It’s early November and all through the house ring the soul-destroying onslaught of Christmas themed adverts. And for every Moonpig.com and Lego and premature DFS January sale, there’s always one stand-out advert which everyone talks about. Last year it was John Lewis starring quite possibly the finest child actor of his generation. This year, it’s Asda which has produced a much-dissected advert which some people are calling sexist.
If you haven’t seen it, do so above. If you can’t, here’s a potted synopsis: a family are preparing for Christmas. They’re buying the tree, transporting the tree. It’s all very egalitarian and warming. Then slowly slowly, the male members of the household disappear from the screen until it’s just the mother doing the wrapping, shopping, decorating, hovering, tidying. Finally, chipper but exhausted she emerges from the kitchen to a roomful of men who ask her what’s for tea. ‘Asda behind every great christmas’, comes the voiceover. Oh! The hilarity. Tea? They’ve just eaten lunch! Poor. Old. Mother.
So far, the public have raised 20 odd complaints. People think the depiction of ‘mother’, en pinafore, essentially ‘running’ Christmas is sexist. That men should be involved, and the assumption of zero male involvement is archaic.
On many levels they are right – how modern it would have been to show a man cooking, or a grandfather washing up. But then does that smack of tokenism? For as much as I believe there are men who cook Christmas dinner, they are probably in the minority. I hope I'm wrong. But I don't think I am. What’s more, one thing that’s being ignored is just how badly the men come off here. In fact, in some ways, the more optimistic could view it as a celebration of female stoicism rather than degrading to women. Personally, I'm more worried about the fact that the children don’t pitch in at all either and that the only person who helps with the washing up is a female relation. But then again – like men, most don't. So is the reason everyone's so uncomfortable about this advert actually because it's so realistic. That it is the women who seem to do everything. Depressing thought. Especially as there are only 40 odd days and counting until the big day…
NB. In a statement, the supermarket said: "To any mums and dads who have been upset by our Christmas TV ad – we’d like to offer our sincere apologies.
"It wasn’t our intention to offend anyone.
"Our ad depicts what many of the 16m mums who shop in Asda tell us they feel."
"It is intended to be light-hearted and fun and in the main that’s how it’s been received."
"We respect all hard-working parents and know just how tough it is managing a family – particularly at Christmas."