BY EMILY GAGNE
I’ve had countless movie men come in and out of my life over the years. I had my Zack Siler and Cry Baby phases as a tween; I worshiped Dirk Diggler (the man, not his big, bright, shining star), Duckie Dale and Lloyd Dobler in my teens; and I daydreamed about the Bear Jew in college. But the man that owned my heart the hardest, and probably still does, isn’t actually a man at all. In fact, he’s not even human. He’s an extraterrestrial. He’s E.T.
As a toddler, I only wanted to watch one movie and one movie over and over and over and over again. And that movie was Steven Spielberg’s E.T. For a certain period of time, I would watch the film, which follows a young boy who bonds with a heartwarming (in every sense) and charming alien, on loop throughout of the course of each day. I actually watched it so much that I ruined the VHS and we had to buy a new one.
E.T. lit up my heart so much that I wanted to keep its star close to it at all times. I wore the Universal Studios E.T. shirt my mom got me every day for a short while. I wore it at home. I wore it at preschool. I wore it to the park. I wore it while cruising around town in my parents’ car. I wore it whenever I felt the need to wear a plastic bag on my head. The only place I didn’t wear it was in my bed. My mom would wash it while I slept each night so it would be fresh and ready to go for the next day. It was essentially my film preschool uniform. Dress code: awesome.
Looking back on it, I will admit that I’m a little disturbed at how legitimately obsessed I was with this movie. But I suppose the first time you fall in love, the first time you feel something that’s real, you can get a little bit over the moon as you try to reconcile your newfound, strong as hell feelings. Just instead of putting it all out there for some jerk dude, I went all out for a remarkable film, one which still warms my soul to this day. That shirt remains folded and clean in my closet — even though it’s obviously 3000 x too small for me — and I make sure to watch the film at least once a year, for old times’ sake.
When I look back on it, I realize that my intense courtship with E.T. did more than just fill a whole lot of afternoons and dictate my fashion. It was the ultimate wingman, steering me towards the real love of my life, film. Without it, without all the craziness, I doubt I would have asked to watch my next favourite movie, Beetlejuice. And without Beetlejuice, I never would have sought out the rest of Tim Burton’s early filmography, not to mention my Winona Ryder’s (klypto joke all you want, the forever “strange and unusual” girl stole my heart the minute she wore a full funeral veil to Chinese food dinner!). And without my lifelong love of Winona Ryder, I would never would have seen Reality Bites. And without Reality Bites, I would be totally clueless to the only things I need in the world (me, Ethan Hawke and five bucks).
I’m not really sure what I loved so much about E.T. Perhaps it was the fact that it featured some of my favourite snack foods, Reese’s Pieces. Perhaps I secretly wanted to have the wealth of stuffed animals Elliot’s sister Gertie (a young Drew Barrymore!) had. Perhaps I identified with the outsider themes of the story. (Girls who dress up as Peter Pan and peasant Belle at school, don’t make fast friends.) Or perhaps I just appreciated the brilliant animatronics used to make E.T. come to life. It was probably a combination of all these things, in addition to the fact that it was the first real, non-kiddie movie I saw. It was the movie that gave me a sneak peek at the exciting, then uncharted territory that I would come to phone — er, call! — my home.