It was supposed to be a feel-good and emotive addition to the U.K. stable of heartwarming holiday advertising. But working mothers in the U.K. have taken offense at a BBC Christmas trailer depicting a busy mother's relationship with her teenage son.
The film, Wonderland, promotes the BBC's holiday content and was created in-house. It depicts a frazzled working mother and her teenage son, who just wants to spend some time with her at the town Christmas tree lighting.
She's so busy getting everyone ready for work and school that she doesn't notice his attempts to speak to her one morning. He actually has to text her to get through, but she still can't promise she'll be there. Later, however, the pair experience some kind of mysterious connection while she's on her computer at work and he's at a seaside amusement arcade-- and she runs to join him for a special afternoon.
According to the BBC's launch press release, the film, directed by Sam Brown at Rogue, "celebrates the channel's role in bringing people together."
However, the ad stirred up strong emotions on social media, particularly on mother's forum Mumsnet. In a discussion of the ad, one commentator wrote: " I absolutely hate BBC One's Christmas advert. I feel like that woman every single day and, like lots of parents, I have no choice but to work full time. It's a constant juggle and the guilt is unbearable. I can't bloody well freeze time and I think they are playing on people's emotions to sell a product (because that's what they're doing) and taking it to the extreme."
Another user fumed at the storyline: "Like a working parent can just get up and leave work and will just happen to have money to spend on a day out .. way to guilt trip us BBC!"
Over Twitter, another working mother wrote: "Be a working mother and your kids will be neglected and sad. Thanks @BBCOne. What a super helpful and Christmassy message!! I think I speak for all working mothers when I give a big ol' festive (emoji) to this mother-shaming tripe."
Others pointed out that the father in ad, who appears to be sitting there eating breakfast while the mother gets everyone ready, is absolved of any responsibility in neglecting the teenager.
The ad has also stirred up debate in the wider media, with Daily Mail columnist Sarah Vine pointing out the unfortunate timing of the ad at a time when the BBC has been critcized for its gender pay gap, writing: "It is inconceivable that the BBC, an institution so self-consciously woke and so painfully PC, would have deliberately set out to offend working mothers. But there's no getting away from it: this advert makes us out to be witches......And the fact that no one at the BBC spotted this inference tells you everything you need to know about how the Corporation feels about women in the workforce -- ironically in the year when it took up an awful lot of air-time navel-gazing at its gender pay-gap and loudly virtue-signalling its intention to change."
Libby Purves in The Times, meanwhile, writes: "They show us on one hand a peaky, sweet-faced loner playing arcade games alone by the bleak sea; and on the other a woman who abandons her busy desk and rushes out past colleagues to go to a funfair. Thus simultaneously we are portrayed as borderline-neglectful mothers and flaky unreliable workers. Merry Christmas from BBC One! Bah, humbug."
A BBC spokeswoman responds: "We have had an extraordinarily positive response to the film from audiences. Everyone is busy at this time of year and the film is simply about people cherishing the time they spend with loved ones."