Critical Analysis of Monster Theory in E.T.

919 words (4 pages) Essay in Film Studies

18/05/20 Film Studies Reference this

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Growth is a universal element of all living things.  Amid the cycle of human growth is environmental evolution, improved awareness to surroundings, and self-realization.  Throughout the movie, E.T.- the Extra-Terrestrial , we witness the growth and development of Elliott, a pre-teen human and E.T., an alien. They stand in silence observing the sharpness of their physical differences.  The division within this scene mirrors the perceived dichotomy between aliens and humans.  Elliott touches his nose and E.T. does the same. Elliott makes a sound and E.T. repeats the sound.  These scenes are symbolic of the self- discovery that occurs during infancy.  E.T. is an allegorical depiction of Cohen’s monster theory using the themes of discovery, love and loss and difference.

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 A prominent theme in the movie, E.T. – the Extra-Terrestrial is love and relationships.  The two main characters, Elliott and E.T., share the ultimate friendship bond.  At similar stages in their development, the characters realize that they are sharing new experiences together, the realization of which solidifies this bond.  E.T. shows his profound love and commitment to the bond when he breaks his connection with Elliott, despite the fact that it implies that he may die.  Elliott shows his commitment to the bond when he persuades his brother to partner with him to save E.T. from government officials who want to exploit the alien for research and profits. The relationship between the E.T. and Elliot is based on reciprocity which breeds love.  The concepts of love and sacrifice are closely related and are featured consistently throughout literature.  In many works of literature, we witness the times where love requires sacrifice.  In the classic William Shakespeare play, Romeo and Juliet, the main characters each sacrifice the security of their aristocrat families to become married. 

 The love and sacrifice theme in the film is also shown through E.T.’s mother.  She is recently divorced and raising three children alone.  The mother is shown crying over the divorce in an opening scene with Elliott and his siblings.  Elliot’s mother uses sarcasm to suggest that he call his father, who abandoned the trio for another woman.  She is surprised when Elliott responds, “I can’t call him, he’s in Mexico with Sally”.  Elliott’s mom is visibly upset and leaves the table in tears.  Ironically, this is one of few scenes in the film when the mother is upset.  Her character is mostly pictured emitting positive emotions – when she is reads a bedtime story to her daughter and when the kids get dressed to go trick or treating- the loving mother traditional gender role does not go unnoticed.  This implies that Elliott’s mother sacrificed her marriage.  The love of her family and children compensates for the sacrifice.   

 Labeled as one of the original modern science fiction films, there are strong elements of Cohen’s monster theory present in the film E.T (Ebert).  The theory is best observed through a character analysis of Elliott.  Elliott showed strong emotions of love for E.T. the first time they met.  This is analogous to the fourth principle of Cohen’s monster theory which states that “The Monster Dwells at the Gates of Difference”.  It explains that the monster is difference made flesh that comes to dwell among us. It represents the “Other,” the “Outside,” from what is culturally normative. (Kim)  The irony of monstrosity in E.T. is that we witness two aliens as monsters, both the character, E.T., and Elliott.  Elliott instantly embraced E.T.’s otherness which became a detriment to his credibility as a normal human.  Why was Elliott not skeptical of E.T.’s differences?  The question remains unanswered in the film; however, it is evident that Elliott’s assimilation with the alien culture led to his ostracism from humans. And although E.T. and Elliott are from different backgrounds, they are bound together as friends and also by their characterization as outsiders.  E.T. is mistakenly left alone to experience life amongst humans when his spaceship ascends into the sky carrying his remaining family of aliens.  Elliott feels alone although he is among family due to the absence of his father in the home. 

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 E.T. represents all of the most effective components of being a child, like discovery, wonder, and feeling. When E.T. leaves and Elliott stays, it suggests that Elliott is able to take the experience and knowledge that E.T. imparted and begin transitioning into a young man. (Ebert).  The transition into adulthood is an inevitable aspect of life.  Like many life transitions, the human response is dependent on environment and previous experiences.  Elliott’s coming of age symbolized the human emotional responses of love, discovery and acceptance.  

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