Black Friday – Cartoon Logic
Yes, it’s that time of year again, folks. The time of year when all the family get together in the middle of winter after a long year of work and school, go out on chilly evenings in warm clothes, then get involved in fist-fights over washing machines. It’s Black Friday! Hooray! Everybody go nuts! Black Friday: a hallowed tradition in the United Kingdom, stretching back as far as the Dark Ages (2003) and made popular by the Victorians (in 2013). Black Friday: an annual ‘holiday’ with its origins in Thanksgiving, responsible for seven violent deaths in the USA since 2006. Black Friday: not actually the title for a horror film. Who knew?
When did this tradition become something we do in Britain? Ok, fair enough, we largely do the American version of Halloween now, (and we do it better, see Cartoon Logic 10), but even so. Inevitably, it was made mega-popular by a company owned by Americans. ASDA, which is basically Walmart’s evil outpost over here, brought the event to widespread attention in 2013. (They were the Victorians in the earlier analogy.)
This year, ASDA ain’t doing it. Well, thanks ASDA. You let the genie out of the bottle, you opened Pandora ’s Box, and now you’re running for the hills. I’m not surprised. Take the picture below, snapped at an ASDA in Wembley, London in 2014, that was widely printed in the media. This sort of thing does nothing good for ASDA’s image.
It’s funny, though. Take another look at that image. It’s sort of familiar, don’t you think? Haven’t you seen things like it before? Well, let me jog your memory.
It sort of looks like this image taken by Altaf Qadri in the Indian city of Srinagar, in which volunteers hand out essential supplies during heavy monsoon rains in 2014.
It looks like this Associated Press image taken in Haiti too, in which volunteers hand out essential, life-saving aid after the 2010 Earthquake.
It even looks like this Reuters image taken by Russell Boyce, in which British soldiers hand out humanitarian aid to Iraqis during the Iraq War.
Funny that, isn’t it? Because although they look similar, there’s a difference between the first image and the other three, isn’t there? Can you spot it? Do you need a clue? Well, it’s simple. You don’t actually need an LED television. Or an Xbox. Turns out you won’t die if you haven’t got a washing machine with ten settings. They might be nice things to own, but you’ll live. Trust me.
There’s a certain tragedy in this, ladies and gentlemen. What sort of bizarre, unequal society do we live in in which people desperately grab for expensive televisions in the same way that other people on other parts of the world, and at the very same time, reach out desperately for food and water? It’s immoral, to be frank. It only happens because of the particular nature of Black Friday, in which the short period of time and the inevitably limited supplies of fancy consumer goods creates a certain desperation amongst shoppers, many of who may be unable to afford such goods outside of the Black Friday period.
I inevitably find myself imagining a Comic Relief-style telethon broadcast in, say, Somalia, in which the citizens are implored by the Somali equivalent of Lenny Henry to donate to the ‘Widescreens for Wembley’ appeal. Cut to footage of sad Londoners sitting on their sofas watching tiny little televisions. Put some of the imagery in black and white and pipe a bit of Coldplay over the top. Sorted.
Basically, we should stop doing Black Friday. That’s my point. It’s stupid. This year, ASDA has promised to spread out the savings across the Christmas shopping period. And you know what? For the first time ever, I find myself agreeing with something ASDA has done. Good on you, ASDA. Nice work.
(This column sponsored by ASDA. Every little helps!)