Home Alone with NBC's New Twinkines
By Bill Hall, Lewiston, Idaho Tribune, November 29, 1993
I would not be surprised if NBC announced that we will no longer eat
turkey and pumpkin pie on Thanksgiving but will instead eat lasagna and
Twinkies because that is the "new tradition."
NBC announced in promos on the eve of Thanksgiving that the network is
creating a "new tradition" of watching the movie "Home Alone."
I regret that decision for several reasons:
For one thing, "new tradition" is an oxymoron, a self-contradicting
expression like hot ice or brave politician or accurate journalist or
sensitive network executive. A tradition is, by definition, old. The
jury is out on something that has happened only once. Time alone will
tell whether people come to cherish an event and turn it into a
tradition. So a tradition is not something that you force to happen
overnight. You can no more create a tradition than you can plan
spontaneity. Turkey and pumpkin pie grew out of the harvest feast of
the pilgrims without any planning or arbitrary network announcements.
The pilgrims did not declare it a new national tradition.
The pilgrims did not have lasagna and Twinkies so we do not eat lasagna
and Twinkies for Thanksgiving unless NBC decides to bull the issue and
declare Thanksgiving a time of lasagna, Twinkies and the movie they just
rented the rights to.
Similarly, many of us have come to watch the movie "It's A Wonderful
Life" at Christmas because the movie spontaneously caught on with people
this time of year and evolved, naturally, into a tradition. (We also
watch it because there are times when it is running on every station and
there's no choice in the matter.)
"It's A Wonderful Life" became a tradition because its belief in basic
human decency fits the season so well. And of course, it also caught on
because it's a well-crafted movie, in some respects one of the great
movies of all time.
"Home Alone" is merely one of the most financially successful movies of
all time, which probably is the same thing as an artistic triumph to
some of the twits who run NBC. And they have a commercial need for a
"new tradition" at Thanksgiving whether America does or not.
But even assuming Americans needed something besides turkey, pumpkin
pie, grateful prayer and the Dallas Cowboys to see them through
Thanksgiving, "Home Alone" is an odd choice. Granted, it is a solid,
workmanlike movie and a funny one, but it is hardly one the great gut
busters of all time. And how does it mesh with Thanksgiving? It's
about a small boy whose pathologically stupid parents rush off to Europe
on a plane, neglecting to notice that they left one of the little
nippers behind and the nice one at that.
Most of the rest of the movie is given over to the kid coming up with
sadistic ways to injure and with luck, kill the two nice burglars who
have invaded what they thought was an empty home.
True, that can be heartwarming to people who enjoy watching a little kid
torture two stupid geeks. Lord knows, we all love that sort of thing on
a slow holiday afternoon or we wouldn't watch so much football.
But when it comes to matching the sentiment of the holiday to the plot
of a movie, this isn't exactly on a par with Jimmy Stewart learning at
Christmas that there is nothing more important in life than a decent
community and neighborly love.
NBC executives probably don't understand America's infatuation with
"It's A Wonderful Life" because Jimmy Stewart doesn't do any physical
damage to the nasty old banker. Jimmy doesn't so much as slug the
banker in the nose, though he does beat him savagely over the head with
an awfully well written lecture on the real values in life.
But even if it were possible to create an instant tradition for
Thanksgiving, when did we vote on "Home Alone" as that choice?
We wouldn't let Bill Clinton unilaterally decide something so important
as what we watch with our leftover turkey sandwiches on Thanksgiving
night. What makes NBC think we would trust something so significant to
the faceless Twinkies who run that network?
Indeed, when you think of what those network executives are attempting,
it causes you to reflect on how appropriate the turkey sometimes is as a
symbol of the season.