Monty, this is all your fault
John Lewis’s mascot of choice waddled onto our screens in November (November?!) with the sole purpose of warming our hearts and reminding us how joyous the…hang on a minute. No he didn’t. Under his feathers he harbours a ruthless and calculated intention to make us part with our money. £95 in fact, if you want your very own Monty the penguin. The fact that, as a society, we’re willing to justify spending that amount of money on a needless piece of stuffing is worrying.
Monty’s also got a dark past – rather than being the embodiment of a child’s imagination, he’s actually the product of countless meetings, probably held by hipsters in boat shoes in a converted tube carriage in Dalston, who’d been commissioned by John Lewis to disguise aggressive marketing with cuteness and schmaltz. No wonder the advert reduced some people to tears.
I want that one, and that one, and that one…
“One big present, or lots of litte ones? I’m hoping for a Chanel handbag [string of emojis]” read the Tweet that made me want to sell all my possessions, personally deliver the proceeds to a worthwhile charity, then shoot myself (in that order). The materialistic Tweeter then went on to describe how they were digitally curating their Christmas list by way of emailing links to things they wanted to family and friends. Is this what we do now? I’ve always been one of those who finds the practice of requesting gifts when you get married mildly offensive, but this takes the mince pie.
I understand that parents and relatives are often insistent on buying you stuff, so it makes sense to give them a little guidance. But do you really need to take the same approach with friends, who are presumably in varying states of financial security? And a Chanel handbag? Nobody needs one of those. I look around and see things I wouldn’t mind owning all the time, but more often than not, I can keep existing happily without them. Just like your five-year-old child can live happily without an iPad that will probably be smashed within three weeks.
Something we always hear about in the foggy, bloated aftermath of Christmas is the ‘January slump’. It’s reportedly the most depressing month of the year, because we’re all fat, hungover and bored of all those Chanel handbags we didn’t really need. Look on the bright side, though – at least we can go into work and boast about all the clutter that was bestowed upon us. ‘What did you get for Christmas?’ is usually the first utterance from colleagues upon the return to the office. Not ‘how was your time with family?’ or ‘did you enjoy the holidays?’ but basically, a thinly veiled investigation into what new possessions you can now be judged on. When I invariably answer ‘not much, I didn’t really need anything’, I’m met with pity and shock. And this is the most depressing aspect of January; it’s an annual reminder that, to some people, you’re only as good as the stuff you own. Of course, giving presents is a different matter when it’s done with a genuine altruism, but this thing called Black Friday came along and wiped out any semblance of joy that once came with buying gifts.
Black, black Friday
We didn’t need Halloween, sweet sixteen parties or frat-boy culture, but America gave them to us anyway. Latest on the list of dubious cultural adoptions from across the pond is Black Friday, which is basically one huge, nationwide punch-up over large technological items. Props to the press, though – the idiocy of the people who actually tackled each other to the ground over a big telly was largely recognised. The Evening Standard’s Lucy Tobin called it a ‘nauseating pseudo-phenomenon’, and sadly, it’s an accurate representation of exactly what Christmas is to the sort of people who email their friends asking for Chanel handbags.
Monty the penguin, in all his festive lovesickness, is no more than a refined way of getting the people with too many brain cells for Black Friday to buy into the commercial hysteria. How many gadget-demanding, TV-in-their-bedroom children actually know that Christmas started because of a potentially fictitious bloke called Jesus, and isn’t just a name for our desire to have more stuff than the next guy?
Let’s remember Dapper Laughs for a minute. One of the many, many valid reasons for the call to end his career was the harmful stereotypes he perpetuated. Everyone hates a harmful stereotype, don’t they? Christmas strikes again here, with the incessant imagery of jolly family dinners, benevolently grinning relatives and mums who stockpile frozen canapés from Iceland. Why is it never the TV dad dishing up the dinner? (Peter Andre plugging frozen goods is, I suppose, a feeble step forward). Aside from gender roles, there’s also the assumption on the part of brands that everyone has a giant extended family straight out of the Waltons. Pity is the default response to those of us with no surviving grandparents and one miserly aunt who only phones when someone’s dead. My Christmas isn’t miserable, though; my parents and I sit around eating in our pyjamas all day watching Pixar films, and my local pub becomes a impromptu school reunion. But those depictions of enormous get-togethers make me feel as if my festive set-up is inferior.
Christmas is criminal. It’s turning us into slavering materialists constantly vying for the hugest party and the most expensive gifts, and it’s time we got rid of it once and for all. The radical alternative, of course, is for us to calm the fuck down, and be thankful for all the things we’ve already got.