I won't say E.T. was not instructive--in fact, I learned a lot from it. In addition to learning that doctors would poke you with needles and electrodes and cover you in sheet plastic as you withered and died and your skin dehydrated into powdered sugar and your glowing heart stopped beating in your chest, I gleaned a lot of helpful tidbits:
1-To fake a fever to stay home from school, hold a thermometer to a lightbulb.
2-The insult "Penis Breath" is a useful one that will get your mother's attention.
3-Peanut butter candy is a cure for what ails ya.
4-Drunk aliens are funny. But drunk children are hilarious!
5-Government agents are totally cool with gunning down elementary schoolers.
In the 20th anniversary re-release DVD, Spielberg had all the scary agents' guns digitally removed, which suggests he eventually realized how traumatic those scenes were for children. But the damage had already been done to us children of the '80s, and instead of being allowed to forget the horrific images the film had already seared into our brains, we were barraged with E.T. merchandise, thus ensuring we would always, always remember.
There was simply no escaping E.T. You couldn't buy Reese's Pieces without seeing E.T.'s smirking bug-eyed mug. To counteract the candy, there were also E.T. vitamins. There were storybooks and record albums and pajamas and what had to be the world's ugliest stuffed animals. There was an Atari game so terrible that millions of them were simply buried to get rid of them.
And then--then! Michael Jackson was added to the mix. The man who turns into a freakish breakdancing zombie in Thriller was often seen posing alongside the raisin-faced little alien, and their poster was being marketed to kids. Hang that sucker up in your child's bedroom and that is the stuff that nightmares are made of.
Your moral compass will be forever skewed if, as a child, you found Peter Coyote's "Keys" character kind of cute.
E.T.: The Extra-Terrestrial. Dir. Steven Spielberg. Perf. Henry Thomas, Drew Barrymore, Peter Coyote. Universal, 1982.
E.T.: The Extra-Terrestrial (Widescreen Edition)
(Watch the original trailer on YouTube here and tell me it's not terrifying.)