Not “E.T. Squared” but “E.T.A.F.”
As in “Emmett Till times Anne Frank.”
“Anne and Emmett” is the title of Janet Langhart Cohen’s new play, which imagines a dialogue between Emmett Till and Anne Frank.
I found out about this play in a somewhat unlikely way, but it reminded me of our screening of “E.T. Squared” a few months ago. Certainly, both “Anne and Emmett” and “E.T. Squared” are mash-ups—ahistorical fictions that bring together characters who, in reality, never met. And, in some ways, “Anne and Emmett” seems just as prone to criticism as “E.T. Squared”: it would be possible to argue that comparing two completely unrelated tragedies can only trivialize both.
However, I have a hunch that people won’t have as many problems with “Anne and Emmett” as they did with “E.T. Squared.” Like it or not, the Holocaust and the United State’s mistreatment of blacks both during and after the Civil War are both the kinds of tragedies that are nearly inconceivable due to their magnitude. It’s a strange kind of logic that takes that common inconceivability as a sign that it’s okay to compare the two, but that logic exists nonetheless.
Compare either event to Spielberg’s “E.T. the Extra-Terrestrial,” and one can imagine that people might start to get offended. However, when it comes down to the rhetoric of “Anne and Emmett” vs. “E.T. Squared,” it seems to me that there’s really not that much of a difference. As with any forced comparison, the hope is that some kind of new form will emerge from the two—something that might help people understand each event differently, or even better.
I’m not sure what my point is here. I guess I’m certainly interested to see how critics respond to “Anne and Emmett.” Maybe that will teach us something about the response to “E.T. Squared.”