Friday, January 28, 2022

The woke confusion of John Lewis’s unlit Christmas jumper

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After all the bated-breath waiting, it has finally been announced. No, not the Booker Prize winner – well, maybe that, too. But what chance has an old white South African dude against the giddy big reveal of the John Lewis Christmas ad?

This is appointment television, 21st century style; peak capitalism when we willingly allow ourselves to be garrotted with our own heartstrings as long as nobody mentions religion.

Plangent acoustic cover versions of pop songs are de rigueur. Snow? Of course. But offensive talk of actual Christianity could be construed as cultural oppression, could it not, comrade?

Far better to focus on the ethnically diverse interplanetary dynamic between a hauntingly pale alien girl and a heartily festive boy who happens to be black.

Am I allowed to say that? Or is it worse to affect not to notice? Maybe he’s a “they” and she identifies as non-binary? Certainly, she doesn’t know how to eat a mince pie, so rule nothing out.

In our woke culture, any sort of assumptions, however commonsensical, can be deemed rude. (Hope it’s not too “problematic” of me to point out that John Lewis’s ethereal visitor from another galaxy does look really quite peaky…)

However, the main source of bafflement following the advert’s launch has been the boy’s jumper. His sweater is the real star of the show. Cosy and chunky, its LED lights flash with fabulously merry cheer.

What child wouldn’t want one? They must surely be flying off the shelves quicker than a spaceship taking to the skies as Priti Patel’s Border Agency Hummer screams to a stop in the dirt.

Except The Jumper is not on sale. Why? Because it transpires the lights have been deemed not sufficiently environmentally friendly, the garment is difficult to wash and as such will probably end up in landfill after a couple of years. Instead, John Lewis will sell a more “sustainable version” – without the fun flashing lights. Dear Lord, I think I might have just broken my eye-rolling emoji.

Why show it at all, in that case? Why create demand for something so inherently wicked?

I’ll tell you what this is about – it’s the purity spiral gone crazy. That’s the new term for the wokier-than-thou contest that whips up between right-on hardliners.

I can just visualise the eco point-scoring at play when the ad was first mooted at a board meeting, and a prim little voice piped up, wondering about the wisdom of disposable fashion. Cue panic stations. By their moral superiority shall ye know the Wokefinder Generals.

The purity spiral has probably already been visited upon a conversation near you.

“Sorry, I only eat organic food.”

“Do you, now? It believe it’s better for the planet to eat seasonal.”

“Seasonal, you say? I only eat local.”

“Hello? I think you mean vegan.”

“Only if it’s organic, seasonal and local vegan. Otherwise you’re a hypocritical disgrace…”

A lot was riding on John Lewis’s Unexpected Guest advert after the omnishambles of its recent home insurance commercial, with its tiresome posturing boy in lipstick, heels and a dress, living his best life by trashing the house.

But at least there were nice cushions to peruse and ponder. The new Christmas commercial, which surely channels that perennial heart-warmer ET, has some sweet moments (back to the mince pie again). But where’s the parade of stuff you can buy? Nobody likes a hard sell, but a glimpse of some covetable merchandise that won’t kill the planet wouldn’t have gone amiss. Instead, it’s just the usual meaningless jiggery-wokery.

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