Wanna take a quick trip back to your childhood? All you gotta do is take a look at the E.T. movie poster.
Sound too simple? Well, maybe, but consider …
We get nostalgic anytime we realize that something we used to have is gone … or at least changed.
And all sorts of triggers can knock us face first into a pair of rose-colored glasses from the past.
Songs do it.
Smells do it.
Tastes do it.
Television re-runs do it.
Iconic images do it, and how!
And, really, there weren’t many images from the 1980s more iconic that the lonely night-sky friendship depicted in the E.T. movie poster. If you dig in to the symbolism, it’s easy to find your own youth, and the things you’ve lost.
I’m sure you can come up with your own, but here are a half dozen lost joys hiding there in plain sight, right along Elliott and E.T. himself.
Endless Play Time
Remember those summer days when you’d be out the door as soon as you got up in the morning and slugged down a bowl of Froot Loops, then didn’t come back inside until the frogs were baying at the moon? (Save for a bologna-sandwich-and-grape-soda lunch break.)
Well, E.T. and its iconic poster bring all that back.
Sure, the movie is set sometime around Halloween, but here you have Elliott and his swaddled little buddy zooming across the moon on their bicycle.
If you didn’t know about the movie and saw this pic, you’d think they were off on some late-night adventure … which, of course, they are.
Just like you used to be in those long-ago summers when everything was right and all you had to do was play until you dropped.
The other thing you had to do back in those halcyon days was dream about what was possible.
You were going to be a Major League Baseball star.
An NBA legend.
A mad scientist.
A rocket man who could fly anything to the moon and back.
Just like Elliott can in E.T., and on the E.T. movie poster. And if he can do that, can’t he do just about anything? I mean, at least with a little help from his little friend?
And if Elliott can do anything, so can you.
The Death Star
We all know that’s supposed to be the moon behind Elliott and E.T. on their flying bicycle, but if you look closer, there’s something more.
Like some lines and a structure you don’t normally see when you’re out at night doing whatever form of stargazing you like to do.
And what big, spherical thing from 70s and 80s movies lights up and has some sort of definite structure?
Yeah, the Death Star.
Now, I’m not saying Steven Spielberg deliberately copied friend George Lucas’s visuals from the Star Wars universe, or even that this orb really looks all that much like the Death Start.
But it’s definitely evocative.
And if I’m going to involuntarily think about any movie franchise from my childhood — or any time, really — it might as well be the Skywalker soiree.
So, yes … Elliott and E.T. are, at the moment of this scene, fleeing from scientists who want to understand their visitor down to the molecular level and at any cost.
But when you see this, you think about all that led up to (and followed) it …
The kids staying up late into the night, traipsing around the backyard.
A see of monsters and fairies as the youngin’s roam around the neighborhood on Halloween night.
Elliott and his sibs at home alone while mom works.
Trips into the woods to help E.T. find his way home. Or at least to phone there.
All this stuff was common in the 1980s but would give most of us heartburn today.
Is there anyplace where kids still run around without a helicopter parent hovering nearby … or at least pinging them by cell every five minutes or so?
Maybe, but feeling safe — on your own — in the world seems to be an artifact of simpler times.
Like, oh, I don’t know … 1982. You know, the year E.T. came out.
If you’re reading this, you’re most likely an adult.
And, chances are pretty good you’re a, um, mature adult. And maturity often comes with setting aside childhood things.
You know, like yo-yos and Big Traks and comic books and such.
Most of the time, that list also includes bicycles.
If your stop-doing-because-I’m-an-adult list included your bike, imagine walking out of the house one night, strapping a bulldog on your back, hopping on the first bike you see, sprinting through the neighborhood on said bike, and then … well, and then launching the thing into the air, across the moon, and through the nearest forbidden forest.
I’m tired just thinking about it!
So, yeah, energy reserves tend to wain, too, as we get older, but Elliott and E.T. remind us in one quick glance what the exhilaration of the chase, of an adventure — not to mention youth — can do to amp your zip.
Everything we’ve said so far kind of rolls up into this one.
Elliott has no cell phone to tether him to his mother or his friends.
He has no energy deficit to tether him to the couch.
He has no clock to tether him to a curfew.
He has no (or few) prejudices to tether him to concrete-bound thinking that would make E.T. the enemy, to be feared.
Heck, he doesn’t even have gravity strong enough to tether him to the earth.
Elliott has the kind of freedom that only comes on the last day of school … the day you retire with a huge pension or 401K … the night you pay off your mortgage … the morning you get good health news after a trying few days, waiting.
Those moments are tough to come by, but we’ve all had at least a few. And this movie poster brings them all streaming back, the weight of years be damned.