John Lewis Pulls Woke Ad with Destructive Boy in Dress and Lipstick for Being ‘Misleading’

A sign is displayed outside the John Lewis store in Oxford Street, central London on July 2, 2020. (Photo by Ben STANSALL / AFP) (Photo by BEN STANSALL/AFP via Getty Images)
BEN STANSALL/AFP via Getty Images

British department store chain John Lewis has dropped its controversial “woke” ad for home insurance featuring a boy in a dress and lipstick causing intentional destruction after the Financial Conduct Authority (FCA) criticised it for being “misleading” in terms of what the policy covers.

The major lifestyle retailer popular with the traditional middle classes launched the ad in mid-October, which showed a boy around eight years old dancing — at times, in a questionably adult fashion — about his house to the tune of Stevie Nicks’s “Edge of Seventeen” in makeup, a dress, and heels, knocking over furnishings and causing other forms of damage.

The ad was criticised at the time for “agenda-pushing” for showing a pre-pubescent boy dressing as a girl, at a time over rising concerns that young children are being pushed by bodies influenced by transgender activism to change gender or view gender as “fluid”.

It also drew criticism from customers who claimed it represented false advertising, implying that wilful damage would be covered by the insurance policy.

The Advertising Standards Authority (ASA) received more than 300 complaints about the commercial, with The Times reporting on Thursday that the Financial Conduct Authority (FCA) had ruled the advertisement to be “potentially misleading and could cause customers to be confused about John Lewis’s new home contents insurance”, resulting in the major British retailer pulling the ad and clarifying to customers that accidental damage cover was available but not for deliberate damage.

The ad shows the cross-dressing boy intentionally knocking over furniture, throwing his sister’s paints onto the carpet, kicking shoes at lamps, smearing paint over walls, and knocking a drink over a laptop while his mother looks on, before jumping on the couch as the ad finishes with the slogan “Let Life Happen”.

Media reported at the time a backlash from members of the public, with viewers accusing John Lewis of “sexualising” children and “agenda-pushing”. Aware of the reaction, John Lewis released a statement on October 14th in defence of the woke ad, saying: “At John Lewis, we believe in children having fun and that’s why we chose this playful storyline for our latest advert. It’s designed to show a young actor getting carried away with his dramatic performance.”

It was not just concerned, socially conservative parents who had complaints about the ad, however, but also those on the feminist left, who accused John Lewis of sexism by glorifying “male entitlement” — because it depicted the boy being dominating and destructive while the women in the house remained passive and, in the case of his sister, a victim of her brother’s destructive tendencies which interrupted her own endeavours at creative expression.

However, one opinion piece from the left-progressive Independent at the time claimed that the destructive boy ruining female spaces while appropriating their gender was a “glorious antidote to toxic ‘boys will be boys’ messaging” and challenges “toxic masculinity”.

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