***Warning*** If you are also afraid of E.T., and you haven’t “come to terms with it” yet, I don’t recommend reading on…
To kick off the first official Irrational Fear Friday, I’ve decided to discuss the OG of Irrational Fears, my very first, and most terrifying fear: E.T. the Extra Terrestrial.
Me, circa 2007, expressing how I really feel at Universal Studios, Orlando, FL.
Yup, that’s right. My greatest fear is a friendly and benevolent 80s cinema icon. “But Hillary,” you might say, “E.T. is so cute! And he’s a good guy,” you might continue. “He’s not scary.” Yeah, ok, sure. That wasn’t enough to convince poor young Hillary, who had been unwittingly forced to view the entire film at the tender age of three by a clueless babysitter. “Oh, but I saw E.T. when I was like, five, and I was fine…” Oh! Ok, well then I’m sorry, you’re right. Those images burned into my developing brain…that croaking, creaking voice…the recurring nightmares…that’s all nothing, don’t even worry about it!
2008. Another successful exposure.
No. NO, cynical amalgamation of everyone who’s ever laughed at me for the abject terror induced by this lovable, wrinkly little alien! You’re wrong. The fear is REAL. There are DOZENS OF US!
But seriously folks. It became a part of who I was. My fear of E.T. became an endearing personality trait. But it wasn’t so cute for me. I was genuinely and semi-permanently traumatized by the film. I would like to take a serious moment to acknowledge and be grateful for my privilege in that E.T. was the worst trauma of my childhood (other than fat-shaming and bullying, but more on that in a future post). But I still had vivid, viscerally frightening nightmares. In fact, I have woken myself up screaming twice in my life, and both of those times were E.T. nightmares. At 8 years old, I refused to go to my best friend’s house until she hid all of her E.T. stuff in her closet. In middle school, they would show movies on a big screen in the cafeteria during recess if it was raining. One day in 7th grade, it happened. They showed it. I recognized the film almost immediately after it came on. I screamed. Like, not just some cute little “ah!” but a 1950s, B-horror flick scream, and I hid beneath the table. Needless to say, I was mortified. It took a while to live that one down.
Here are some classic movies I refused to watch for a long time because something about them reminded me of E.T.:
The Empire Strikes Back (1980)
This is obviously ridiculous, because this is the greatest Star Wars film ever made (so far). I saw A New Hope at 6, but I didn’t end up seeing Empire until I was maybe 10 or 11.
The Neverending Story (1984)
Are you kidding me with this? The oracle is straight up E.T., but like…a girl? I can’t believe this one got past my parents.
Short Circuit (1986)
Don’t even tell me you don’t see it, too…
Really anything that had a head wider than it was tall, or a long neck, or long, creepy fingers, or any glowing body parts could “trigger” me. I even had a hard time watching Drew Barrymore movies.
Here are all the classic movies I didn’t see until I was in college because my parents thought they would scare me:
- Jurassic Park
- Terminator and Terminator 2
- Any of the Alien films
I suffered a crazy gymnastics accident at 8 years old, and when they put the red glowing pulse meter on my finger, the nurse thought it would be comforting to tell me it was like in E.T. Luckily, they had administered valium and I can’t even remember how I reacted. And every fuckin’ time my family went to Disney World, we had to drive past this advertising abomination:
Alright, I admit…this is actually cool AF.
By the time Wall-E came around, thankfully, I had come to terms with E.T. as a cultural phenomenon. I had seen the film several times without crying or running out of the room. I had even seen the 20th anniversary theatrical re-release in 2002. I had ridden the ride at Universal Studios countless times, for some crazy reason. (The first time I was 12, and although I had nightmares the following evening, I managed to get through the ride without launching myself off the flying bicycle or even closing my eyes!) But until I was in college, I would still get nightmares whenever I exposed to E.T. media or paraphernalia.
And a good buddy of mine in college thought it was hilarious to tease me about my E.T. phobia. This was back in the old days, when we still used AIM (AOL Instant Messenger. Google it.) so this guy would IM me saying he found a picture of a cute puppy. I, being a huge sucker for all cute animal pictures, would always click on the link. It would usually be something like this:
When the E.T. sequel trailer parody was posted, this buddy sent me the link under some most likely adorable ruse, but I caught it in time and never watched it. My husband finally had to sit me down and force me to watch it several years later. Sobbing frightfully and trying to close the laptop, he held my hands away and pressed the spacebar. And it was….totally fine. And actually super funny. I would’ve thought the very idea of an entire race of E.T.s invading would be the fear to end all fears, but it really wasn’t bad. I was also beyond the phobia at this point; it had transcended fear and had become this crystallized little core inside my personality; a funny joke from my childhood and adolescence; a harmless children’s character from a brilliant film…and yet, my heart would still catch in my throat when I saw that iconic silhouette in front of the moon. I would still flinch if his image appeared for some reason in my web browser. Although I was no longer truly terrified by this one-time monster, I still harbored a very deep-seated, almost instinctive sense of…cautiousness.
The internet could be a particularly dangerous place for random E.T. sightings, and it was the WORST when that E.T. concept art was released, and again when it made the rounds on the internet a second time a few months later. I mean, whatever, I can look at it. And I won’t get nightmares any more (except for those two screaming ones…those were in adulthood -_- ). The movie is actually really great, Spielberg is one of my idols. And yes, I get that he is kind of cute. But damn, dude. LOOK at this guy!
Well, thanks a lot, guys. Now I have all of these E.T. pictures saved to my computer. *Sigh* And every time I want to upload an image to my blog, he will appear in my WordPress album. But these are the sacrifices we must make for conquering our fears…and also comedy.
See ya next week for another terrifying installment of Irrational Fear Friday. Thanks for reading, pals!