2019-12-08 01:21:13 UTC
The new ad spot "A Holiday Reunion" is the sequel to Steven Spielberg's
E.T., the Extra-Terrestrial (1982) that no one was asking for. It
wouldn't have been made if we hadn't reached this point-of-no-return
moment of cultural devolution - and corporate audacity.
E.T. was the most popular movie of the 1980s (ranking No. 4 on Box
Office Mojo's list of all-time highest grosses, adjusted for
inflation). It humorously and movingly portrayed grade-school kid
Elliott (Henry Thomas), feeling lonely during his parents' separation,
as he develops a friendship with an alien from outer space.
The extra-terrestrial (called E.T., condensing Elliott's own name) is a
squat, brown-skinned, wide-eyed creature with whom white-American
suburban-boy Elliott experiences telepathic empathy: psychological
projection made real.
E.T. was instantly beloved. Coming after the cornball antics of Star
Wars, it raised the stakes of what popular cinema could express and
tapped the universal need to be understood. It made the process of
identification that accompanies a child's personal growth and
maturation seem almost magical.
The film's fairy-tale simplicity went surprisingly deep, a culmination
of the yearning need for recovery expressed in the groundbreaking
cynical classics made during the American movie renaissance. E.T.'s
enchantment was a response to post-Sixties, post-Vietnam, post-
A Holiday Reunion picks up E.T. at a moment of cultural instability,
when cinema as a unifying public event is being phased out by private
streaming of narrative content - society's definitive fragmentation.
The advertisement's ulterior motive is to promote Xfinity, the cable
delivery system owned by Comcast and NBC Universal, which is the parent
company that owns Spielberg's film. Its brand-name logo marks several
scenes in the ad.
The reconnection with E.T. - the last great example of global-village
film art - proves to be a heartbreaking betrayal of cultural unity,
done for mercenary purposes. It occurs at precisely the same time that
Millennial youth have been indoctrinated and transformed into
protesting political pawns - their innocence thoroughly expropriated
and monetized, ironically brainwashed into meaningless "diversity."
E.T.'s story might be largely unknown to Parkland-Greta Thunberg
activists. Born after E.T.'s social phenomenon, the generation made
pessimistic and dystopic by Wall-E and The Dark Knight never learned
Spielberg's lesson about the ultimate ecumenical empathy. E.T.'s
annunciation and resurrection imagery was so replete with Judeo-
Christian resonances that, as with Spielberg's greatest film Close
Encounters of the Third Kind, it was more than what Disney's family-
movie fodder could ever be.
Instead, "A Holiday Reunion" presents false nostalgia. Its appeal to
Boomers encourages them to forget that E.T. was, above all, a spiritual
In the advertisement for this advertisement, the spot's plot is
described as "37 years in the making." So it is a shock when 47-year-
old Henry Thomas himself appears as a married father of two children
who embraces his old extra-terrestrial friend, returning to Earth for
no apparent reason except to sell Comcast. (Adult Elliott's couch-
potato family watch cable TV with E.T., and Elliott's son even
introduces the once technologically advanced visitor to the wonders of
WiFi, tablets, and virtual-reality gadgets.)
In "A Holiday Reunion," Xfinity's four-minute promise of media
revolution, some precious part of our cultural past has been violated.
E.T.'s storybook moral, the truly great moment of the alien and
children bicycling across the luminous orb of the moon, as well as
God's rainbow sign to Noah, are traduced.
"These things are fragile!" Holly Hunter insisted in Spielberg's 1989
metaphysical romance Always. She referred not only to tradition or
nostalgia but also to signifiers of Spielberg's (and the West's) entire
ethical, ethnic foundation, now trivialized - and, apparently, with the
corporate maestro's own consent. He's finally succeeded in turning E.T.
into merchandise. This ad's Christmas is a holiday minus a Christ
Even as John Williams's repurposed score tugs at your memories, the
"Okay, Boomer" sarcasm of this ad is a patronizing offense. The ad's
director, Lance Accord (a former cinematographer who gave a mirthless,
disenchanted look to several of Spike Jonze's surreal art-caprices),
cannot match that transcendent final close-up of Elliott staring
heavenward, his child's face conveying the price of wisdom. Is nothing
in our culture sacred? Will anything ever make Spielberg great again?
Watching Democrats come up with schemes to "catch Trump" is like
watching Wile E. Coyote trying to catch Road Runner.