I recently fell for the clickbait title: “This Amazing Ad Takes a Bleak but Loving Look at Christmas in the Year 2117 – A post-apocalyptic tale of togetherness” and read their analysis of a creative video ad by the German company, Edeka. The article focused on the human fear of an AI takeover and its consequent apocalypse. It also questions many of the story discrepancies from this perspective.
The video is set in a bleak post-apocalypse urban setting where there seem to only be robots. A team of robots are “marching” in form when one of them looks to the side and gazed at an old movie theater. He is enamored by a poster depicting a Christmas family meal. He wants a closer look, so he breaks away from his team, hides behind a car, and sneaks into the abandoned movie theater.
At the movie theater, our robot protagonist finds a decorated Christmas tree, an old newspaper article showing the humans fled the cities, presumably because of the robot takeover. He goes to the back to find the film and plays it. The film shows a heartwarming scene where an ordinary family with a father, a mother, a son and a daughter celebrates Christmas over a nice meal at home. The father gives the daughter a wrapped present and she gives him a big hug in gratitude.
Excited, the robot steals the Christmas tree and tries to renact the scene from the video with mannequins. Even though he had the tree and the right number of mannequins, the experience didn’t live up his vision. So, he decides the key ingredient he’s missing is humans. He remembers the newspaper article which showed mountains in the picture of fleeing humans. Our robot deduced that the humans must be hiding in the mountains and runs off to find them.
A great distance later, the robot discovers a lit cabin in the woods. He knocks on the door and a grizzly man opens it. He’s on guard, but his young daughter is not. She’s part of a newer generation. The robot hands her a gift, the star from the Christmas tree. She accepts the gift and they welcome him to their home. He is seated at the dinner table and observes the warm interactions of the family. The father tells a story of his encounter with a bear. The children laugh. It’s perfect.
The little girl returns his gift with her own: a heart-shaped sticker, which she sticks on his chest. Our robot has a heart. The video ends with the statement: “without love, it’s just a feast.”
To me, the abandoned city setting and the return to nature means the author condemns urban life. The city is where robots live. They’re militant, marching in orderly lines, and scouting for enemies between marches. The city is a cold and desolate place of rules and regulations. By escaping to the mountains, the humans in the cabin have abandoned the city for a more natural lifestyle. Their home is big, warm, and happy. They don’t turn away the robot when he comes, but are open to his intentions and accept him as a convert.
Therefore, rather than view the story as a humans vs robots sci-fi narrative, I see it as a metaphor for today. Some people are like robots—maybe the government, maybe the Wall Street executives, or maybe the corporate employees and factory line workers who live bleak, routine lives. These people are lonely, but not for each other’s company, but for a warmer presence they cannot find in their environments. They’re lonely for love, family, and the warmth of acceptance.
The humans who fled and abandoned the cities are the wise ones. They got away before they could turn into robots. Perhaps robots can turn back into humans, too?