‘ET: The Extra Terrestrial’: Seeing is believing

This is the moment when Elliot reveals E.T. to his teenage older brother, Michael.  Michael comes home after school from football practice, still wearing his shoulder pads and clutching his helmet in his hand.  He is singing quietly to himself with the air of a teenager who is confident and secure with himself; like he knows someone is watching him and saying, “he’s a cool, even when he’s at home rummaging through the refrigerator.”

[Michael sings Elvis Costello:] “….to add to your collectionnnn….”

Elliot approaches.  Before he reveals the “goblin” to his brother, he has him swear oath, an “excellent promise as my only brother in the world.”  Elliot also asserts his role as keeper and protector of “the goblin.”

[Elliot:]  Say it:  “I have absolute power.”

Michael repeats the oath in a high-pitched Yoda voice.

[Repeats in Yoda-voice]:  I have absolute power, yess…

Michael’s back is turned to Elliot.  He removes his shoulder pads at Elliot’s request, revealing him to disarmingly scrawny underneath the layers of equipment.   He is chuckling because he believes he is in on the joke that Elliot, the fantastical dreamer, is conjuring, and is in the midst of making some guttural “goblin” sounds when Elliot tells him to turn around, and he does, with the shadow of a goofy grin still on his face.

Michael’s visage transforms from teenage smugness to a mask childish horror.  His mouth goes slack-jawed, his eyes blank with shock.  He does not scream, or laugh, or say, “Nice one, Elliot.”  He believes.  He is frightened.  He is in awe.  He thought he was long passed the stage of childhood when goblins could exist in corporeal flesh.  He was wrong.  In this moment, he is a child again, hiding under the bedcovers, afraid to close his eyes, waiting desperately for morning.

Michael timidly backs away, still staring at the goblin, and clings to the back shelf for support.  Gerdy, the youngest sibling, walks in, takes one look at E.T., and screams.  The shelf breaks and collapses unto the floor in a heap.  There is chaos, and screaming, and terror, and wonder, and believing, and a child-like innocence born anew in a cocky teenager.


About Vanessa Graniello

Vanessa's film articles and reviews have appeared in The Moving Arts Film Journal, The Alternative Film Guide, and the newsletter for the Cinema Arts Centre in Huntington, NY. She is currently an adjunct lecturer in the English Department at St. Joseph's College in Patchogue, NY. View all posts by Vanessa Graniello

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