I’ve watched E.T. about thirty-six times in my life. I’ve cried thirty-five of those times. The other time I was watching it with my girlfriend, whom I had just started dating, so I was trying so hard to hold back my tears that I got a stomach ache. It gets me every time. It’s a profoundly impactful and emotional movie. It’s perfect. You can keep your Jaws and your Indiana Jones and you can definitely keep your Bridge of Spies. To me, E.T. is Spielberg’s masterpiece. I love everything about it, not just from an entertainment standpoint, but also– and probably most importantly– because it’s a learning tool. It’s taught me a great deal about life. It’s helped me understand things, almost all things. In fact, the only thing I don’t understand with regards to E.T. is why it’s called E.T. The Extra-Terrestrial. Does that mean that the movies actual full title is Extra-Terrestrial The Extra-Terrestrial? Seems unnecessarily repetitive. That’d be like calling a movie The Sandlot The Baseball Field. That doesn’t matter, though. What matters is that most everything I know about life I’ve learned from E.T. So here is my list of life lessons, ranked in order from least to most important.
Potato Salad is Disgusting:
Do you remember the scene where E.T. gets his run of the house and goes about doing what any stoned college kid or pubescent teenager would do and beings rifling through the fridge? The very first food he tries is a container of potato salad. Immediately upon tasting the lumpy mayonnaise soup, his face folds in on itself in horror. He can’t stomach it. I don’t blame E.T. at all. Potato Salad? Come on. Potato Salad consists of potatoes, eggs, relish, mayonnaise, onions, and mustard. That’s a truly disgusting combination. That’s an eye of newt shy of a witch’s brew. That’s a Fear Factor challenge. Whoever came up with the name “Potato Salad” is in the same pantheon of snake oil salesmen who named the fried cream cheese, onion, and fish dumpling a “Crab Rangoon”. I don’t like Potato Salad. I don’t even respect it. That all started with E.T.
Bicycles Are the Ideal Form of Kid Transportation:
I’ve noticed you don’t see as many kids on bicycles these days. I wonder if it’s because instead of E.T, those kids grew up watching Wall-E, which is literally a movie about falling in love with an iPhone, or because they grew up watching Avatar, which is a movie about falling in love with a video game, or because they grew up watching The Fountain, which… I’m not really sure what that movie is about, but I know there aren’t any bikes in it. Kids today don’t know what they’re missing. I miss the feeling of cruising around town, wind whistling through my helmet in search of adventure with my friends. I miss feeling like riding around with no place to go was important. I miss wishing I had an E.T. in my basket to fly me up clear over the moon. Whenever I watch Elliot and his crew whip away from those shadowy government agents (never bring a van to a bike fight, NASA), I really miss being a kid. Bikes are awesome.
Drinking is Fine, Until It Isn’t:
Let’s go back to that fridge scene. Right after E.T. ditches the potato salad, he goes to wash it down with a beer. Love that move. I’d say if there’s one guy that deserves a beer it’s E.T. I’ve had a few cocktails to unwind after a bad round of golf; E.T. got abandoned by his family on a strange planet, his chances of survival hinging upon a group of elementary aged children protecting him from the most sophisticated and powerful government in the world. I’m going to give him a pass on the first beer. It’s the second, third, fourth, fifth, and sixth beers I have a problem with. E.T. makes two classic drinking mistakes: never drink on an empty stomach and know your limits. He goes from stone sober to washed out before he knows what hit him. That’s not great. It’s not the only issue, though. Anyone that’s ever been around an alcoholic will tell you that alcohol abuse doesn’t only affect one individual. It hurts friends, family, co-workers. When Elliot ends up feeling the effects of E.T’s beer consumption through their normally adorable mind-body connection and gets thrown out of school for public drunkenness, it’s a clear illustration of alcohol’s long, powerful tentacles. I’m not sure the point of that scene was to teach me about the impact of drug and alcohol abuse, but it was more effective than any D.A.R.E. program I sat through.
Call Your Parents:
I was visiting with my parents the other night, sitting across the dinner table I grew up eating at and chatting with my father. I was suddenly struck by the grey in his hair. The wrinkles around his eyes. The subtle softening of his voice. It’s one of the first times I’ve ever felt confronted by his mortality. It was at that moment I vowed to visit my parents more often. I promised to stop letting their calls go to voicemail just because I wanted to scroll twitter without interruption. Too often we get caught up in our lives and forget the people that shaped them for us. We tend to forget, or choose to ignore, that the people we love won’t be around forever. Not E.T. All he wanted to do was phone home. All he wanted to do was give his parents a call, let him know he was doing OK, and that he was probably going to need them to pick him up later.
Growing Up Ruins Everything:
If you remove all the adults from the movie, this is what E.T. is about: A young boy finds an alien in his yard. The boy, his siblings, and the alien have a great couple of days, eating junk food and playing dress-up before the alien has to leave and go back to his family. Once the grown-ups get involved, both the alien and the boy are almost killed at the hands of over-eager scientists. Why are adults the way that we are? Why is our first inclination to want to slice open an alien’s chest cavity and put his heart in a jar instead of just offering him some Reese’s Pieces? What the hell is wrong with us? When did we lose our sense of decency and friendship and love and wonderment and joy? It’s pathetic. If you can help it, grow old, but don’t grow up. You’ll hate yourself for it.
I don’t have to explain this one to you.