It's early December, 2012. A week quite like any other. There's stuff to be happy about (Obama has just been re-elected to office, handily trouncing challenging Republican Mitt "Lady Binders" Romney in a nationwide election), movies to look forward to (Quentin Tarantino's Django Unchained will hit theaters in a matter of weeks), and - if an ever-dwindling group of crackpots and conspiracy theorists are to be believed - humanity is just sixteen days away from a full-blown apocalypse.
Excitement is in the air, in other words, but that excitement is to be short-lived. Before the week is through, millions of internet users will have been blindsided by a most unexpected attack. It comes without warning, in the form of a Christmas music video starring John Travolta and Olivia Newton-John.
The footage finds the pair performing a song called "I Think You Might Like It". The track is the sole original tune off the duo's then recently-released holiday album, This Christmas, and was intended as a throwback of sorts to 1978, when Travolta and Newton-John struck box office gold together in Randal Kleiser's Grease (indeed, "I Think You Might Like It" was written by John Farrar, who also wrote Grease's iconic "You're The One That I Want").
Gold would not be struck again with "I Think You Might Like It".
In the video, directors Rav Holly and Corey Molina present us with a dueling pair of storylines, each one intended to warm our hearts: in the first, Travolta and Newton-John reunite outside a private airport; in the second, a number of families (including, quite inexplicably, Travolta's own) also reunite at what appears to be a different location at the same airport. Three interminable minutes later, Travolta and Newton-John wave goodbye to the camera as they drive offscreen in a clumsy recreation of Grease's closing shot.
Travolta's family, meanwhile, remains behind, awkwardly dancing with strangers inside the airport. It is quite possibly the whitest thing ever captured on film.
On the surface, everything here may seem innocuous. Wholesome, even. You've got chiming Christmas bells, festively-wrapped presents, It's A Wonderful Life gets name-dropped - it's all very Hallmark Channel. But should the viewer stop to think about anything happening onscreen for more than a few seconds, reality seems to fold in on itself.
Presenting Travolta and Newton-John as reuniting lovers sort of makes sense if we imagine the pair as their Grease characters, but even if we play along (and that's a big "if"), the illusion's immediately shattered with the inclusion of Travolta's actual wife and children.
We must also consider that almost everyone onscreen emotes as though performing to an audience watching through binoculars from half a mile away. This is somewhat understandable given that most of the cast do not appear to be professional actors (one suspects that everyone who happened to be in the area that day was forced into appearing onscreen), but far less understandable coming from Travolta and Newton-John, two people who have spent literal decades performing in front of cameras.
Note: this post will address neither Travolta's soul patch nor his chain wallet. We'd be here all goddamn day.
With the benefit of five years' recovery and reflection, it's become slightly easier to wrap one's mind around the "I Think You Might Like It" video (Grease fans will love it! "Everyone" enjoys a wholesome Christmas tune! The video probably won't get that much attention, anyway, so no harm in skimping on the budget!), but even if we understand what they were going for on paper (which we don't), it's still a skin-crawling deep-dive into the dark heart of the holiday season.
So much so, in fact, that one's immediate instinct is to turn away from it. But we mustn't let the memory of the "I Think You Might Like It" video fade away. We need to keep it alive in our hearts and minds, confronting it again every holiday season, if only to remind ourselves how thin that line is between harmless schmaltz and a Tim And Eric-level of surreal, cosmic horror. We, as a people, can never let something like this happen again.
Happy holidays. Be safe out there, and never forget.