Year of Release:
“He is afraid. He is totally alone. He is 3 million light years from home.”
“America is lost in a sea of inflation, debt, and gas lines. We have lost our prestige abroad. It’s gonna take a hero to set things right. An outsider. A cowboy. A man.”
Cast of Characters:
Elliott (Joe Sixpack/Mr. Reagan Democrat)
Mary (Betty Friedan/The E.R.A. Left)
Gertie (Anita Bryant/Maggie Thatcher)
Nameless Government Agents (Speaker Tip O’Neill and the Democratic Congress)
E.T. (President Ronald Wilson Reagan)
The year is 1982. Feminism’s failure, symbolized by Mary the single mother, sweeps across the land like a wave of flaccidity. Without masculine virtue, kids swear at the dinner table, talk back, fake illness to get out of school, and defy authority. From “penis breath” to the head-scratching release of captive frogs (who may themselves be the fired air traffic controllers), there’s nothing left to hold the old values in place. But Elliott, misguided as he’s been for voting Democrat lo these many years, is the target of the right-wing love-fest/assault known as Reaganism. Elliott has been let down by bad mothers, the welfare state, and minorities abusing the system he holds dear (though this is the Golden State before the Mexifornication), so he’s the primary focus of said assault. He must be won over at all costs, lest the coalition fail. Through the clouds, parted just so with Riefenstahlian inevitability, descends an alien figure, frightening and mysterious only in his certainty and sense of purpose amidst vacillating softness. He very well may be lost and “light years” from home, but far from leaving the country, it’s the country that left him. Reach the boy, he cries, and we’ll find our City on a Hill. At the end of a long Southern California driveway.
E.T., like Reagan, is an innocent abroad, but far from naïve. He was initially “dropped” by his people, much as Goldwater was left twisting in the wind by a party and country not yet ready to hear the truth. But it has only made him stronger during the wilderness years following the ’76 nail biter (what else is behind Elliott’s house, but an actual wilderness?). Once found by Elliott, he must be hidden away from Mary and her ilk, lest they smell the patriarchal control on his illuminated fingertips. Incidentally, could that red light emanating from that glorious digit be anything other than a warning bell to the Iron Curtain? The flash is seductive, only to reveal the hidden hand of inflexible opposition.
And then there’s Gertie, the young lass who is the very future of the American Woman, cheerfully allowed into the private sphere, for she too must be weaned from the influence of poisonous thought. She’ll do her part to keep the savior safe and warm, until such time that the nation is ready to be rescued. Again, it’s no accident that E.T. came to this very home, for Elliott is a true empath (Reagan’s followers, especially the blue collar variety, usually possess magic powers, and are sentimentalized accordingly), and once the inner dialogue is shared, his very health depends on E.T.’s survival. The ostensible purpose is to return E.T. home, but movie time is necessarily compressed, and the final flight (complete with a decidedly non-gay friendly rainbow) is a retreat back to the ranch as an elder, if drooling, statesman.
You sure those aren’t jellybeans?
Needless to say, the government agents are fearful of E.T. and would rather spend their time studying him like a lab rat than actually learning from his inner wisdom. His emotional intelligence, as well as capacity to both reach the child-like and remain child-like himself, is cruelly dismissed as threatening to the established order. His purpose is assumed to be sinister, and as such, he must be destroyed. Poked, prodded, and hooked to machines (Dems seem to brutalize what they don’t understand), he is brought to the brink of death and left gray and dying in a creek bed. The parallels to the assassination attempt in March of 1981 are not accidental. All saviors are crucified in the end, but Reagan, like E.T., survives, if only to ensure that his message of hope, good cheer, and optimism is spread throughout the globe.
It’s at this point that Gertie, heretofore a symbol of conservatism’s answer to obnoxious feminism, becomes Maggie Thatcher. Gertie will take the “alien” at his word and save her own corner of civilization. “I’ll be riiiight here,” E.T. promises, pointing to the heart, little knowing that decades later, he’d be the central focus of an entire primary season that came long after his own death. E.T.’s mission, like that of Reagan, must take on a life of its own to have real lasting impact. But on a small scale, by saving this one family, bringing them together, and hopefully prodding Mary to marry again, the idealized America can be born again; a land of full moons, loving hearts, and a wide-eyed appreciation for the supply side of life.