E.T. and the anxiety attack


Last night, I watched E.T. from start to finish. I can’t remember the last time I did that. I do remember that the first time I tried to watch E.T., things didn’t go so well.

I freaked out right around the time E.T. was found sick in the ravine, white and almost dead. If memory serves correctly, I ran out to the bathroom and barely succeeded in puking up a box of Hot Tamales and soda (25% chance it was Dr Pepper, 75% chance it was Mr. Pibb, way back before Pibb Xtra was a thing).

I’ve always chalked it up to being scared. I was a scaredy-cat as a kid. I’m told that when the family went to see King Kong at the drive-in, I hid in terror on the floor of the back seat. I could be misremembering someone else’s memory there. But the point is, I was a chicken. And I just fueled my imagination with books about Big Foot and ghosts and aliens.

So it always fit that I got scared of the little monster and high-tailed it. But it always struck me as a little odd that I didn’t freak out until that point in the movie.

After re-visiting it, I’m almost convinced that what I had was an anxiety attack brought on by the thought of Elliot and/or E.T. both dying at the same time. I’d completely forgotten that Elliott and E.T. shared a telepathic link, which is odd, considering that 9-year-old Kenny probably felt a telepathic link with Elliott fifteen minutes into the movie.

I wasn’t a middle child, but I was an extremely sensitive scrawny thing who always felt surrounded by bigger kids. Just like Elliott! My parents were divorced! Just like Elliott! I mean, sure, we rode our bikes around the trailer park that had sprung up at the end of our street (or in the trailer park my dad moved to) rather than the California suburbs. I’d never seen Dungeons & Dragons (or whatever it was they were playing). At that point, I don’t think we’d ever had pizza delivered to our house. And I think my brother and I only had six Star Wars toys between us. But these are just details.

So when the sensitive kid with the telepathic link to the little alien critter goes out into the scary woods at night so that E.T. can call home, get his people to come and get him, thus leaving Elliott behind, abandoning him and breaking his heart, I was likely just a little keyed up. When Elliott woke up alone out in a field and couldn’t find his best friend, I was probably a little distraught. When Elliott gets back home and is sick and there’s a faceless cop there (apparently for the first half of the movie, the only adult face you see is the mom’s; every other adult is given the old waist-down treatment) asking questions, I might have started breathing differently, might have started getting that slightly out-of-body experience that some folks get right before an anxiety attack. And when Michael finds E.T. splayed out in the ditch on death’s door, a goddamn raccoon seemingly a minute away from his face, I just couldn’t even with that anymore and ran the hell out of there.

I don’t remember what happened next. Hell, I don’t even remember who we were with. I want to say with my aunts and some cousins, but couldn’t say for sure. I think I went back in? Not sure of that either. I’m sure they were all really thrilled with me causing a damn scene at a crucial point in the movie though.

Sorry about that folks.

Also, you should totally re-watch E.T. if you haven’t done so in a while. It is an excellent and moving movie.

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