They’ve done the impossible … made 2016 worse. Photograph: John Lewis/PA
‘This is the story of a little girl called Bridget who loves to bounce,” says the John Lewis website as it introduces its new Christmas advert. Bridget has always loved to bounce. She’s put in the hours, endlessly springing up and down on her bed as her dog Buster watches from the sidelines. Arguably, there is no individual better qualified to bounce than Bridget. She’s been preparing for this her whole life.
Finally, Bridget is given her big shot. Someone has assembled the trampoline of her dreams in her back garden. On Christmas morning, Bridget wakes up and sees the thing she’s always dreamed of. She races downstairs. She has a clear shot at the trampoline. But then, at the last moment, Buster barges in ahead of her and grabs the trampoline for himself. Bridget stands on, astonished that something as stupid as a dog could have beaten her to it. Meanwhile, Buster gets his stupid dog mouth and his stupid dog parasites all over the trampoline, ruining it for anyone who ever wanted to use it afterwards.
That’s right, Buster the dog is Donald Trump. Buster the dog is Donald Trump, Bridget is Hillary Clinton and the trampoline is America. Thanks for rubbing it in, John Lewis.
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Meet Buster: the John Lewis 2016 Christmas advert
Perhaps I’m reading too much into this. Perhaps the John Lewis braintrust got together and looked around them. Perhaps they looked at the state of the world, with Brexit and Trump and the rise of the right and all our dead heroes. Perhaps they looked at their own past offerings, where a woman relentlessly ages and a penguin is forced to seek companionship with a monstrous cadaver and the world’s loneliest man dies in space. Perhaps they took stock of all this and shrugged “surely a dog on a trampoline won’t upset anyone”.
In theory, the intention was admirable. But this year has been such a domino stack of heartbreaking disappointment that John Lewis wouldn’t have had to do much to make everyone cry. An advert where a weekend dad saves up to buy a toy for his son, soundtracked by a sad cover of Heroes by David Bowie. An advert where an old man sits on the white cliffs of Dover watching Europe fade into the distance, until he cheers up when a cartoon Belgian monkey gives him a gift voucher. Literally just a static card reading “2016”. Any of these would have been a shot straight to the tear ducts.
There is no individual better qualified to bounce than Bridget. She’s been preparing for this her whole life. Photograph: John Lewis/PA
But no. This year John Lewis tried to be happy. It tried to show us something as innocent and gleeful as an animal on a trampoline, in a bid to remind us that there’s still some good left in the world. Our lives are flat and grey and trodden on, but so long as there’s a dog bouncing next to a weirdly anachronistic telephone box, we’ll still be fine.
And what did it make? A sledgehammer allegory for Donald Trump. A woman who gets shoved aside by an unthinking, self-interested animal even though she’s much more suited to the task at hand. Watch the advert while listening to Hillary Clinton’s concession speech. I dare you. It’s heartbreaking. John Lewis, you’ve done the impossible. You’ve made 2016 worse.