’I’ll be right here!’ Dealing with Emotional Trauma in and through E.T. The Extra-Terrestrial




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Volume Title


Lexington Books


Book chapter

Peer reviewed


Upon its initial release, Steven Spielberg's E.T.: The Extra-Terrestrial (1982) was widely discussed in the United States in terms of its strong appeal to different age groups, with reference both to universal developmental processes (to do with growing up and dealing with loss) and to the specific experience of divorce. In the first two parts of this chapter, I discuss the film in relation to Spielberg’s life and career, and also situate it within broader developments in American cinema and society, to do especially with the popularity of what I have elsewhere called 'family-adventure movies' and with rising divorce rates. The third part then analyses the film’s themes and story, in particular its depiction of a family in crisis as well as its prolonged and extraordinarily intense staging of the protagonist’s experience of loss. The fourth and fifth parts return to the film’s impact in the United States, taking a closer look at its initial success at the box office and with critics in 1982 as well as its longer-term impact. In the conclusion, I briefly look at the film’s influence on Spielberg’s career and on Hollywood cinema more generally.



Steven Spielberg, critical reception, audience responses, loss, box office trends, family-adventure movies


Krämer, P. (2016) ’I’ll be right here!’ Dealing with Emotional Trauma in and through E.T. The Extra-Terrestrial. In: Adrian Schober and Debbie Olson, eds, Children in the Films of Steven Spielberg. Lanham, Md.: Lexington Books, pp. 91-121


Research Institute

Cinema and Television History Institute (CATHI)