Christmas: a time of peace, goodwill, and it turns out racism. This year’s John Lewis Christmas advert, Unexpected Guest, has been released and it has been met by a vocal minority with accusations of ‘wokery’ – shorthand for what most of us pleasant people would call modern and progressive.
Just so we are clear, the storyline of the advert centres around a boy meeting an alien and introducing them to Christmas. There’s a sort of love story between them and overall, it’s basically ET meets driving sales to a department store. The main point to make is nothing about that should be controversial. However, the fact the boy at the centre of the advert is black (and to some who are really stretching it, the fact the alien is white) is enough to cause outrage on social media.
Unsurprisingly these ridiculous outbursts can mostly be found on Twitter. In the comments section of the YouTube upload of the advert, it is a real challenge to find any criticisms based around race and ‘wokeness’. However, type John Lewis into Twitter and there it all is, mostly from the expected profiles with either no picture of the person behind it or with British and English flags in their name (and often both). The culture war is at its highest presence on Twitter and it seems it only takes something as small as black people in an advert for the troops to be rallied to the defence of some idealist dystopia in which Britons are the champions of the world and all the minority groups (which seem to have such a hold over these complainers) just disappear.
Now it is of course important to exercise some perspective when talking about Twitter, after all, it represents a minority of the population, and it can easily become an echo chamber where the same buzzwords are bounced around between a few people with little thought. What is perhaps scarier is how reminiscent these comments will be for many who have heard them from people in their real lives, particularly older relatives. Discussions of ‘wokery’ and ‘snowflakes’ represent a looming menace in our society – that of the people who are simply unwilling to accept values change. What may not have been acceptable before is now, and it is certainly acceptable for black people to be the stars of a British Christmas advert.
On Twitter, John Lewis defended their advert, saying varying opinions do not “excuse the racist responses” and they were absolutely right to do so. While it is, of course, important to acknowledge how the retailer’s ultimate goal is to make money, having a black person in an advert does not mean they are ‘appealing to the snowflakes,’ it is just a representation of what modern Britain looks like, whether you like it or not. So, internet trolls, think before you type, get with the times, and lighten up – it’s almost Christmas!