17 December 2010

Someone Should Sponsor Christmas

I had an epiphany recently regarding my failure to get into the spirit of Christmas this year.  This year, nearly every Christmas-specific TV commercial has addressed adult consumers with the "save money on the gifts you buy" message set to "Jingle Bells."  (Seriously, Walgreens; Overstock.com beat you to it by like, three weeks.)  I remember when I was younger, and we'd be inundated with commercials showing Santa knocking back a Coke, or soldiers coming home early for Christmas celebrating with coffee.  We pride ourselves on being a democracy, but we're really a capitalist society and it seems that the market has spoken: no one cares about the pageantry of Christmas.  We just want to save money on gifts we feel compelled to buy.

It's not just me, then.  TV ad programmers are notorious for doing research, and they seem to have concluded that no one cares about ads depicting the fantasy of Christmas.  We're far more pragmatic viewers now; we just want to know whether we get free shipping if we buy online.  We don't care about seeing wide-eyed children trying to spy Santa's reindeer.  We don't care to see happy families gathered around a green Christmas tree or a log fire or a full dinner table.  Just tell us where we can get Inception on Blu-ray on sale; we'll make merry on our own, thank you.

"Wait a minute," you're thinking.  "Weren't you the one who just recently posted that you hated the people who only cared about the superficial/commercial aspects of Christmas?"  True enough and I have two points I'd like to make.  Firstly, there is a distinction between non-believers horning in on Christmas just to put on a show and make a circus out of gift-exchanging, and those who honestly do care playing up the more childlike aspects of Santa, etc.  See if the following clarifies it for you:

A child of my generation saw Santa in commercials as a jolly, benevolent chubby dude who had a sweet tooth but wanted to make us all happy.  A child of this generation sees Santa giving jewelry advice and being told he's more believable than Diet Dr. Pepper.  Is it that today's youth are more cynical, or just less imaginative?  After being around enough of them, I'm afraid it's more a case of the latter.  They seem to require movies and video games for entertainment not because they're addicted but because they are, themselves, incapable of conjuring up a narrative for their amusement.  By not establishing a narrative of Santa Claus in TV commercials, the message seems to be that he's entirely irrelevant to today's youth (and we know kids are watching TV so don't hand me that "they're not the viewing demographic" nonsense).

Now, the "believer" side of things should be happy about this, that it would be a sign that Santa Claus is of less significance to kids and families than is Christ.  But here's the thing: Jesus is even more conspicuously absent.  It baffles me that one faith-based group can spend the money to run an ad suggesting that we all give up our seats on buses to little old ladies, but come Christmas time they've got nothing to say?  I get that we have disagreeing interpretations of scripture, can't agree on "traditional" (white) Jesus vs. historically accurate (black) Jesus, etc. but it seems to me there's bound to be a way of making a 30 second TV ad that manages to say, "Stay on target!" while we're dashing down the trench of the Death Star.

If Jesus is persona non grata on TV and Santa is restricted to hawking cell phone plans (really?), then what's left is nothing more than crude commercialism that can't be bothered to appeal to our faith or our imagination. Is it because we, as a society, lack them?  Has the market spoken, declaring them no longer worthy of address?  And if we have lost our Christmas mojo, can we get it back?  Do we care about getting it back?  What if we don't?  Will we abandon the charade altogether?

1 comment:

  1. I am depressed now. However, I agree with it. But I ADORE Peter!