The Sharks and the Jets. The Greasers and the Socs. The Gryffindors and the Slytherins. Film is full of famous rivalries, and E.T. pits the children against the adults. Not in any physical way, of course. We're talking about the innocence, wonder, and unguarded nature of youth versus the adult tendencies of skepticism and suspicion.
Elliott and the other children's youthfulness colors everything they do: from their interactions both with each other and with adults to their reactions to E.T. As kids, they're open to amazement and awe because, well, why the heck not?
Questions About Youth
How would the film's narrative unfold differently if Michael found E.T. first? Or—gasp!—what if their mom found him first?
Michael's friends Greg, Tyler, and Steve are pretty obnoxious at the beginning of the film, which is to say they're typical teenagers. How do their attitudes change by the end of the movie? Did your attitude toward them change as a viewer?
What's the deal with Gertie? As the youngest of the kids, is she just there for comic relief? Or, if youth is such a big deal, is she secretly the film's pigtailed Yoda?
Let's say you're hiding an alien in your closet. Do you tell your siblings? What about your parents? How do you think they'd react?
Chew on This
The portrayal of grown-ups in E.T. is a condemnation of adulthood. All of the adults are skeptical, suspicious, and prone to betrayal. Never grow up!
E.T. is a celebration of the innocence, discovery, and honesty of youth.