The Home Alone franchise is a holiday classic. The interesting thing about the Home Alone franchise is that when it comes down to it, the films are about a lonely, neglected child who takes out his anger on criminals by hurting them. A lot. I’m not trying to be a joy kill. I watch these movies every year and I find them hilarious. But I’ve always wondered, why are these movies so funny? Why have these movies been so successful? Why is Kevin such a little jerk?
In case you’ve been living under a rock and haven’t seen Home Alone yet, the movie is about an 8-year-old Kevin, the youngest of five children who is accidentally left behind on a family trip to France during the winter holidays. Two criminals, played by Joe Pesci and Daniel Stern, try to break into the family home while everyone is away. Using strangely hilarious and creatively violent traps, Kevin stops the robbers.
The plot of Home Alone 2 is fairly similar. We once again find Kevin alone for the holidays. This time our little hero loses his family in the airport. While Kevin ends up in beautiful New York, his family flies to Florida. And boy, does Kevin live it up in NYC! He stays at the Plaza hotel, eats tons of ice cream, and watches mobster movies. Just once I hope we can all enjoy ourselves as much as Kevin enjoys himself during these movies.
The thing is Kevin is less of a jerk in the first Home Alone film. There are more scenes that humanize Kevin and garner sympathy for him. For example, we watch Kevin ask Santa to bring his family back. We see Kevin go to church to hear a Christmas choir. Kevin even peers longingly through his neighbor’s windows during a family gathering. He tries to defend himself without hurting the robbers. It’s only after hiding and trying to fool the robbers into thinking people are home that Kevin builds an elaborate torture chamber for the robbers to fall victim to.
I counted 14 ways that Kevin tries to kill the robbers in the original Home Alone. Some of his more sadistic methods include dropping a hot iron onto the robber’s head, planting a nail for the robbers to step on, and famously burning the robber’s head with a blow torch.
What I want to know is how cute little Kevin thought up schemes so violent they could have been in the Saw horror movies. I think that perhaps (without getting too deep), it has something to do with the way in which Kevin decides to stop being afraid. In a pivotal scene, Kevin says, “I’m not afraid. I’m the man of the house!” And all at once, we’ve lost nice, emotional, thinking, feeling Kevin. With this statement, he’s internalized toxic masculinity. Instead of being afraid, Kevin decides to get angry, to strike back at the robbers and become violent. Kevin believes that in order to be a man, one must be aggressive.
In Home Alone 2, Kevin is even more violent and we see less of the emotional Kevin from the first Home Alone. Here, we watch Kevin living it up in luxury until he decides to once again punish the robbers. This time Kevin ups the ante. While he still sets approximately 14 traps for the robbers, these traps are even more alarming. This time around, Kevin throws bricks at the robbers’ heads, pierces the robbers with nail guns, and even electrocutes them. At the end of Home Alone 2, I couldn’t help but think of Kevin’s uncle Frank’s words: “Look what you did you little jerk!”
Still, I hope we can all acknowledge the genius and comedy of these films. At their best, they bring us Kevin, a boy bringing forth justice in all of his baby-faced cuteness. But let’s not forget that at his worst Kevin is a little monster who purposefully tries, over and over again, to murder some robbers. Ah, the duality of the ages! A duality which just happens to match the sentiments most people have about the winter holidays. We love our families but boy do we just want to be home alone sometimes, messing with some robbers.
Hope you had a happy holiday, you filthy animals!