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On Cunts And James Martin’s Asda Advert

james martin asda advert

James Martin then. In this Asda advert. You knew it was coming, surely? No-one can get away with an advert so awkward it could only be worse if it starred Jeremy Corbyn. Not without some lunatic on the internet writing about it anyway. But the fact that it's James Martin lends an added piquancy.

I've disliked James Martin for a while now. The housewife's favourite (Martin is presumably desirable only to people whose hormones have retired to a bungalow) is a likeable enough presence when chopping up carrots or dolloping some clotted cream on a treacle tart, but he's been on my radar for a years now for something he wrote in 2009.

Martin used to write one of the those celebrity car columns for the popular press. You know the ones - 500 words of sub-Clarkson blah about how great every single car that was delivered to my house is, nary a bad word lest I annoy the PRs and editors that actually pay me for driving cars. If you read one such car column - Richard Hammond and Chris Evans write similar columns - and base your car purchase on them you might as well walk into a showroom because you saw a nice car advert and throw wads of £50 notes at salespeople.

Martin's petrolhead credentials were also dealt a severe blow when he attempted to enter the Mille Miglia. Rather than taking on the endurance race with an actual car, Martin turned up with a pair of leather racing gloves and a poster of a Triumph Dolomite. In fact most of the accompanying BBC documentary showed the celebrity fennel-botherer looking at an Alfa Romeo Duetto and crying.

Anyway, I digress. My chief complaint with James Martin, perhaps best known for presiding over competitors to make an omelette in 27 seconds, is one such car column where he described running some cyclist off the road for a laugh:

"God, I hate those cyclists. Every last herbal tea-drinking, Harriet Harman-voting one of them. That's one of the reasons I live in the countryside, where birds tweet, horses roam, pigs grunt and Lycra-clad buttocks are miles away. But recently, there's been a disturbing development.

"Each Saturday, a big black truck appears at the bottom of my road, with bikes stuck to the roof and rear. Out of it step a bunch of City-boy ponces in fluorescent Spider-Man outfits, shades, bum bags and stupid cleated shoes, who then pedal around our narrow lanes four abreast with their private parts alarmingly apparent. Do they enjoy it? They never smile. I'm sure they just come here to wind me up.

"Twenty minutes into my test drive I pulled round a leafy bend, enjoying the birdsong – and spotted those damned Spider-Man cyclists.

"Knowing they wouldn't hear me coming, I stepped on the gas, waited until the split second before I overtook them, then gave them an almighty blast on the horn at the exact same time I passed them at speed.

"The look of sheer terror as they tottered into the hedge was the best thing I've ever seen in my rear-view mirror."

To this day I'm not sure whether he meant it or not. In all likelihood James Martin has nothing against cyclists at all. There's an even better chance that he's a nice guy and, were you to meet him, he might cut you a slice of homemade Hunstman's Pie and chat about sport. But if he didn't mean it that's even worse.

Being a cunt

Controversial opinions are very popular these days. But merely disliking cyclists is so Noughties. These days you're not even approaching controversial unless you're actually wishing death upon refugees - that's the benchmark for getting a radio show or column in a national newspaper anyway. Stewart Lee once described it as 'having controversial opinions for money', but really that's outdated too. 'Being a cunt for money' is a bit more like it.

But really these people don't even have the balls to be cunts. If James Martin had really run some cyclists off the road for a laugh - rather than pretended to in a newspaper column - then he might qualify as a genuine cunt. But I don't believe it for a minute. Just as I don't believe the biggest pretend-cunts on Twitter (Piers Morgan, Tony Parsons, Toby Young, Louise Mensch, Julia Hartley-Brewer, Dan Hodges et al) are really cunts at all. They don't have it in them to be a proper cunt like, say, Nigel Farage. They've simply realised there's gold in faux-cuntishness.

Jeremy Clarkson paved the way for pretend cunthood. I have worked with people who know Clarkson and the impression I get is that he isn't a cunt at all - his recent backing for Remain suggests that even Clarkson realised he had to row back from his professional cuntness. Perhaps a realisation overcame him that his words held power and that there was a real danger people might actually believe the dangerous things he spluttered in return for money. I've had the feeling for most of the last week that Boris Johnson has been coming to terms with the same realisation - that his own cunting had reaped some dire reward.

However in these strange times being a cunt, even a pretend cunt, isn't the career-killer it used to be. To be a cunt or appear to be a cunt is, more than likely, to have a lot of followers on the internet and - in a few lucky cases - to be able to forge a career out of cuntery. It is essentially a cross between lying to people and poking them in the eye with a stick. The bigger the stick, the more you earn.

Katie Hopkins, the biggest pretend-cunt on the planet, probably wouldn't pluck out the eyes of a crying Syrian child refugee just for the hell of it. But she'd be happy to pretend that she would, just to annoy and appal you so that the Mail On Sunday gives her some money. In a roundabout way these people attain some level of cuntdom, simply by pretending to be a cunt.

So there you have it. Much like the bloke who goes made in that episode of Colditz, simply be pretending to be mad, a pretend cunt can become a real cunt. And we're knee-deep in cunts in Great Britain at the moment. As Jarvis Cocker says, cunts are still running the world. But they seem to lurk around every corner of social media in a country still reeling from blowing its own knees off.

I'm sure James Martin isn't a cunt. But in pretending to be one, all those years ago, he demonstrated to the world the whole sorry, pathetic and grubby affair of being a cunt for money.

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Best And Worst Christmas Adverts 2015

best worst christmas adverts 2015

There's nothing particularly complicated about making Christmas adverts - in fact it's easy. In the same way there only seven types of plot there are three types of Christmas advert. That's all. Every single one of them fits into one of these archetypes. These are they.

1. Non-existent Christmas-land full of lovely independent boutiques, gorgeous town houses and beautiful women stalking through town on their way to a party. Along the way we get to see all the various Christmas wares that will be eaten on Christmas Day and/or gifts that will be bought along the way. A celebrity chef may feature.

Typical users: Debenhams, Boots, Marks & Spencer

2. Crash-bang-wallop affair that makes no effort to romanticise the season but plays to the hedonistic indulgence of the senses Christmas amounts to. A cheap celeb or 'real' family may feature.

Typical users: Lidl, Aldi, TK Maxx, Asda, Iceland

3. Guilt-tripping grief-porn debacle that tries to make you sad before making you feel a little bit happy. A charity may be involved.

Typical users: John Lewis, Sainsbury's, Waitrose

See if you can spot which of the following fit in the above categories.

Argos Christmas Advert

A sort of low-rent James Bond mountain chase where, instead of a diamond that focuses a city-destroying laser beam, Bond is trying to spirit away a Dolce Gusto percolator from under the nose of Russian henchpeople.

Aldi Christmas Advert

Once upon a time Aldi's adverts were innovative, funny and disruptive - they existed as a kind of two-fingered salute to the established supermarkets. No more. This is the equivalent of just throwing everything you can find in the cupboard into a slow cooker and hoping some sort of alchemy happens. It doesn't, but it just about passes muster.

This advert is a touchstone for how Aldi now sees itself sitting at the top table. A triumph of 'me too' marketing.

It also features one of the worst vocal performances ever, apparently by someone called Jade Williams, doing that 'posh urchin' thing that Lily Allen has made so famous. Here's what an AdTurds reader typed into their browser in relation ti: 'who is singing on that fucking irritating aldi christmas ad?'.

Asda Christmas Advert

"Fuck it, it's Christmas," is the message from this Asda advert. It has the benefit of looking, feeling and sounding different to pretty much everything else out there. On the other hand we might as well be watching a forest fire in Indonesia overlaid with the words 'eat a mince pice'.

Boots Christmas Advert

Boots have located the only unused Christmas song in existence. I've always felt that the chemists has been among the more unlovely front-end stores so the cognitive dissonance is huge. If we saw a hellish packing factory in Warrington in the ad instead I'd have more respect.

Debenhams Christmas Advert

I'm sorry Debenhams, I've nothing against you at all. I just don't care about this advert and I have no idea what your brand proposition is beyond 'not John Lewis'. Apparently the voices in the advert are Dawn French, Matthew Horne, Jamelia, James Nesbitt and Sarah Milican. I didn't even realise - apart from Nesbitt's patented smarm. I think that says it all, frankly.

Harvey Nichols Christmas Advert Christmas Advert

A cute idea - but that doesn't stop it being fundamentally obnoxious. "Buy your family more expensive shit, lest they hate you," sums it up.

John Lewis Christmas Advert Christmas Advert

A shameless dash for a slice of the self-indulgent Christmas sentiment pie as there's ever been.

Littlewoods Christmas Advert

It's kind of to Littlewood's credit that they've stuck with multi-millionaire Myleene Klass following her shrill, Tory-briefed attack on progressive taxation last year. Nothing speaks to me more than a very wealthy, entitled brat who doesn't want to pay their taxes, I must say.

Given that Littlewoods' target audience are probably not holidaying in Gstadt that's a brave move. The advert suggests that Christmas is all about buying your loved ones smartphones to show you love them - brings a tear to the eye. Also amusing given that Myleene recently said: "I want my children to receive yo-yos and give yo-yos, not Kindles."

For the worst Christmas advert of all time, of course, check out this Littlewoods advert from 2011.

Lidl Christmas Advert

This is about as good as it gets this Christmas - extraordinarily it's one of the very few that doesn't put naked consumption front and centre. By taking a more sideways view it's essentially taken Lidl out of the meat-grinder of head-to-head battle seen elsewhere. As a result it's one of the few that displays any evident charm.

Marks & Spencer Christmas Advert

M+S by the numbers, which is to say it has the usual effect of acting like a sonic weapon. You get the feeling Marksies simply resurrects its robots from last year, programmes them to do their 'stalking towards the camera like materialist zombies' thing to whatever latest funny tune they've thrown a billion tonnes of pounds at and rearranges some snazzy visuals. A huge, crushing deadweight of hideousness shot in a vast warehouse in Hemel Hempstead. In August.

Matalan Christmas Advert

'Made for modern families' strikes me as a very 'austerity' Christmas message. David Cameron beating his fist on a lectern and talking about 'working people' while snatching the very tax credits that make life liveable. George Osborne closing down a SureStart centre, library or nursing home and offering you a Santa Gift Set in their place. Michael Gove as Santa Claus. Blech.

Morrisons Christmas Advert

Morrisons seems to hang on for dear life to its 'market within a really big building' shtick. I'm uncertain on what I make of this - if it gives staff a bit more control over their lives and engagement with their jobs then fair enough. It's also worth pointing out that Morrisons are the only other supermarket to offer staff above-minimum-wage earning, alongside Lidl. Does that ensure customer loyalty in this day and age though? I'd like to think so.

Sainsbury's Christmas Advert Christmas Advert

A bloated and charmless Looney Tunes sketch on a bazillion-quid budget that can't help but feel artificial and antiseptic. Bad CGI, worse characterisation and just a cynical Pixar-lite blancmange of schmaltz right in the face, hiding behind a veil of charity. Absolutely horrible.

Tesco Christmas Advert Christmas Advert

In wich Jay from Inbetweeners tries to chat up a lady probably described in the pitch as a 40-year-old scorcher. Not sure it's wise of Tesco to openly reference MILFs, but there you are. I'd like to image the young lad in question later describing to his mates how he did her in the gob, then the fanny, then the gob again.

TK Maxx Christmas Advert

A nice sentiment, but if you were to give random strangers a Christmas present from TK Maxx I'd expect nothing less than a restraining order in return.

Toys R Us Christmas Advert

Toys R US had a sort of nervous breakdown a few years ago when it ditched its familiar 'there's a magical place...' adverts for a yankified rap, perhaps the greatest act of self-sabotage in marketing history. This one is also unlovely, but at least it makes sense. Christmas Advert

One of those videos where a different soundtrack - one suggesting something ominous and terrible was at hand - would completely change the nature of this advert. Just imagine when they get there, the little boxes smash people's heads to death. Still, it's innocuous enough.

Waitrose Christmas Advert

A nicely-shot 60 seconds of the kind of Christmas simply unimaginable for 90 per cent of the people in the country.

Vote for your favourite Christmas advert

• Refresh your memories of the best and worst Christmas adverts – sob pitifully at advertising or enrage yourself to vein-throbbing standards – of previous years

Best and Worst Xmas Ads of 2014

Best and Worst Xmas Ads of 2013

Best and Worst Xmas Ads of 2012

Best and Worst Xmas Ads of 2011