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Chris Kelly Headshot

Obama and Afghanistan, But Also Some Jokes About Commercials

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So President Obama's new plan is we're stuck in Afghanistan forever. What did Schumpeter call imperialism? Oh yeah, "expansion for the sake of expanding, war for the sake of fighting, victory for the sake of winning, dominion for the sake of ruling." Sounds about right. The good news is that Folgers Coffee is bringing its boys home.

They've made a new version of their classic Christmas commercial, "Peter's Homecoming." Here's the old one.

A perfect short story. Spare. Economical. Universal. Man sponges a ride off someone in a VW Beetle, wakes up his little sister, makes coffee for a woman he addresses as mom and a man to whom he doesn't speak. Where has Peter been? War? Prison? Insane asylum? We don't know. We don't need to know. What's important is that he's home. And he's made shitty coffee.

(Maybe it's symbolic. Maybe he's supposed to represent the Apostle Peter, who also liked to travel, and started off as a fisherman, which would explain the awful sweater. Peter was also the rock on which Jesus built his church, which might explain why Folgers tastes like rocks.)

(And he knew his beverage metaphors. Wasn't it Peter who said, "As newborn babes, desire the sincere milk of the word?" Yes it was. I just looked it up.)

"Peter's Homecoming" aired every Christmas from 1985 to 1998, inexplicably disappeared until 2004, and then, like Peter, returned. Now it's gone again.

Here's the new one.

There are a bunch of significant differences. Let's take them in order:

- The main character is no longer named "Peter." Is this a bow to secular humanist pressure groups? A second front in the War on Christmas? Or is it because Folgers doesn't want to be confused with Peet's Coffee, a misunderstanding that would never happen in real life, because Peet's Coffee doesn't taste like ass?

- The Son with No Name arrives by cab, both taking the Folgers brand up-market and avoiding the other unpleasant associations with hitchhiking, like the chance that Not-Peter had to blow someone.

- The sister has grown up. She's even lovelier and whiter than before.

- It's no longer a mystery where her brother has been. Our first clue is his backpack. It says "Volunteer." Our second clue is when he says, "It's a long way from West Africa." So there's your answer. He's been in an insane asylum in West Africa. He killed one of the volunteer guards, stole his backpack and escaped.

- This time, she's the one who's made the coffee. He's sort of happy to see her, but that has nothing on how much he loves that coffee. He shoves her aside and basically puts his face in the pot and moans:

Aghhhhh...ah! Cooooffeeee!

And then he gives her a present, but she says he's her present, and they look at each other in a deeply meaningful but totally not sexy way and then mom comes downstairs with some random hook-up who everyone ignores.

But you're not thinking about that, because your brain has locked up. Seized. Totally shot. You might as well just sell your head for parts because you're thinking:

YOU CAN'T GET GOOD COFFEE IN AFRICA???

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So how did a perfectly good ad get so screwed up? This is what happens when you overthink things in a story conference. Every answer raises a new question.

AD EXEC #1
Where was this guy?

AD EXEC #2
He was away.

AD EXEC #1
That's not good enough anymore. For all we know, he's only loose because he's been pardoned by Mike Huckabee.

AD EXEC #2
Okay. He's been volunteering.

AD EXEC #1
I like it. White people do that. Where?

AD EXEC #2
South America?

AD EXEC #1
The only decent coffee we sell comes from South America, stupid.

AD EXEC #2
Vietnam?

AD EXEC #1
Where do you think we get the crap we put in Folgers?

AD EXEC #2
Really? It's Mountain Grown in the mountains of Vietnam?

AD EXEC #1
How long have you been on this account? Don't you ever drink it?

AD EXEC #2
Drink it? It's Folgers.

AD EXEC #1
Let's focus. What if he's been volunteering in Africa?

AD EXEC #2
Okay, but we'll say "West Africa" so people don't think he's a deserter from Black Hawk Down.

AD EXEC #1
Good. And make sure the sister says she's his sister. She's jumpin' in his arms and sleeping in his clothes. They'll think he's fuckin' her.

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But here's why my mind has locked up. And I didn't even vote for Obama, Chief Executive in Charge of Bank Bonuses and Permanent War. My mind is locked up because I know the real reason they had to change this ad:

If they aired the old one today, people might think "Peter" was an American soldier from Iraq or Afghanistan.

And those guys are never coming home.