It has become de rigueur among my peers to sneer at the manipulative, saccharine and by now frankly quite formulaic ads John Lewis airs for Christmas. And if one doesn’t object to those aspects of the ads, one must at least object to how much people talk about how good they are.
There’s a quite distasteful undercurrent of snobbishness in this, as if something that is sweet and fun and maybe makes you feel a bit warm and teary is somehow terribly unbecoming, or underserving of any approbation; in the context of the old divide between high and low art, this is subterranean, and my dear, it’s an advert! How can it possibly have any soul? It’s there to sell you things; wake up, sheeple!
Fuck all that. Seriously; fuck all that. This year’s is lovely, and I think you’ll be a better, more open and loving person if you don’t join in with the fashionable wave of negativity and dismissal.
While I was rewatching it (yes, guys; rewatching it) it struck me that part of the reason it’s so strong – and why I at least bought so completely into it that the reveal at the end hit me unexpectedly hard – is that the penguin is so penguiney. It’s barely anthropomorphised at all – it’s up to us to infer its emotions and its story rather than it being heavily implied. Sure, there are hints, but the makers realised that part of the reason we love penguins so much is because of their distinctive little mannerisms and quirks; these are penguins, not men in penguin costumes.