Wednesday, October 15, 2008

E. T. As Messianic Alien

One film we haven't discussed yet on Wed. nights within the context of a Christian framework is E.T. the Extra-Terrestrial, so here are some thoughts about E.T. as a Christ-figure:

[edit] Themes---Wikipedia
Spielberg drew the story of E.T. from the divorce of his own parents;[20] Gary Arnold of the Washington Post called the film "essentially a spiritual autobiography, a portrait of the filmmaker as a typical suburban kid set apart by an uncommonly fervent, mystical imagination".[21] Reflections of Steven Spielberg's childhood are seen throughout: Elliott feigns illness by holding his thermometer to a light bulb while covering his face with a heating pad, which was a trick frequently employed by the young Spielberg.[22] Michael's picking on Elliott echoes Spielberg's teasing of his younger sisters,[6] and Michael's evolution from tormentor to protector reflects how Spielberg had to take care of his sisters after their father left.[8]

Critics have focused on the parallels between the life of E.T. and Elliott, who is "alienated" by the loss of his father.[23][24] The New York Times film critic A.O. Scott wrote that while E.T. "is the more obvious and desperate foundling", Elliott "suffers in his own way from the want of a home".[25] (coincidentally, E.T. is the first and last letter of Eliott's name).[26] At the film's heart is the theme of growing up. Critic Henry Sheehan described the film as a retelling of Peter Pan from the perspective of a Lost Boy (Elliott).[27] E.T. cannot survive physically on Earth, as Pan could not survive emotionally in Neverland; Neverland’s pirates are replaced by government scientists.[27] Some critics have suggested that Spielberg's portrayal of suburbia is very dark, contrary to popular belief. A.O. Scott said, "The suburban milieu, with its unsupervised children and unhappy parents, its broken toys and brand-name junk food, could have come out of a Raymond Carver story,"[25] and Charles Taylor of said, "Spielberg's movies, despite the way they're often characterized, are not Hollywood idealizations of families and the suburbs. The homes here bear what the cultural critic Karal Ann Marling called 'the marks of hard use'."[20]

Spielberg admitted this scene triggered speculation as to whether the film was a religious parable.

[28]Other critics found religious parallels between E.T. and Jesus.[29][30] Andrew Nigels described the story of E.T. as "crucifixion by military science" and "resurrection by love and faith".[31] According to Spielberg biographer Joseph McBride, Universal Studios appealed directly to the Christian market, with a poster reminiscent of Michelangelo's Creation of Adam and a logo reading "Peace".[12] Spielberg answered that he did not intend the film to be a religious parable, joking, "If I ever went to my mother and said, 'Mom, I've made this movie that's a Christian parable,' what do you think she'd say? She has a kosher restaurant on Pico and Doheny in Los Angeles."[28]

As a substantial body of film criticism has built up around E.T., numerous writers have analyzed the film in other ways as well. E.T. has been analyzed as a modern fairy tale[32] and in psychoanalytic terms.[32][24] Producer Kathleen Kennedy noted that an important theme of E.T. is tolerance, which would be central to future Spielberg films such as Schindler's List.[6] Having been a loner as a teenager, Spielberg described the film as "a minority story".[33] Spielberg's common theme of communication is partnered with the ideal of common understanding as represented in his depiction of humans and aliens: he asks that if an alien and a human can become friends, so too can many enemies who live close to one another on Earth.[34]

Also, this website offers these thoughts about E.T. as a Christ-figure:

Theme of Persecution
Theme of Family
Critics and Supporters
Theme of Innocence
Theme of Healing
Theme of Sacrificial Love
Theme of Reserection

Also from the same website, check out this section:

Other Interesting Facts

-When E.T. died the doctor pronounced him dead at 15:36 (3:36 p.m.). It is especially significant to recall that the Gospels place the death of Jesus on the cross at some brief time after the 'ninth hour' Matthew 27:45). The Hebrew day began at 6 a.m. so the ninth hour would have been 3 p.m.

- “Both E.T. and Christ are 'extra-terrestrials,' coming into the world from the 'outside in.' Both begin their 'adventures on earth' in less-than-auspicious circumstances - E.T. in a shed behind the home where he takes up residence, Christ in an animal shelter behind the 'inn.'

- Jesus states: "I tell you the truth, unless you change and become like little children, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven." (Matthew 18:3). Elliott (to Gertie): "Grownups can't see him. Only little kids can see him." And from Mark 9:37: "Whoever welcomes one of these little children in my name welcomes me..."

- Matthew 27:51 mentions that after Jesus died, the "earth shook and the rocks split." In the 1982 E.T. novel: "They [the doctors] hardly noticed the momentary flicker in the lights, and in the equipment, nor did they fully perceive the trembling of the house, the valley. This was reserved for other men, other equipment, those that monitor disturbances deep in the Earth's core...".

- E.T. tells Elliott repeatedly: "E.T. phone home." What Bible verse is known as 'God's telephone number'? Jeremiah 33:3. ["Call to me and I will answer you and tell you great and unsearchable things you do not know."] In Rolling Stone magazine (Jan. 18/01) Bono confirmed that he changed the airport gate-sign on the cover of U2's latest album ["All That You Can't Leave Behind"] to J33-3. Bono told RS: "It was done like a piece of graffiti - It's known as 'God's telephone number'."

- Before His ascension, Jesus promises his disciples: "And surely I will be with you always..."(Matthew 28:20). Before E.T.'s ascension in the spaceship he says "I'll be right here," fingertip glowing over Elliott's chest. [E.T.'s own chest contains a glowing heart-light, analogous to the Sacred Heart portraits of Jesus.] He also said in his final moments on earth to Elliott, 'Come.' Matthew 14:29 reads, 'And he said, Come.'

Each of these examples came from (E.t. the Extra Terrestrial Savoir, 2006) and (Mann, 2005).

One other website of interest is: Jesus Covered In a Secular Wrapper: The Christ-figure in Popular Films.

Thoughts? Comments? Questions?


The Never Fairy said...

I thought Spielberg denied it being a parallel of Jesus. He said it was a retelling of The Wizard of OZ "New" land, 3 friends/helpers, flying bicycles = flying monkeys, and most importantly, 'I want to go home.'

For more Peter Pan adventure, though, that's very different from the rest, click on my name.

TheoPoet said...

Sorry it took so long to get back to you, but thanks for your comment. I seem to have gotten behind on responding to comments.

Anyways, I'm not sure---your guess is as good as mine. Cool Peter Pan link by the way!

TheoPoet said...

Also, I think we see whatever we want to in films.