E.T The Extra Terrestrial – A Child’s View Of Immigration


DIRECTOR: Steven Spielberg

“Be honest, it made you cry. Admit it.” a person told me after rewatching it.

The film does warm the heart, gives you goosebumps at all the key moments and leaves one with a lump in the throat as the end credits roll up on the screen. I will not belittle Steven Spielberg as a director. His early films were crafted well but what is hidden in this blockbuster family film?

Dare I say it,  this film is a perspective on how children should view immigrants and people of other cultures living with them.  How did I arrive at that point of view? Let’s first breakdown the film but without destroying it because it is a great film.

et_the_extra-terrestrial_1E.T is left stranded by his spacecraft as NASA Scientists are following the craft’s trail. E.T then hides in bushes and Elliot’s (Thomas) backyard. Elliot sees him, wants his  broken family to believe him to which there is disbelief. After E.T is seen by his his siblings Michael(MacNaughton) and Gertie(Barrymore) they are as mesmerised by E.T  as much as Elliot is. Something is at work emotively with young Elliot and E.T as they share an intuitive bond and can feel each other’s feelings. E.T needs to go back home as the extra terrestrial is slowly fading as represented by the flower he brought back to life. The children make plans for E.T to phone home while NASA Scientists want E.T for their purposes.

E.T is left on earth. The little goblin is in culture shock, trying to adapt to surroundings. We see E.T sensing plants, seeing what California is like and hides. E.T is hiding from what? The threat of NASA Scientists who want everything for discovery. In the backyard Elliot hears scuffling and he sees E.T, the viewer doesn’t  nor does his brother and friends. Not seeing E.T symbolises that he’s only real to one person, not us and any feeling we should have towards E.T is simply replaced with judgement. The boys tease Elliot, it’s goblins, ghouls or wolves.

A few scenes pass and his siblings see E.T believe him and commit to learning and growing from E.T just as the extra terrestrial is learning from them. No one is forcing a view on each other. Growth is happening and rapport is building. Two cultures are intertwining. While this is happening the NASA Scientists who are still inquisitive to find E.T , but for what motive?

The plant that represents E.T is slowly dying, and home is urgently needed for E.T. Intercultural Communication takes place where both E.T , Elliot and his family help. Through a universal cultural day of Halloween, everybody plays their part including the disbelievers in Michael’s crew. We see all boys fly on their bikes to the place they need to go, the forest. The place where it started and where it will end.

A lot is happening in the film E.T and it works on so many levels whether it be a safe family film, the SciFi, adults as badguys, or now even an immigration and intercultural communication story to learn from.

What does it mean to you?


Henry Thomas as Elliot

Robert Macnaughton as Michael

Drew Barrymore as Gertie

Dee Williams as Mary

Peter Coyote as Keys



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