Special Feature
Part of a ZDNet Special Feature: Coronavirus: Business and technology in a pandemic

Apple wants you to prepare for a lonely, miserable Christmas

The magic of the Holidays? Not this year, Apple says, in its less-than-traditional holiday ad.

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Please don't worry. There's a happy ending. Well, happyish.

Screenshot by ZDNet

In the cage match of Santa vs Fauci, the latter has some persuasive moves.

America's foremost epidemiologist predicts a "surge upon surge" of the coronavirus as we approach Christmas. What can Santa say to counter that? Somehow, ho-ho-ho doesn't necessarily cut it.

It seems, indeed, that Apple has already flipped to Fauci's side.

Its new Holiday ad offers no families, no hugging, and certainly no mistletoe-inspired mischief.

Instead, here's North Philadelphia-based rapper Tierra Whack finding the spirit of Christmas decidedly muted.

Yes, of course, she has her AirPods to help her wander through the streets alone. Still, she doesn't feel good and doesn't want to lie about it.

No, she's not wearing a mask, which might upset Dr. Fauci. On the other hand, Whack's scarf gets so long that it begins to cover her mouth and nose. Why? Because this is art.

She gets home, to a lonely apartment. She doesn't want to be judged, she raps, she just wants to be herself.

Being yourself isn't so easy right now. Many people are being encouraged to think of others before they're overwhelmingly themselves, a spirit that hasn't quite been embraced by musicians such as Cardi B and Rita Ora.

Whack, though, is just herself and her music and that may not be enough. She has a large, traditional HomePod. She tells traditional Siri to "turn it way up."

This, for reasons of artistic symbolism, causes the HomePod to explode and leave behind a HomePod Mini.

What could this mean? That the traditional HomePod was never really all that? That Siri has a secret self-destruct button? That Apple's Holiday ad is nakedly commercialistic?

But wait, the Mini is your path to a new, smaller you. A smaller you that's more positive and feistier. Soon, this mini-you will have maxi-you dancing around your apartment, comforted by the knowledge that your smaller self is your better self.

"I don't wanna be judged, I just want to be me," croons Whack again. In which case, avoid contact with other humans at all costs.

Continues our protagonist: "You gotta be the one that people look up to." It seems that Apple thinks the way you'll be looked up to is if you stay at home this Christmas, just you, your little self, and your HomePod Mini.

Who am I to say Apple is wrong? The creation, though, of a mini-person is one of advertising's more tiresome tropes. If Mobil 1 has done it, why would you stoop to it?

Moreover, it's unlike Apple -- or, frankly, any other advertiser -- to ask people to live a little smaller.

Still, it's admirable that Apple isn't, for once, trying to gloss over reality and make us believe in too syrupy a world. Well, not entirely. The ad still offers the slightly hoary message that music will be our salvation.

I don't wanna be judged, but I think it's going to take a little more than that. My mini-me agrees.