E.T.: Celluloid Savior

Consider the following. E.T. is a Christ figure. He is a botanist, a “shepherd of plants” so to speak. His mission is peaceful—he has come to save some of the earth’s endangered organisms. He arrives out of the heavens, heals the sick (the dying plant, Elliot’s finger), and performs miracles (elevating the bicycles and other objects). All the while, he is preoccupied by a major goal of calling home (see Mark 1:35). He communicates through some sort of mystic transference of feelings rather than through words (Matthew 16:17). E.T. has a profound influence for the positive over those around him: Elliot sets the frogs free; Elliott’s older brother, contemplating E.T.’s higher intelligence, abstains from juvenile mischief on the bus; and an arguing family unites in a bond of love as disciples.

E.T. encourages faith in a broken-hearted Elliot who says, “I’ll believe in you every day for the rest of my life.” As a confirmation of the heavenly parallel, the kind scientist declares, “E.T.’s being with us is a miracle.”) The extraterrestrial dies, resurrects, and ascends to heaven, but not before issuing a final decree to his disciples, a proclamation on how to conduct one’s life (“Be good”), an invitation to follow him (“Come”), and a promise to be with them always (“I’ll be right here”; see Matthew 28:20). And owing to Spielberg’s religious background, E.T. even has “the sacred heart.”

And if all these examples aren’t enough, consider the E.T. ad poster: E.T. touching the finger of an infant—a visual parallel of Michelangelo’s depiction of the creation of Man.

An excerpt from “E.T.: Celluloid Savior” by Marty Nabhan, in the September 1982 Sunstone Review.