch, the advert amassed an astonishing number of views and parodies began appearing online. Housemate and I love Edgar so much, we felt all warm and fuzzy and spent more than an hour watching our favourite Christmas ads on YouTube. I cried.
At the time of writing, the John Lewis ad has been viewed more than 8 million times on YouTube. But not everyone has enjoyed Edgar’s antics as cynics took to Twitter branding the advert “crap”. “Same old s**t every year,” said one writer. “I just want to point out how unrealistic it is,” said another. I wonder if someone should explain that the origins of Christmas are based on some pretty dubious tales.
My personal Twitter highlight was the following comment: “I genuinely don’t think one Christmas pudding is enough to keep those cockwomble villagers happy. There’s like 20 of them at that table – that pudding will be gone in seconds.” Perhaps I dwell on Edgar’s fate too much.
But are we too disparaging of Christmas adverts? Aren’t they just supposed to be a bit of feelgood fun? The same could be said for festive films which are often labelled fluffy (you only need look at the critics’ appraisal of Last Christmas to see the scorn) and judged too harshly. I don’t know about you but I want my Christmas with all the cringe-worthy toppings. I want cute animals and cheesy songs. I crave vomit-inducing love stories and silly tales. I want Christmas on steroids wrapped in tinsel and fairy lights with a good old dose of joy. I want The Muppet Christmas Carol and dogs dressed up like elves.
And, yes, we should certainly be pointing out that we’re in the middle of an extremely real climate crisis and that brands pushing soft toys onto children (and, let’s face it, a large number of adults) is irresponsible, but that’s a whole other (extremely important) argument I’d be willing to make.
I will not be participating in the needless overconsumption that’s a by-product of the festive period. But Christmas is more than just recklessly buying things we don’t need, it’s about being with family and friends. I live more than two and a half hours away from my parents and it’s the one time of year that we’re all able to shake off the work shackles and just be together. Having experienced the loss of someone close to us, Christmas has become precious. The first viewing of a Christmas advert means that the countdown to this has begun. And, more importantly, it’s almost the socially acceptable time for me to put up the Christmas tree (I’m banned until December 1) and repeatedly watch Elf.