The build up to Christmas has begun and no one is making that fact more obvious than the retailers. Selling happiness in the form of games consoles, cameras and watches, they seem determined to assault our senses with the most insipid displays of materialism possible.
After first airing their new Christmas advert this month, Littlewoods have faced a huge uproar over the consumer culture they are promoting. Debates have begun on Facebook and Youtube as to whether the advert should be banned, with many commenters claiming that they will be boycotting Littlewoods this year. The biggest factor in this debate seems to be the insensitivity to the current economic climate; the advert makes it clear that if you’re willing to go out and spend more than fifty quid on your kids then they’ll love you more. What are the kids themselves supposed to think? If their parents get them a less extravagant present does that mean that they are unwanted and unloved?
The pressure to go out and spend far more than you can afford is already there when it comes to Christmas, so it doesn’t help when retailers like Littlewoods attempt to ingrain their self-serving formula deeper into our minds every year: the more expensive the present the happier the recipient will be. The sad fact however, is that this formula already exists, lingering at the back of most people’s minds. Guilt-induced spending is something that no one is immune to. The belief that success is measured by wealth is a part of our society, therefore if you can’t afford to go out and blow a couple of grand on your family then that must be your issue, you must not be successful enough.
The strangest part of this vicious cycle of beliefs is that if you ask, most people will tell you that money and material possessions will not bring you long-term happiness, and don’t necessarily mean that you are successful. We all know exactly why we should have a problem with the consumer culture that is forced on us with renewed emphasis at this time of year, yet that won’t stop us going out and spending money we don’t have on stuff that is completely unnecessary. All this shows is how deeply ingrained this unhealthy attitude is. Our society requires that people have to go out and spend money to keep the economy afloat, however the retailers have become so greedy that trying to guilt-trip people into using credit has become the norm.
Littlewoods may currently be gracing our TV screens with overt displays of materialism, but that’s only because they know they will get away with it. They are part of a much larger picture, in which a culture of spending more than we can afford has become something that is routinely expected of us at Christmas. Maybe this year a preferable alternative would just be to chill out with family, some good food and maybe just a bit too much mulled wine, without having to worry about the bank balance.