Skip to main content

Research Repository

Advanced Search

The Entangled Terrestrials: Mapping E.T.’s Ecological Web

Alder, Emily



Steven Spielberg’s E.T. The Extra-Terrestrial (1982) has accrued an eclectic but small body of scholarly criticism. With this paper I contribute an ecocritical analysis of the film, suggesting that the disruption to Elliott’s schoolboy life caused by E.T.’s arrival exposes the web of interdependencies in which he, and the other children, exist with each other, adults, the more-than-human world, and technology. In particular, I examine the relationship between E.T., Elliott, and a rather marginalised household plant. The function of this flowering pot-plant (which has been identified both as a geranium and a chrysanthemum) as an indicator of E.T.’s health, as well as the bond of wellbeing between E.T. and Elliott, is obvious in the film and unlikely to go unnoticed even by a casual viewer. However, the pot-plant rewards closer inspection. It is not merely a symbol, but possesses its own kind of narrative agency, prompting crucial acts by Gertie, Michael, and Elliott on which the plot depends. As a household plant, neither artificial nor natural, it also problematises some of the apparently simple contrasts the film sets up between adults and children, urban and rural, technology and ‘nature’, us and them. Focussing our attention on the pot-plant, I argue, leads to a reappraisal of E.T.’s ecological values, exposing both the problems and the necessities of recognising that we live entangled with the rest of the world.


Alder, E. (2021, April). The Entangled Terrestrials: Mapping E.T.’s Ecological Web. Paper presented at British Society for Literature and Science Annual Conference, Online

Presentation Conference Type Conference Paper (unpublished)
Conference Name British Society for Literature and Science Annual Conference
Conference Location Online
Start Date Apr 8, 2021
End Date Apr 10, 2021
Deposit Date May 10, 2021
Public URL
Related Public URLs