Christmas TV ad controversy. But don’t worry, Santa will probably still come …

I saw this video all about Christmas TV ads (via @JulietDuV). And most amusing it is too. Give it a play. 


It mentions, of course, the controversy around the John Lewis Christmas 2011 ad. An absolute cracker (IMO) using The Smith’s song, “Please, Please, Please, Let me Get What I want”.
Perhaps I should have expected it, but I was surprised by the controversy. I don’t recall The Smiths or Morrissey ever being particularly anti-capitalist. I don’t remember any clear message about rejecting wealth and middle-class comforts in favour of, say, giving away your money to charity. There’s lots of comment in their work about how miserable it is to be poor, but none as far as I can remember urging people to stay that way. Yes you’ve got “Margaret on the Guillotine” and “The Queen Is Dead”; there’s an anti-Thacherite message and a republican message (let’s face it, not a really serious one) respectively in those tunes. But no call to arms anywhere to rise up and redistribute wealth on a grand scale. There’s sympathy with the ‘poor and the needy’ in “Nowhere Fast”. But sympathy is as far as it goes.
Decades on from where they started out, Morrissey and Marr no longer live on council estates. They are proper filthy rich. And so they should be, they’ve written some of the most enduringly popular songs of the last half century; literally, for many, writing ‘the songs that saved your life’. Those commenting seem also to have moved on. In age, certainly, but also in general wealth. I suspect that almost all those commenting on the ‘sell out’ to a store for the middle-aged middle-classes are, as whoever planned the campaign knew, middle-aged and middle-class.
Maybe it’s the journey away from working class drudgery within the story of The Smiths that bothers so many. Perhaps it bothers Marr and that’s why he’d prefer it if David Cameron hadn’t been a Smiths fan. On Morrissey’s side, his infatuation with working class British culture, and his interpretations of it, have led him into choppy waters on many occasions. Are Morrissey and Marr uncomfortable away from the council estate; ill at ease with their wealth? Maybe that’s why “Money Changes Everything” is an instrumental.
And perhaps the controversy surrounding the use of a Smiths song in a TV ad designed to make us want to buy things (the use of “This Charming Man” in JLP’s summer ad, also came in for a panning) is because we the nostalgia element forces us to look back over our lives, putting into sharp contrast what we were then and what we’ve become. We look at our well-established-middle-class-family-lives and wonder how we got here, and what role we play in the inequality we see around us, at the ‘lost’ generation of young people unable to find work and locked out of financial security. And we revel in that most Smithsy of emotions: guilt. Guilt at what we are. Guilt at not being able to help what we are. Guilt at wanting to be happy, being what we are. Perhaps we should take the advice in “Accept Yourself”.
Alternatively it could simply be that some of us don’t like being reminded that we’re all getting old!
In any event, it’s done wonders for the campaign. Just look at those views on YouTube … c.3.3 million and counting.


May I be the first to wish you all a Merry Morrissey Christmas.

Posted by Steve Taylor @shakeandvac


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