John Lewis: Single shaming at Christmas

monty penguin nl

You know that festive time of year is fast approaching when the Christmas adverts start appearing on television.

This week, the highly anticipated John Lewis advert was released. The department store now has something of a reputation to uphold when it comes to Christmas adverts. It’s very clever marketing ploys over the last year usually involve a scene that tugs at the heart strings, musically backed by a British singer covering a classic weepy song.

This year is no different with the introduction of a Monty the Penguin a (very realistic) CGI pal for a little boy. Tom Odell sings along to Paul McCartney as the boy and his friend build Lego models, share fish fingers and go sledging. But of course, there’s a tear-inducing twist to the story…

We’ve had a little boy trembling in anticipation, not to receive presents, but to give them to his parents, while Slow Moving Millie crooned to Morrissey; Ellie Goulding covering Elton John while people wrap and hide presents for their loved ones; and last year went down the animated route with a hare giving a bear an alarm clock for Christmas so he could wake up from hibernation and join in the celebrations.

It turns out Monty the Penguin cannot enjoy Christmas because he is lonely. Yes, he has his human friend, but he wants a lady penguin to love.

So (spoiler alert) on Christmas morning, the boy takes Monty downstairs and he has bought Monty a female friend. The penguin sits in an unwrapped box as the two rub beaks and coo at each other. Meanwhile, the boy’s mum is standing in the doorway, looking proud and emotional. We then see the scene through her eyes and it turns out Monty is not a real penguin, but a well-loved, rather dirty soft toy. The boy has bought a new toy and is now playing with both of them with a big smile on his face. Meanwhile, Tom Odell croons “it’s reeeaalll love” in the background.

I cried. At my desk. In the office. How embarrassing.

It really is very cute. John Lewis are now going all out with the penguin marketing, selling lots of penguin memorabilia so you too can own your very own Monty. There is even a Monty the Penguin Twitter account. This is where the marketing gets very clever.

Monty keeps talking about how he needs a girlfriend and is following lots of dating Websites from his account.

“So here’s the plan. Get a girlfriend for #Christmas. Plenty of time… What?!? Only 49 days? Better get a waddle on.”

Now while this is is all very cute, I am finding myself single at Christmas for the first time since I was 16. I, like Monty, am now feeling the pressure to find that special someone to enjoy the festive season with. It feels like the media is shaming single people.

I thought that Christmas was a time to spend with family and friends but apparently not: we need that certain special someone to lavish our affections/John Lewis goods on.

Even while listening to Radio One, Scott Mills held an interview with One Direction in which he asked if any of them had ever had a girlfriend just for the winter. “Not intentionally” seemed to be the answer.

Subsequently, a discussion began about how it was great to be footloose and fancy free in the summer, but when the winter nights draw in, it’s nice to have someone to snuggle with on the sofa while you’re watching Strictly on a Saturday night. It seems this is not a new trend; guys like to find a winter girlfriend, or girls like to find a (slightly more catchy) festive fella.

Yes, there is noting wrong with being single at Christmas, but as Chris Stark on Radio One put it, it’s nice to have someone to do things with at Christmas, like go to Winter Wonderland and go ice skating. What about those of us who don’t have a certain someone to share it with?

So it seems the media and marketing world thinks we should be happily coupled up for Christmas, and if we’re not, we should get looking. Monty can be our mascot: he is even counting down the days until Christmas on his Twitter profile, just to really make you feel the pressure.

Personally, I’m going to take Tom Odell’s approach and wait for real love, rather than enter into penguin trafficking, as cute as the advert is. Someone pass the tissues…

PS: rather than spending up to £95 on a penguin toy from John Lewis, why not adopt a real life penguin? Charities allow you to do this for around £20 and you get to protect a wild penguin and you get a cuddly toy as a thank you anyway: win win.

PPS: My friend told me this amazing anecdote:

“While discussing the John Lewis ad, my mum then tells me BRILLIANT story of her friend who took her son to the zoo when he was nine and he got lost. They found him, took him home and put him in the bath. They came back to check on him and there was a penguin in the bath with him which he’d smuggled home in his rucksack!”

“A REAL penguin?!” I asked.

“YES. They rang the zoo, their answer “oh don’t worry this isn’t the first time this has happened.” Quick, let’s go to the zoo and get a Monty of our own before they up their security due to penguin demand!


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