Aaron R. Davis
[Editor’s Note – This column originally ran on the site on November 19, 2013.]
I know that complaining about this is neither new nor novel, but boy, do these Christmas commercials have to go.
Yeah, I know, I know. It’s a down economy. Stores are desperate for sales. This is just business. All of those excuses. But — and this is coming from a guy who loves commercialized pop culture Christmas much more than doing-stuff-with-your-family-peace-on-earth Christmas — I don’t like being a part of the culture this fosters.
When did you see your first Christmas-themed please-god-buy-our-shit commercial? Was it before Halloween? It was for me. The pumpkins weren’t down yet, and here was TJ Maxx introducing me to their obnoxious Gifter (or Re-Gifter now, since that same commercial’s been on for a year or four) and here was that gingerbread man stalking you in the name of shopping at K-Mart (since September, actually) and, in the most awful commercial so far this year, Santa Claus exhorting you to buy a Lincoln with such a smarmy, smug demeanor that even thinking about it makes me want to never stop vomiting. Here’s a tip, Lincoln: if your commercial makes me want that Lincoln to gain sentience and run down Santa until he’s nothing but red mist, you’ve failed.
I’m not one of those people who get annoyed or offended when you have Santa on commercials, but doesn’t it seem like every Santa is either obnoxious as all get out or twee to the point of grating this year?
And those Best Buy ads … Look, I expect unfunny comic actors to be on commercials, because if they were funnier, they’d have more steady work. But Jason Schwartzmann? Please. Maya Rudolph? Never funny, not ever, not once, sorry. And Will Arnett? I don’t get why so many of you like this guy. The only thing I ever need to hear him say is “Aaron R. Davis is right, I’m not Alec Baldwin and I can never hope to be. With club sauce.” But then they couple these irritating assholes with those rhyming couplets, so we can get the 47 trillionth variation on “’Twas the night before Christmas, and please buy our shit, we’re desperate.” The fact that any ad agency is still allowed to pass that stuff off as cute is just one more reason to be depressed during the holidays.
You know what I probably hate even more, though? The ads that try to be sentimental. I kind of blame Folger’s and McDonald’s for this one, even though I think those two commercials are some of the best commercials of all time. You remember. When I was a kid, and that kid got to skate with Ronald McDonald, I always teared up a little. And when Peter came home for Christmas, my Mom used to outright cry. But then everyone tried too hard to do sentiment for Christmas without showing just why, exactly, their product would be a thing that brings people closer together. A lot of it is just a manufactured tear and “buy our shit.” Or even worse, “buy our shit, because you used to like this other thing.” That’s what led to Folger’s trying to reproduce the “Peter Comes Home for Christmas” commercial and failing poorly when the brother returning from West Africa and the sister in the commercial seemed much more interested in enjoying each other’s bodies than in enjoying morning coffee. (And don’t you hate the way that asshole in the commercial says “Mmm, real coffee,” as though they don’t have any “real” coffee in freaking West Africa?)
Seriously, modern ad agencies: you rarely make me laugh, but it’s just insulting when you try to make me cry as a pretense for buying someone the gleaming product of Chinese sweat shops or one-armed African slave children. It’s in poor taste.
I said before that I don’t like the culture these commercials foster, especially when they’re so nakedly desperate. And I really don’t. I’m uncomfortable living in the current retail climate, which is teetering so far over the brink that we’ve turned Black Friday into a ritual to St. Capitalism and Black Thursday into a thing that exists. I will not ever shop on Thanksgiving Day, especially not at places that are actually forcing their employees to come in for hours because there’s a chance something might sell.
This is why I can’t work in retail anymore. It’s that anything-for-the-most-insignificant-sale attitude. Store’s in an unsafe area and you’re open until midnight, but no one ever comes in after 9? Well, you can’t close early, because there’s the chance someone might come in and spend twenty bucks, and that’s more than worth the cost of keeping the store running and the employees paid for three extra hours. Employee safety? Meh, employees are expendable. Hell, it’s probably cheaper just to let them get killed and hire someone new for half the pay.
So, I know this is me not knowing my place in the American order, but I just sort of feel like people getting a holiday off to spend with their family is more valuable than selling a TV. The TV can wait the one extra day.
I hate Christmas commercials and actively ignore them. I won’t watch any TV shows live this time of year, because these commercials fill me with rage and I don’t want to see or hear them. It’s so much noise and chaos, all in the name of squeezing a couple of bucks, and I resent it.
You know what gets my attention? Silence. Silence and a lack of desperation. Be quiet with me, and I’ll be reasonable. But until then, for the next 35 days (because my Christmas lasts one month, not four), I’m doing everything in my power to ignore you.
Unless Verizon does a Christmas-themed commercial with that Star Wars-loving family from their Halloween commercial. They were gold.
Aaron R. Davis lives in a cave at the bottom of the ocean with his eyes shut tight and his fingers in his ears. You can contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org.