It’s December! In other words, all the Christmas adverts have been up for a while. Each year, the competition becomes fiercer for how imaginatively big brands can convince us to spend with them. Now for the Little Box of Books assessment of their faults and merits.
If you didn’t see the Christmas advert in 2020, you should check it out. It features a very sweet grandmother-granddaughter relationship. When the ear falls off the grandmother’s old Mickey Mouse doll, the granddaughter mends it for her. As a little sidenote: if you’d like a book that celebrates the bond between grandparent and grandchild, we recommend My Grandma and Me by Mina Javaherbin or Jessica Love’s Julian is A Mermaid. It is crucial for children to foster doting relationships beyond the ones they have with their parents.
In 2021, the granddaughter is all grown up with a family of her own. Only this Christmas, there is a new addition to the family – the stepdad. With a new stepdad, comes the gelling of two families together: the stepdad’s relatives also become a part of the Christmas scene. The stepdad bonds with the children through stories and films. When he accidentally breaks the gingerbread-house they’ve all been making, his relationship with his stepchildren seems like it might be in jeopardy. But he fixes it. And the newly formed family come together once more.
Overall, Disney’s Christmas advert is heart-warming. As Little Box of Books was founded partly because of a lack of positive representation of blended families (stepmothers are only ever evil in fairy tales!), it is great to see a depiction of a blended family on such a mainstream platform. Those of us that come from blended families might be a little wiser as to just how easily that blending happens and know that it maybe isn’t all as sweet as Disney makes out. (Though they are Disney, so it is to be expected). The advert is a little heavy on product placement and wistful, longing looks.
It is good to see an advert with an interracial couple at the centre, but true, authentic representation is never just about people of all different races and backgrounds being dropped into white middle class traditions and scenes. Authentic representation means bringing in multi layered cultural references that speak to audiences who don’t get seen in mainstream media. There is much more that defines us than our skin colour and appearance. This family are very much assimilated – and assimilated into Disney culture at that.
At Little Box of Books, we hand-pick our books with authentic representation in mind. People of different ethnicities should not have to have their cultures erased to be included, it is not just optics that are important. To this end, we recommend Kelly Yang’s Front Desk for an honest depiction of the life of a family who have emigrated from China to America. Jasbinder Bilan’s book Aarti & the Blue Gods delves into Hinduism.
When Nathan spots a spaceship land in the forest, he befriends the alien and teaches her all about Christmas. From taking the silver foil off the mince pie before it enters your mouth to how to light up a Christmas tree. Nathan is played by rising star Jordan Nash. Nash played the first black Peter Pan in Come Away. At its core is a message that we can get behind: forming a strong connection to someone, regardless of how different their background might be to yours. We’re all a little alien to each other but that doesn’t mean we can’t share a mince pie.
A schoolboy nervously plays the organ in front of his school. But his (early Christmas present) shoes really kick off the show. They are glittery and fabulous. Before you know it, even the girls are looking up from their phones and feeling the Christmas spirit. The once-familiar setting of the packed school hall is cheerful and fun. It reminds us of what we took for granted in our pre-pandemic lives and what we (fingers crossed) have to look forward to.
Joy (Jenna Coleman) receives a Mary-Poppins style bag from her Nan. There are so many Boots goodies that Joy can pour them all out on to her double bed. After more than a year of a pandemic, with many of us strapped for cash more than previous Christmases, the surplus of stuff is a bit uncomfortable. Joy does share the contents of her bag with people. She wishes for baubles and gives them to her family. She puts fake lashes on a snowman. Still, the message of the Boots advert seems to be: stuff makes people happy, so here’s some stuff.
This Christmas advert is quirky and sweet. Dawn French’s Christmas fairy accidentally magics Tom Holland’s Percy Pig into life. After hours, they roam the M&S shop floor and gape at all the Christmas offerings.
Fortunately, advertisers seem to be steering towards Christmas adverts that are more representative of our world. And unsurprisingly, being representative doesn’t hinder the Christmas spirit one bit! What is more disheartening is the comments that some of these adverts receive. Some people dislike the casting of non-white people in Christmas adverts and see it as part of a “woke agenda”.
Here at Little Box of Books, we love a woke agenda. Being woke means being aware of social injustices and working hard to fix them. We wish everyone had one.
Let’s not beat around the bush, we know what Christmas adverts are – they’re a plea for customers. And at the moment, the formula is; tap into festive nostalgia, demonstrate woke credentials, start a national conversation that furthers this and create brand loyalty. It’s transparent, but that’s business.
What we hope is that this move towards being representative of our population continues, that it becomes more nuanced. That it isn’t just a trend that fizzles out when something else becomes more inportant.
To make that happen, just like with books, we need the people who make the ads to be reflective of our population. There are plenty of schemes in place, working to make that happen. When these classes come through the system, we look forward to seeing full authentic inclusive representation at Christmas and all year round!
What better present than books? Click here for access to our Christmas bundles and more.