Juliet Dunlop: All good in the ‘hood of TV Christmas

THE Archbishop of Canterbury scrambled onto the festive bandwagon this week, with a timely reminder that God has something to do with Christmas and that spending too much money on presents isn’t necessarily a good thing.

Juliet Dunlop. Picture: Ian Rutherford

Justin Welby aired these strange and outlandish views on a television programme which offers advice on how to get the most out of your credit card – a slightly incongruous setting, but oddly appropriate when you’re pleading with people to think before they splurge.

But even the archbishop, with his message about doling out cash we can’t really afford and that won’t make us happy anyway, sounded like a defeated man. “It’s obviously not what Christmas is about, but to be absolutely honest, there’s not that much point in saying it because nobody’s going to pay attention.”

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He went on to completely shatter our three-for-the-price-of-two dreams (available only at Boots, Debenhams and M&S) by suggesting that over-the-top consumerism – the kind we all know and love – causes arguments, damages relationships and actually “spoils” Christmas.

This flies in the face of everything we hold dear and know to be true: that rampant consumerism is the shining star on top of every bauble-festooned tree. Tat, expensive tat, is where it’s at. ‘Tis the season to be very merry and it has been since early October.

In fact, there really isn’t any point in Justin Welby standing up for the little guy (or should that be the Big Guy?) at this late stage.

Not with less than six weeks to go until the nation’s annual blowout, and definitely not after the supermarkets and department stores have set the tone with budget-busting Christmas adverts. Resistance would only be futile.

Take the new John Lewis advert – the one that cost £7 million to make and puts Disney in the shade.

It makes the commercialisation of Christmas look touching and wholesome. What’s not to love about a kindly hare, who buys an alarm clock for a bear, so that he’ll wake-up up in time to enjoy Christmas morning with the rest of his woodland chums? Including, I noted, a jolly-looking badger who has somehow survived the recent cull.

But it’s not just a two-minute cartoon: it’s a short, emotional button-pusher; a film which captures friendship and community and other things which money supposedly can’t buy and religion used to cover.

You can, of course, go to your nearest branch of John Lewis, just on the off-chance you’ll find those values, gift-wrapped and neatly stacked, next to the till. Only don’t tell everyone else, or you might end up scrapping it out in the queue on Christmas Eve. A bit like a hare and a bear might, in real life.

But if that doesn’t grab you gently by the throat, there are plenty of other warm and fuzzy ads out there; the kind to slowly talk you into buying almost anything. Boots, for example, has gone down the caring, sharing, snow-covered route with a twist. They’ve adopted a hoodie. Only he’s not really a hoodie out on the prowl, waiting to mug the nearest pensioner. He’s merely a shy teenager (of course he is) delivering presents in secret. Who knew our deep-seated fear of crime could shift aftershave?

But while some of the big campaigns are all about giving, the kind of thing Justin Welby might almost approve of, over at Tesco they’ve gone straight for the jugular.

Gone are the days when a close-up of a turkey or a trifle would have done.

This year’s ad is supposed to be a heart-melting home video of one family’s Christmases down through the years.

Only it’s somehow intrusive, slightly creepy and as genuine as a snow-in-a-can. We also have to listen to Rod Stewart crooning in the background. It’s all just too much.

But that’s the thing about these adverts: they’re a mishmash of consumerism and morality, offering phoney festive cheer and palming it off as something “magical”.

It’s too late of course, for Justin Welby to take out his own advert. Although, he could always do something with Wonga.

The Church of England once invested in the payday lender after all, and we already know Christmas doesn’t come cheap. I only hope he doesn’t resort to the kind of emotional blackmail involving bears and hares and hoodies.