The Revolutionary Spirit of the ‘Home Alone’ Franchise
Or, How Kevin McCallister defended himself using the tactics of history’s greatest rebels
Hear me out: the 1990’s holiday classics that make up the “Home Alone” franchise offer great lessons in home defense. It’s true.
The films, if you don’t know, follow the saga of young Kevin McCallister, left behind by his family at Christmastime–more than once. Soon, McCallister finds himself facing off against a pair of would-be burglars who call themselves the Wet Bandits. Expecting the Wet Bandits to appear one night, he embraces tactics used by the Viet Cong, Jewish partisans, and other resistance and revolutionary groups and sets out a methodical plan to booby trap his house.
Of course, the kid is successful. The kid is always successful, right?
Anyways, after enjoying a marathon on Christmas, we decided to analyze Kevin’s tactics and see where they came from. This is what came of it.
Disclaimer: This is NOT to be taken seriously in ANY way. In fact, many of these would realistically lead to death.
Also: We only cover the first two movies here. Our editor seems to believe that Home Alone 3 is an elaborate metaphor for post-Cold War geopolitics, but frankly, who wants to read about Home Alone 3?
HOME ALONE (1990)
The first film follows Kevin McCallister (Macaulay Culkin) after he’s accidentally left home while his entire family goes on vacation to Florida for the holidays. Instead, the valiant eight-year-old is forced into his first fight with two serial burglars known as the Wet Bandits (Joe Pesci and Daniel Stern).
Before he even realizes it, Kevin immediately makes his first good move: finding some allies. Sure, at first he’s afraid of creepy Old Man Marley, or as the local kids call him, the “South Bend Shovel Slayer,” but he comes around to liking the guy later.
But allies and alarms often aren’t enough, as many suburbanites know, so Kevin comes to embrace the Second Amendment as only an eight-year-old knows how. Armed with a BB gun and Christmas spirit, he hones his shot as his action figure victims lay in defeat.
Using a cardboard standee of Michael Jordan attached to a children’s train set and mannequins with the curtains drawn—a nod to Vincent Sinclair of “House of Wax”—Kevin executes a lesson taught in Sun Tzu’s “The Art of War”: ”This house is manned not by insufficient forces, but a mighty army.”
Having mastered the art of audio warfare, it’s here that Kevin unleashes his most powerful illusion: the perceived threat of an old white man with a gun. By synchronizing scenes from “Angels With Filthy Souls” with the intended audience’s reactions, he was able to perfect the illusion of a near death experience.
When the pair of burglars arrives, he meets them at the other side of the door, or pet door, to be exact. Through it—a tactic perfected by the Fareynikte Partizaner Organizatsye—he shoots Marv and then Harry shortly after. A little while later, using pre-placed sticky tar, both Marv’s shoes and socks come off as he goes up some stairs.
Towards the top a perfectly laid caltrop of a nail succeeds in hindering Marv’s increasingly hostile journey. The tools of anarchists and community defense are for all ages.
Ingeniously, Kevin uses heat. He both heats up the appropriate door knobs and installs a trip-wire flame thrower, a design also used by the Irish Republican Army. As with any invader, Harry was met with righteous heat and flayed skin.
Kevin places diecast cars at the base of the stairs causing both Wet Bandits to slip and fall. After getting up, they’re concussed as Kevin unleashes a barrage of rope-held paint cans. Just as “every kiss begins with Kay,” every skull fracture starts with Sherwin-Williams.
Nature. It’s everywhere and at our disposal right?
It’s both beautiful and terrifying, as Kevin knows and the Wet Bandits will soon find out. Despite his best efforts, Kevin was nearly captured by the enemy. With the elegant arachnid, Axl, that his brother keeps as a pet, Marv is met with a face-full of Tarantula. Instinctively, he tosses it onto Harry, along with a hefty slug with a crowbar to the abdomen.
In the end, Kevin’s plan is a success and he escapes out of a window on a zipline into a treehouse. From there, he cuts the rope as they attempt to follow and into a setup to be arrested by the police. Before they can be arrested, they find and prepare to kill him when Old Man Marley strikes them from behind with his infamous snow shovel.
So what could a young revolutionary learn from this film? The most obvious one is that diverse defensive tactics are successful, and not that hard to come by. One extremely important point made was the importance of building a coalition. At the last moment your comrade from across the aisle could save the day—as Marley had done. But, most importantly, the budding freedom fighter learned that they cannot rely on the police to protect them and their community.
HOME ALONE 2: Lost in New York (1992)
The kid just cannot catch a break. The following year, he is, once again, separated from his family for Christmas albeit this one was on him. He follows the wrong person and ended up in New York City instead of Paris with everyone else.
You’d think he’d learn to be more observant just one year removed from a successful battle.
You know who did catch a break? The Wet Bandits, who have since escaped captivity and coincidentally also ended up inNew York City. Once there, Harry rebrands the duo as the Sticky Bandits — paying homage to his double-sided-tape-wrapped hands.
Kevin, who doesn’t know the duo is around, goes into the Plaza Hotel, asks a certain soon-to-be-former U.S. President where the lobby is, and checks-in with his dad’s reported-as-stolen credit card. Once the staff realizes the card is “stolen,” and after avoiding the concierge with a blow-up clown, a shower, and Uncle Frank’s rendition of “Cool Jerk,” they attempt to ambush his suite with the police in tow. He uses his proven tactic of audio warfare and plays a recording of the fake movie sequel, “Angels with Even Filthier Souls.”
And of course the pair find their young nemesis walking down the street. A chase cat-and-mouse chase ensues but Kevin outwits them and creates an on-the-fly breaking a beaded necklace from a tourist stand. Like the Viet Cong disappearing into the jungle, he lucks out and finds safety in Central Park. There, he meets the pigeon lady—an unhoused woman who finds her solace with the many birds in the park. This is the return of the allyship from the previous year. Once again, Kevin understands that these battles cannot be won alone.
Kevin had overheard that the Sticky Bandits were wanting to rob Duncan’s Toy Chest, where he had been before being spotted. Kevin has become even quicker on his feet than he was a year ago, though, and is ready to use what is at his disposal to thwart the criminals. Kevin McCallister in a toy store is like giving the Zapatistas an army base. This time, he surprises the pair that night at the toy store and they fall to his first trap. But before Kevin even went to Duncan’s Toy Chest that night, he goes to his uncle’s under-renovation townhouse and sets his various traps.
As always, he uses slippage to his advantage. He pours antifreeze on the floor and coats the ladder rungs in the oozy, green liquid. Kevin also pours kerosene into a toilet bowl, soaks rope in it, and attaches jumper cables to the back of a metal sink.
When the Sticky Bandits show up on the sidewalk outside of the townhouse for their revenge against Kevin, he meets them—from the roof—with bricks to their heads. Naturally, they go to find him once they recover where Marv meets the wrong end of a staple gun and Harry gets introduced to the slippery rungs. Once the two make it inside, they face the melee of traps that await them including a duffel bag full of tools, another torch hooked-up to a door, and even an unbolted shelving full of house paint which is when the metal sink and kerosene toilet come into play.
He tricks the Sticky Bandits into going to the roof where he’s already repelled down on a kerosene-soaked rope, but they don’t know that. As they begin to follow him down, he sets it ablaze. They fall and thus begins the final trap: pigeons, their houseless pigeon whisperer, her bird seed, and fireworks.
Once again, nature has the final say.
As the small but mighty Bielski Partisans defended their forest homes, Kevin McCallister defended his home—and in a metaphorical way, his family—from an invading force. As many freedom fighters know, using and improvising tactics used by comrades of the past is the key to success. On the surface it’s merely a holiday movie. But at its core, Home Alone is a family-friendly how-to guide in the art of revolutionary warfare. Defending one’s home and self from the hammer of a hostile, larger, and unjust force is the purest act of revolution.
So sit the whole family down, eat some charcuterie, press play, and learn what you can do when the revolution comes.