Monday, December 19, 2011

Santa Claus Vs. The Moms

Blues Magoos--"Santa Claus Is Coming To Town" (mp3)

At first glance, second glance, third glance, fourth glance, and fifth glance, I found the Best Buy ad campaign to be distasteful. If you have turned on a TV in the last three weeks, there is no way that you haven't seen it. In each of the commercials, the Mom of the family gets the better of Santa Claus by buying gifts that her family really wants, while Santa shows up planning to drop off the same stock gifts as always (cologne for Dad, etc.).

What makes the ads so irritating is the sort of "Game on, Santa" attitude that each of the moms has. She is always waiting for Santa to show up, almost ambushing him, with a smug, gloating expression on her face and an aggressiveness that leads her to infringe on Santa's turf in a number of different ways--pointing to her superior gifts, eating or drinking the snacks that have been left for him, etc.

Who needs you, Santa? is the basic message of the ads. She can do better simply by going to Best Buy.

The ads make me feel sorry for Santa, and I had to figure out why. Is it because he's a respected icon beyond reproach (what does he get out of being Santa Claus?)? Is it because he's an old man and it looks like he's being picked on? Is it because the ads make him look like he is out-of-touch and no longer essential? Is it because he's a man?

For the last 120 years or so, we've been living under a particular paradigm: man in red comes down chimney and delivers presents to everyone (I think it started as toys for children) as a symbol of kindness, goodness, and generosity. Regardless of who was actually buying the presents or where they were actually coming from, their presence was attributed to this universal (at least in Western civilization), larger-than-life, magical being who only appeared once a year and then returned to some unknown place (which is probably why a North Pole was need as the center of toy-making operations). A wizened, white benefactor from beyond our imagining.

Imagine if you're not a man. Imagine you're not white. Imagine you've busted your ass to put a bunch of things you can't afford under a tree because because society demands it or, more likely, you can't stand to disappoint your children that deeply.

You might want to stick it to Santa. Or you might not want whitey in your house. You might be so tired of yet another circumstance where an old, white male comes to the rescue, where he knows your own children (and husband or wife) better than you do, where he takes control of an important moment and decides for you.

I've started to see those commercials as the Moms finally striking back against Santa Claus in a way that is not necessarily bad or wrong. Santa isn't a benevolent figure. Santa is "the man."

Now, I have no belief at all that Best Buy is pushing this underlying social agenda that I've probably created out of thin air. If they were, Santa wouldn't be getting his comeuppance from Mom outshopping him. She wouldn't be boasting to him using gifts that cost far more than what he was bringing into the house. Nor would she be saddled with all of the shopping, because we all know that, in reality, she works. Or did.

I hope she's not getting that shit, lowbrow diamond from Zales from hubby, 'cause that thang ain't much.

Still, I've gotten a kick out of the "rise of the planet of the Moms" that is taking place in a number of commercials this season. Think also of the Wal-Mart commercial where the Mom gets everything on her Christmas shopping list the first time around.

More power to ya, babe. Though not intended, this recognition of your triumph has been a long time coming and is well-deserved. Anyone who is not noticing the increasing power of women in our society in every way is not paying attention. When my students haul out their tired, stereotypical comments about the role of women or the way that their marriages will go, I just laugh. There's nothing more ironic than thinking that you're in control when you're not. Right, Santa?


Billy said...

I took the family to see "Arthur Christmas" and left with similar thoughts to your post. The entire movie was, at best, quietly sexist. I'm surprised I didn't read more reviews or comments that acknowledge this.

SusanM said...

I haven't liked those commercials either, but I couldn't articulate why. You come pretty close (except for the white man, rescue thing).