Earlier this month, an advertisement for Illumination Entertainment’s film, The Grinch, was plastered across the outer walls of the British Film Institute IMAX theater in Waterloo. The building, which sits in the middle of a traffic roundabout, featured two different images depending on which side you were on. Both sides depict the Grinch’s frowning, unamused face, with one side reading “Welcome to South London. This is your last chance to turn around.” While it’s opposing counterpart reads “You are now heading north of the river. Try to contain your excitement.”
Though it is clearly a play on the Grinch’s infamous grouchy demeanor and disdain for everyone but himself, the advertisement sparked outrage for some London residents who believed the advertisement promoted classist and racist stereotypes:
‘Welcome to South London
This is your last chance to turn around’
Nope. Not finding this funny @BFI Imax Waterloo – snobbery of South London is based on classist and racist stereotypes.
— James Asfa (@JamesAsfa) November 10, 2018
tbf the ad is unnecessary, the grinch has nothing to do with south London??
— DregQueenSPOOPY ? (@KaptnAcid) November 20, 2018
— Guillaume (@guillaumephotos) November 18, 2018
It appears that a sense of humor has won out in this debate, as there are far more responses to Asfa that are critical of his claim than there are supporting it. Many London residents dismissed these claims as ridiculous, with some claiming that Asfa was being overtly sensitive and missing the point of the ad:
A Real south London wouldn’t find this offensive. You must be one of them new south Londoners who’s recently moved to south London and gets a coffee in flower pot https://t.co/kzkIVXVaKQ
— Mo Gilligan (@MoTheComedian) November 19, 2018
Get a GRIP. It’s an advert for the Grinch. Lived in south London 12 years and I couldn’t be any less offended. Snowflake! https://t.co/VCLEwEPaQP
— Mattie Jameson (@MattieAJameson) November 19, 2018
Come on Glen, it’s the Grinch. He’s slagging off North London as well. He’s a fictional character that hates everything. Lighten up.
— Stephen Patten (@StevePatten) November 18, 2018
I still think it’s being sarcastic about North London though. It’s not ‘racist’, it’s just the Grinch refusing to see good in either the North or South.
— ?? Simon RJ Brake (@psibreaker) November 21, 2018
Mate, it’s a joke from a children’s cartoon. Pipe down. It has nothing to do with race. The only reason it has managed to touch a nerve is because crime rates in London are high. If you care about SL so much, help bring about awareness to the real issues instead of Grinch. https://t.co/1zVJddrwMc
— ??Soutiam Goodarzi?? (@Soutiam21) November 21, 2018
The unamused, somewhat insulting tone of the ad is a consistent feature of the customized marketing campaign for The Grinch. In the United States, billboards across the nation have popped up with insults from the Grinch, in locations such as Los Angeles (“Oh, you’re trying to make it in Hollywood? Let me know how it goes.”), New York (“I could watch you crawl down the LIE [Long Island Expressway] all day.”), and Chicago (“I’ve seen windier cities.”).
The ad campaign, while not racist or classist, has proven to be effective: the film topped the charts it’s opening weekend with a $67.6 million box office take. As of writing, the film has pulled in $216 million worldwide against a $75 million budget, making it a rousingly successful release for Illumination Entertainment.