Is ‘Home Alone’ a Right-Wing Masterpiece?
Welcome to the first installment of “Movies Keith and Sarah Have Never Seen. (Until Now).” Keith Harris lives in Minneapolis and was, until very recently, the music editor for Minneapolis’ City Pages (RIP.) Sarah Miller is a writer and lives in Northern California.
Through years of correspondence on Twitter, both publicly and in DMs, Keith and Sarah slowly realized there were all these movies most people have seen that they had never seen, movies like The Shawshank Redemption, Beaches, Baby Boom, Ghost. etc. They thought, “Hey, we should watch these movies and discuss.”
To start, neither Keith nor Sarah has ever seen the 1990 film Home Alone — until now!
Here’s what we know: Home Alone is one of the top-grossing films of all time and the top-grossing family comedy of all time. It was produced by John Hughes, director of teen classics like Ferris Bueller’s Day Off and Sixteen Candles, and directed by Christopher Columbus, whose first movie was Adventures in Babysitting, which Keith and Sarah have also never seen.
It stars Macaulay Culkin, and guest stars Joe Pesci, Catherine O’Hara, John Heard, John Candy, and Kieran Culkin, as well as some other people that don’t seem to have made significant, at least not public, contributions to the performing arts after Home Alone.
TAKE IT AWAY KEITH AND SARAH
Sarah: I give this movie two stars out of ten, one for having a beginning, middle and an end, and one for just “being a movie.”
Keith: It delivered on its title. That kid was definitely “home alone.”
Sarah: I read in the little extra text on Amazon that Chris Columbus still has that sled in his office. I found this very upsetting.
Keith: I want to steal the sled.
Sarah: That’s a great idea.
Keith: “How can I begin work on Christmas Chronicles 3 without my sled?”
Sarah: Yesterday you asked me what my favorite part was and I said, “Can I get back to you?”
Keith: Do you have one yet?
Sarah: It’s when Macaulay Culkin goes to the pharmacy and asks if the toothpaste is approved by the American Dental Association. I remembered that my parents had this thing about how toothpaste and toothbrushes had to be approved by the ADA. They used to say “You can’t get this, it’s not ADA approved.”
Keith: So it’s relatable.
Sarah: Yes, I felt seen as a child and a consumer.
Keith: I liked John Candy’s very accurate Kenosha, Wisconsin accent. There’s a specific eastern Wisconsin accent that’s like Chicago with rounder upper midwest vowels. I feel like regional accents get short shrift in Hollywood so I approve. Have you ever heard a good Philly accent in a movie?
Sarah: Probably not.
Keith: I have A Theory about Home Alone. It’s quasi-psychoanalytic: The burglars are not real.
Sarah: I’m loving this Keith, keep going.
Keith: Kevin is angry with his parents for abandoning him and wants to punish them, but his superego tells him this is wrong. So he imagines that another authority figure (a policeman) wants to hurt him and is incompetent, just like his parents. By defeating the imaginary burglars, Kevin has his revenge but also proves himself worthy of his actual parents’ love by protecting their property.
Sarah: So you’re saying the revenge on the parents is displaced onto the policeman?
Keith: Yes, so he is able to have revenge but also be A Good Son.
Sarah: Okay, my theory is — I love that theory.
Keith: Good theory!
Sarah: My theory is Home Alone is about parental absence and capitalism. The movie came out in the early 1990s — lots of cultural anxiety about parents, especially mothers working too much, which would only increase in the coming decades. I’m not saying your theory is wrong, I’m just adding to it.
Keith: Right, they’re complementary.
Sarah: And like actually it’s good to leave your kid home alone because he will learn to protect property. By virtue of learning this he will become accepted in the culture of toxic masculinity, as represented by Buzz, the older brother who loves porn, as Kevin discovers by going through his things.
Joe Pesci and the other robber dude represent the lumpenproletariat, whose needs are unimportant and who don’t merit paying any attention to as a threat, since a mere child can defeat them — and they can be forgotten as the nuclear family gains in ascendancy? But also, and perhaps more importantly, Home Alone is really just a boring movie. I mean, the part where he “fights” the robbers is only a small part of the movie! I always thought that was the whole movie.
Keith: Right, instead he’s learning lessons about family from the shovel guy at the church…the scary neighbor.
Sarah: The grocery shopping, the church, the toothpaste.
Keith: The shopping is important though, it fits in with your reading. I was expecting way more hijinks all around.
Sarah: Not enough hijinks.
Keith: Like, one night of junk food, that sled ride out the door, and then he’s off to prove that he’s matured by clipping coupons.
Sarah: God, this is such a huge movie. My boyfriend saw it when it came out and he was 11 and he said he thought it was hilarious which I thought was really cute at first and then I had that feeling, like … “Do we ever really know someone”?
Keith: Well I guess an 11-year-old would love it! I think my niece and nephew would be shocked by how mean everyone is in it.
Sarah: Oh, really?
Keith: Kids were much nastier when we were young. Like Bad News Bears?
Sarah: Good point. I’ m sure much has been said about this but the Home Alone /John Hughes universe is so trippy. “The North Shore of Chicago is just “America!” Uh — if you say so!
Keith: Ha yeah. It’s not like “here’s what’s interesting about this place.” It’s just “here’s how ‘we’ live.” Ferris Bueller makes me murderous.
Sarah: Oh yeah, it’s basically about a rich white person who thinks he is a rebel — is that why? Or other reasons?
Keith: George Will loved it...
Sarah: And Ferris is an asshole, and a piece of shit.
Keith: Yes and yes. The things we were required to be charmed by in the 80s!
Sarah: But I think I loved FBDO when it came out.
Keith: Oh I hated it even then!
Sarah: I was very basic. I still retain a pronounced streak of basic-ness. I am sure I thought it was great.
Keith: So was I! Yikes what a 90s movie.
Sarah: The only one I saw on this you linked to was Mallrats. I hate Kevin Smith so much. I sort of liked Clerks. But fuck Kevin Smith, bad Gen Xer.
Keith: Filmed in Minnesota! Paul Ryan though, he’s the worst Gen Xer. Ted Cruz too. And like, half the Supreme Court.
Sarah: Kevin Smith is the worst Gen X person “in the arts.” That can’t be true. I mean I am sure he’s like the one billionth worst Gen Xer “in the arts.” But anyway.
Kevin: Ahhhhh, those new Supreme Court dudes so remind me of poli sci majors I went to college with.
Sarah: Same. Well. We’ve strayed far from Home Alone.
Keith: OR HAVE WE?
Sarah: Well I think that Ferris Bueller and Home Alone do provide the Rising Gen X ruling class, whatever that is…
Keith: I mean the Gen X “ruling class” is just people who made nice with Boomers. John Hughes is a boomer and his oeuvre passes on something to Gen X/older millennials. So actually, Home Alone is where he transitions from chronicling teens to kids right?
Sarah: Yes! I was going to say this. Like he trained Gen X with his teen films and then he trained millennials with his baby films. JOHN HUGHES IS DEEP STATE. It is really crazy, looking at his 90s kiddie output — Curly Sue and the like —and how it really does start right there?
Keith: I mean, that’s where the money was…with children. There were a lot of them! The baby boom!
Sarah: I think we need to see Baby Boom next.
Keith: Ugh. Kevin is 8, born in ’82 — old millennial. Kevin is the ur-millennial, WHITE ANYWAY — raised in privilege and feeling neglected…
Sarah: I have just discovered something amazing: JOHN HUGHES IS DEAD. I had no idea. I “forgot”
Keith: SAME. I was gonna to mention that earlier. He died just before the world got obsessed with celebrity death
Sarah: Michael Weiss and Ben Stein have described Hughes as a Reagan Republican. P.J. O’Rourke wrote about how he made conservatism funny:
I have no idea how, or if, John voted … John and I never bothered to talk much about our politics. What we did talk about was the 20th century’s dominant scrambled egghead bien pensant buttinski parlor pinko righty-tighty lefty-loosey nutfudge notion that middle-class American culture was junk, that middle-class Americans were passive dimbulbs, that America itself was a flop and that America’s suburbs were a living hell almost beyond the power of John Cheever’s words to describe … We were becoming conservatives — in the most conservational sense. There were things that others before us had achieved and these were worth conserving … Family was the most conservative thing about John. Walking across the family room in your stocking feet and stepping on a Lego (ouch!) was the fundamental building block of society.
Keith: That makes sense. Gross.
Sarah: Idiocy! So taken with himself, too. It seems we are not the first to uncover this about John Hughes, Keith.
You see, upon closer inspection, the tale of a rich kid taking on the lumpenproletariat is rather obviously a work of right-wing propaganda — a libertarian parable, The Fountainhead for Generation ADHD. This was no accident.
We are not bold enough in our takes. Us: “Home Alone is conservative.” Them: “Home Alone caused the invasion of Iraq and maybe also Columbine.”
Sarah: What should we watch next? I feel a little sad, like we had all these interesting thoughts and everyone literally already had them. Oh except for yours. Your psychoanalytic take is FRESH.
Keith: No, we did fine. I used to think you needed to have original thoughts, but now I realize you only have to say something no one has said for, like, a month.
Sarah: Also, we have to remember, this is a movie that until now we have NOT SEEN.
Keith: Reflecting on our last conversation, I think we should watch Ghost next.
Sarah: Oh yeah totally! I remember people trying to get me to see Ghost when it came out and I was like no, absolutely not, lose my number! Wait I don’t even know who directed Ghost … I’m going to guess…for no reason…Joel Schumacher?
Keith: LOL — Jerry Zucker!
Sarah: What? Who?
Keith: He’s one of the Airplane! guys. Him and his brother, David.
Sarah: I guess they just got their sweet Airplane! money and were like. whatever. And then Jerry did Ghost and he was truly like “Ok, bye, I think we will just read Carl Hiassen novels by the pool now, everyone can suck it.” Or …Zuck it.
Keith: Wow, David did like 40 Scary Movies and then a nutty conservative “parody” movie…Ok, I am going to have lunch.
Sarah: I will edit.
Keith: Let me know if I can help.
Sarah: I’m just going to make myself look really good and make you look like an idiot if that’s ok with you, Keith.
Keith: Great. Bye.