Before the Movie:
Understanding what it means to be a Caring Family Member pause and reflect on your relationship with those you love. What do you give them and what do you receive?
Reflect: How are you a Caring Family Member at home, school or in your wider community? What do you think can be learnt from being a Caring Family Member?
Family is a powerful word and means different things to different people. Family is something you can be born into or be part of making. Thus, it is important to reflect on the familial roles we play and the units we belong to.
During the Movie:
From the onset of Steven Spielberg’s classic film about the loss of innocence and the power of friendship, looming tension is generated not just through the experience of a E.T. lost in the forest but importantly the depiction of Elliot’s family life.
Elliot, like many characters in Spielberg films (and like Steven Spielberg himself), comes from a divorced home. The idea of the “broken home” from Spielberg’s lens and children in need of a father are major themes within his work including Jaws, Close Encounters of the Third Kind, Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom, Hook, Jurassic Park and War of the Worlds. His preoccupation with the idea of the ideal American family not only stems from his personal experience as a child from a divorced home, but also with political ideas of the American dream.
The promise of the American Dream that Spielberg yearns for and challenges, lives within the suburban landscape of Elliot’s world. Picturesque homes and middle class living is depicted in the film but E.T’s existence, Elliot’s family trouble and ultimately Elliot’s dependence on something out of this world for support and love, illustrate that the American dream is fragile. Like E.T, Elliot is lost, frightened and alone. Not truly understood by his family, Elliot finds a “father figure” and deep friendship in E.T. He is not scared of him, but rather shows great empathy and understands his deep need to return home to his family; to return to what is normal for him.
Like E.T, Elliot wishes for his own normalcy and because of this, goes to great lengths to ensure that his new friend is able to return to the family that loves him. As the E.T.’s existence brings about great conflict and danger, Elliot (an Earthly father or loyal son to E.T) goes to great lengths to bring his friend peace. Elliott, yearns to do good and protect E.T. from danger. He stands undivided from E.T. and shows unconditional love, support and understanding.
Elliott very much embodies what it means to be A Caring Family Member. He thinks not of himself but of E.T. and goes to great lengths to protect his friend.
After the Movie:
Whether in class with students or at home with family, E.T. provides an opportunity for us all to reflect on what family means and the role with play within our respective family. Take the time to share what family means. This could be done in class in a small group conversation or at home around the dinner table. Take the time to intentionally reflect, share and give thanks.
Be creative and have fun!