Die Die Die: Lexus Performs the Collected Works of John Cheever

I don’t have a problem with the commercialization of Christmas. Or at least I think it’s pointless to rail against it. Christmas is a holiday whose main purpose is to buy presents for other people. In other words, commercialization is built right in. You might as well hop in the ocean and complain about how wet it is. “What the hell–this ocean is full of water!” You know when Christmas wasn’t commercialized? Never. Don’t like it? Deal with it, Linus Van Pelt.

What I do find gross at this time of year is commercials that equate Spending A Lot Of Money with A Demonstration Of Love. There have been many offenders in this category over the years, but my least favorites have to be the Lexus Christmas ads. These spots return every December, a lot like the old Norelco ad. But rather than show Santa tooling around in an Electric Shaver/Sled, these ads want you to drop 80 grand on a luxury sedan.

The commercials vary slightly every year, but they follow a basic formula: One family member–almost always a father/husband–uses a clever means to reveal his purchase of a Lexus to its lucky recipient. Sometimes, children are involved. Sometimes, carolers are put to work. Whatever ruse is employed, it’s twee and precious and ends with the revelation of a brand new Lexus in the driveway, topped with an enormous red bow.

As with many ads that infuriate me, I don’t understand what audience this commercial is pitching to. If you’re rich enough to swing a Lexus, you buy one, end of story. The Rich don’t need a holiday as an excuse to treat themselves to a brand new automobile. And they don’t need to be enticed with the oily aromas of Dealer Incentives and Year End Rebates.

If you’re waiting around for an Annual Sales Drive or Factory Surplus to buy a Lexus, guess what? You can’t afford one. Putting these commercials on the air, at this time of year, is just a slap in the face to every Working Schmuck laboring under a mountain of debt and expectations.

The Holidays are the time of year when most Working Schmucks are pressured to get presents for everybody on a seemingly endless list–cousins, uncles, coworkers, ex-piano tuners, that guy who sings doo-wop songs outside the corner deli. Failure is guaranteed. You will  buy something for at least ten people on your list that will remain in the box, wrapped in tissue paper, never touched. The best you can hope for is that people won’t call you a cheap asshole behind your back, or that your kids won’t hate you because you couldn’t get the Hot Toy of the Season (don’t worry–they will).

You barely know half the people on The List. You don’t have the slightest idea what to get them. But you better get them something, because they’re probably gonna get you something for that one time a year you see them. And even though you’ll hate whatever it is you get from them and use it to wash your car, you’ll feel like a complete fucking jerkoff if you don’t get them a future chamois.

But in order to get a present for someone you could give two shits about, you can’t just get something online. You have to go to a store, browse, and spot something vaguely appropriate. I would rather be waterboarded by Jack Bauer than go to any store in December. Five minutes surrounded by angry, frantic, broke shoppers and I begin to pray for the sweet release of death. It’s like being locked in a cage with a bunch of abused animals, all crazy-eyed with withered souls. One of them will snap and go on a rampage, it’s simply a matter of time.

After a day of wading through a sea of other frazzled Working Schmucks, you want to sit down in front of the TV and just relax. For five minutes, you want to not think about spending money you don’t have. You want to feel a little bit good about the holidays and joy and cookies and Jebus…

Except there on the screen is a commercial with Some Rich Asshole giving his Gold-digger Wife a Lexus she could have bought for herself. And he’s hired a local church choir to sing its praises right there on his snowy, snowy lawn! This is when you seriously think about putting down the egg nog and eating a glock. The APA should sue Lexus for inducing millions of cases of seasonal affective disorder.

Is there a more blatant Let Them Eat Cake moment on TV than this? How about they show these wealthy douchenozzles throwing out gallons of uneaten food? Why don’t they have the new Lexus’s tires resting on the backs of four Sudanese children? Filling up the gas tank with oil-soaked thousand-dollar bills and homeless people’s blood?

This past weekend, as millions of Americans dove headfirst into the take-no-prisoners spendathon that is Black Friday, Lexus unveiled its latest holiday commercial. It is simultaneously least imaginative, saddest, and most disturbing entry in the Lexus canon.

A husband stands outside his house next to his teenage sun, already reveling in the future success of his Surprise Gift Reveal. He calls up his wife and tells her he’ll have to work late and can’t pick up their son from soccer practice. The wife is very annoyed, insisting that the husband promised. The husband demurs apologetically, and the wife hangs up on him before grabbing her keys and leaving the house. But when she steps out the front door, she’s greeted with a brand-new, bow-topped Lexus.

First off, this is easily the lamest gift reveal in Lexus holiday campaign history. The husband might as well have said to his wife. “Guess what I’m not getting you for Christmas? A Lexus! *wink wink* Now go outside and see that Totally Not A Lexus in the driveway *nudge nudge*”

Budding writers, take note: You know that bitter novel you’re working on, the one narrated by a gifted young man observing his parents’ crumbling marriage from a helpless emotional distance? Throw it on the fire. This commercial packs enough upper-class angst to pack eight tepid rewrites of The Corrections.

Husband lies to Wife about not being able to run a simple family errand, for no discernible reason except to piss her off. Wife agrees to run errand, but not before hanging up on Husband mid-sentence. Husband actually has the nerve to say, “She hung up on me!”, as if Wife should have been overjoyed to do the errand he promised he would do. When Wife runs outside and sees the gift, she tries to look happy but can barely disguise her annoyance.

In the world after the commercial ends, we see the couple in bed after a halfhearted obligatory stab at lovemaking. In a wake that can barely be called an afterglow, the specter of the dropped phone call hangs over the both of them like the sword of Damocles.

Husband, a hint of gin still on his breath: I can’t believe you hung up on me.

Wife, choking on her own bile and rage: I was angry with you. You promised to pick up Steve, then you told me you couldn’t do it.

Husband: Still, you hung up on me.

Wife: What difference does it make? You picked up Steve anyway.

Husband: But you hung up on me.

Wife: And you lied to me about not being able to pick up Steve, so we’re even.

Husband: I don’t think that’s any excuse to hang up on me.

Wife: Why do you always do this? You are so hung up on appearances. I didn’t even want a Lexus for Christmas! Did that ever occur to you?

Husband: I mean, that’s really rude to hang up on somebody.


Down the hall, unable to sleep, Steve hears every word. He tries to drown out the squawks of marital distress with thoughts of Jennifer, a girl in his biology class. He tries hard to imagine being with her, being in some place where men and woman don’t yell at one another. He thinks that if they were together, they wouldn’t be anything like his mother and father. But he can’t imagine such a place. And somewhere, deep down, he fears he’s doomed to repeat his parents mistakes, that we’re all stuck in prisons of our own design.

End scene, followed by APR listings. Merry Christmas, everyone!