E. T. has changed Tommy’s life
Various fans write to E.T. and his creator, Steven Spielberg
The following letters can be found in Letters of Note: Space.
Few movies have ever managed to affect an audience quite like E.T. the Extra-Terrestrial. Released in 1982, Steven Spielberg’s genre-defining tale of friendship between boy and alien quickly broke box-office records, won multiple Academy Awards and captured countless hearts, all the while provoking people of all ages to look up and wonder about the possibility of life on planets beyond our own. Naturally, a cultural event so impactful also generated letters, and here are just three sent to Spielberg and E.T. himself (via his fan club, as one would expect).
September 14, 1982
Dear Mr. Spielberg,
I realize this letter must be one of thousands you have received since the release of E.T. And it's really not that extraordinarily different from most of those letters. I suppose I could quite truthfully rant and rave about what a marvelous movie E.T. is and what exceptional talent you have demonstrated in your direction of it, but I won't.
When I was a child growing up I dreamed of meeting life from other worlds. I can remember staring off into the heavens outside my window and hoping if I wished hard (and sincerely) enough that the inhabitants of the planetary system circling the only star I could see through my elm tree would come and visit me.
I would go out at dusk and string yards of brightly colored wires on my dilapidated wire mesh fence. Maybe by some miraculous freak of physics I could somehow send a message to my star. And They would come.
Now the wires are gone, and the fence shows no signs of the enormous weight of dreams it once bore. The elm tree that once blocked all stars but my own got Dutch elm disease and lets hundreds of stars shine through its branches. And I have grown old, keeping childhood dreams hidden and tucked away.
E.T. found that favorite fantasy and let me live it again. You did justice to the dream of a child.
THANK YOU, STEVEN SPIELBERG.
I think you're cute and funny. Where do you come from? What are your friends like? What is your Space Ship like? How fast can your Space Ship fly? What is your home like? What language do you speak? How do you like earth? Maybe you can't answer all of these questions but just answer some of them, and please send me a small tollken of something.
Dear E.T. Fan Club (and Mr. Spielberg),
I am Tommy's mother. I am writing this letter for him as Tom has never really learned to write much more than his first name. Tom is 20 and autistic. That means he prefers his own strange world to the real one outside himself. Since he has always enjoyed movies filled with special effects, spacecrafts and startling aliens, it was only natural for his parents to take turns waiting in the long lines for E.T. In the darkened theater, Tommy came out of himself. He screamed—he clapped—he laughed and then—yes—Tommy cried. Real tears. Autistics do not weep—not for themselves or any others. But Tommy wept and Tommy talked—nonstop—about E.T. Tom has seen E.T. three times now and is prone to touching fingers with others and solemnly repeating, "Ouch."
E.T. has changed Tommy's life. It has made him relate to something beyond himself. It's as though Tommy has also been an alien life-form and trying to find his way home—just like E.T.