Wednesday, April 5, 2017

Home Alone

Home Alone (1990) is one of my favorite Christmas movies. As a child, I would always turn on this movie on the Christmas Eve and in admiration, watched the film’s protagonist, Kevin McCallister, outwit the evil buglers and punish them all for their malicious intents. The plot of the movie revolves around Kevin (Macaulay Culkin), a boy who is mistakenly left behind when his family flies over to Paris for a Christmas vacation. Two buglers (Joe Pesci and Daniel Stern) decide to seize the opportunity and break into Kevin’s house, only to be punished by Kevin’s numerous innovative traps set in unthinkable corners of the house. With respect to the Giannetti’s political ideology, Home Alone is neutral. The movie neither hints toward any major changes in the society (leftist) nor directs the viewers toward any kind of celebration (rightist) (“Ideology” handout). The film’s neutrality plays a part in appealing to a wider range of the audience, since viewers from opposite political beliefs can still sit at the same table and together cherish the festive season. In this blog, I will analyze the positive and negative messages in Home Alone, and then make a final judgment as to which type of message makes a more enduring impact on children.

Out of a few positive messages in Home Alone, one interesting message is to “not be afraid” to show our love for our family. In the clip, Kevin is talking to Marley, an old man who regrets distancing himself from his family a long time ago. Through a short conversation, Kevin imparts one advice to Markey: you are never too old to show that you care for your family. “Call your son!” as Kevin clearly articulates, is a timeless advice for any viewer especially during the Christmas season. Christmas is the prime time of family re-union and forgiveness. Whatever happens in the past doesn’t matter so long as one has the courage to express his/her appreciation for his/her loved ones. As I grow up and become increasingly busy with my daily preoccupations, I frequently need Kevin’s advice to pick up the phone and express my love for those whom I care.

Although there are some positive messages in Home Alone, there are as many, if not more, negative messages in the movie that I regret to mention. The movie primarily creates comedy through the physical suffering of the two buglers. As a child, I recalled laughing hysterically whenever the buglers encountered a booby trap. The more pain they suffered, the harder I laughed.  Whenever the buglers screamed in agony, fell down the staircase, or worse, were electrified, in me emerged a strange joy. This concept of humor was sadly so sadistic that many times, I had to question my own morality. During my childhood, because of the movie, I looked up to Kevin as a cool model and thus found setting up pranks on my friends and family members “cool.” In addition, the movie portrays cruel behaviors as justifiable so long as the behaviors are targeted toward the "bad" people (like buglers). For example, when one of the buglers were torched, I felt as if he totally deserved the punishment, and therefore, I felt incredibly happy seeing Kevin’s success. This way of thinking is dangerous since the movie encourages children to label others in over-simplified terms as “good” and “bad” people. As a result, if the children categorize someone as “bad,” they will immediately think physical punishments, even if the means of punishments are inhumane and brutal, are still justifiable.  This thinking desensitizes empathy, compassion, and fair judgments, the lack of which will be treacherous for the society at large.

Now, as an adult, I still enjoy Home Alone and still fondly remember the years during when I watch the film as a hobby. However, looking back, I realize I was adversely influenced by many of the movie’s unintentional, yet negative messages. Although in many times, the movie reminds me to always have the courage to find shelter in the ones I love, I have to admit that the negative inferences may have outweighed the positive. Because of watching many movies with sadist humor like Home Alone, I myself once exhibited behaviors that weren’t exactly aligning with my personal beliefs as of now, and therefore, I would rate the movie 2/5 stars. The movie shouldn’t receive the lowest star, since at least for me, the movie fosters in me a stronger sense of family love, especially when Kevin’s mother tries every possible way to be back home to protect her son. Personally, I still love Home Alone as a recreational film; however, I will not encourage my children to look up to Kevin as their heroes like I once did. 

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