John Lewis has accidentally created a perfect depiction of everything wrong with our precious Little Emperors in Britain 2021. Their latest advertisement — now pulled by the company after a complaint from the Financial Conduct Authority — is a minute-long home insurance promotion that is dripping in entitlement and wokeness, starring a kid who has never heard the word no.
We start in the ransacked bedroom, with lids missing from nail polish bottles and red stiletto shoes amongst the many items thrown all over the floor. A little child pops up, scattering the innards of the cushion he must have dismembered. He is of course a boy in make-up and a dress, because even home insurance offers now must be propaganda exercises on the mutability of gender. The boy-girl stares into the camera like he’s on a catwalk, accompanied by the loud clip clop of heels. Do heels really make such a racket on carpeted floors? The little tyrant then moves through the house decorating it with nail polish and generally wrecking the place.
Where are the parents? The docile mother sits drinking tea at the table with her mouth open. Has she mistakenly added sedatives to her morning cuppa? The strongest glue on the planet would not have secured my body to that chair if one of my children were behaving so badly. And, though I am sure John Lewis’s liability terms are generous, I really doubt their claims handlers would accept ‘well I watched Thomas wreck my entire house and did nothing to stop they’.
But of course the advert isn’t really about home insurance. The agency behind this stunt, Adam & Eve/DDB, didn’t skimp on the heavy clues. The blue and pink paint, the consistent pouts and head swivels to camera, the boy dressing in his mother’s clothes and the glitter scattered all over the dining table. This is about ‘inclusion’, which is a new euphemism for male entitlement. Adam & Eve/DDB were also behind ‘Hey Girls’, a period poverty campaign that took great pains to include a girl with short hair in the boys’ toilets. How clever of them.
A few years ago, I would have been alarmed or shocked by this advert. Now I just feel a familiar depression. We live in a time when schools tell children that biology doesn’t define whether you’re a boy or a girl and where 12-year-old drag queens are celebrated.
The trouble isn’t just the ‘trans lobby’. It’s that we have become frightened of our children, frightened to upset them, frightened to exert our authority and frightened to say no. Schools and parents prefer traffic light systems and constant rewards to being the adults in the room. Without the traditional training ground of childhood – when an infant’s wishes are not always granted – how on earth do we expect children to become useful members of society as adults?
This John Lewis advert might have generated lots of engagement. But it isn’t going to change the world or convince decent parents to stop teaching their kids to be respectful, kind and well-mannered. It’s not going to make any of us feel more inclined to take out insurance either. It just adds to the stack of evidence that we are being groomed into buying into an agenda that is ultimately harmful. In a nutshell this advert shows a spoilt little boy with no boundaries, wrecking his family home, while his addled mother looks on impassively. A perfect metaphor, in many ways.