Friday, 22 July 2011

Say McVitie’s!

As an airless image of 1930s upper middle class cosy domestic bliss, it’s hard to improve on. An absent father toils away with his fountain-pen in a City office – perhaps a barrister, stock broker or a senior actuary – to support this comfortable lifestyle of unlimited digestive biscuits and Mickey Mouse bendy toys from Gamages. Home might be a Blunden Shadbolt Tudor Revival house in Redhill. Mother perches on the edge of a deco-print day bed, wearing a puce satin dress from Marshall & Snelgrove with a necklace of cornelian and jade, a birthday present from an attentive husband, bought at Mappin & Webb in Moorgate. Like the day bed, the swirly deco-styled rug and bookends came from Heal’s. The daughter, Hermione (or Constance), proudly wears her new Shirley Temple outfit, her brother, Hugh (or Guy), is clad in a curious truncated velvet jump-suit. Hugh would be well advised to go no further in Hermione’s “let’s pretend you’re a puppy” game if he wants to avoid a life of deviant behaviour. The shadow of the Great Depression has not disturbed this happy home but the outbreak of war in four years time will not be so easily escaped. As Hugh and Hermione look back from the age of 80, they will find at least one thing unchanged in modern Britain – the unpretentious digestive biscuit remains one of Britain’s best sellers.


Isabel said...

This is very amusing, a pleasure to read.

Isn't it fun to look at old lifestyle templates? At fundamental modes of human experience crystallised into product images!

Even decades later, when the commercial trappings have become as you demonstrate so risible, I think many of us continue to be drawn to these:

"Once upon a time, we might have been...: that. And now fashions have changed and we are this: even more crisply rendered, the colours brighter, the aesthetic changed but the assumptions behind that aesthetic lingering."

Is it because what we look at is so powerful in shaping our preconceptions for pleasure? Is such an accessible form of pleasure.

Thank you for this post Mr Beard. Really very enjoyable.

Phil Beard said...

Many thanks for your interesting comments - it's nice to know these things are appreciated. What really fascinates is just how much fun future generations will derive from looking back at today's aspirational advertising.