Friday, December 5, 2014

old enough to know how it works

(Half hour into the movie before I start typing. Not because I was paying attention exclusively to the movie either. Distracted by the internet. Welcome to the new world.)

Anyway, I wanted to put forth a very specific idea today: prior to the events we see in Home Alone, Kevin McCallister probably would not have recognized himself in the mirror. Or, more accurately, he would not have recognized his self. His two scenes in front of the bathroom mirror—that is like his version of Gallup’s (1970) Mirror Self Recognition test. The majority of infants (in the Western world) recognize themselves in the mirror by 24 months, and some do so as early as 3 months. Kevin is not his own person when the action begins in Home Alone. Instead, he sees himself as part of a family, a role he clearly wants to reject, but he just doesn’t know how, so he lashes out.

(Gallup’s test, by the way, involves putting a mark on an infant they can only see in a mirror, then placing him/her in front of a mirror to see if they a) recognize the reflection as an image of his/herself and b) attempt to get rid of the mark because he/she also recognizes that it does not belong. Many nonhuman species can pass the test.)

Home Alone is full of instances of Kevin McCallister venturing out into the world to interact with strangers, never entirely successfully—the most successful instance is when he goes shopping for groceries, but he only gets out of that by a) playacting as a pseudo-adult and b) lying to the cashier—or the world (i.e. the wet bandits) venturing into his world. Effectively, Home Alone consists of a series of instances in which Kevin interacts with the Other in the process of producing his self. His interaction with the pizza guy is as dishonest as his interaction with the cashier. His only truly honest interaction—before finally talking to Old Man Marley in the church—is when he tries to buy the toothbrush, but that interaction is cut short by the presence, and fear, of the old man, a fear based on lies.

(I have decided that the guy in the santa suit here is actually the same guy who visits Punxsutawney a few years later. No reason. It just makes life more fun.)

Freud might have fun with this movie, the boy venturing out on his own (ego), met with violence (id), as his mother tries to get to him. What’s the opposite of an oedipal complex? The motherly instinct, I guess.

(Repeated viewing is bad for this movie. Macauley Culkin is really not much of an actor. He expresses enjoyment ok, I suppose, but his silly scream gets old pretty quick and he simply cannot emote negative feelings. We see him watch a family gathering for Christmas Eve and it’s like the director knew he couldn’t express the loneliness we’re supposed to believe the character is feeling, because we get a long shot and then him just staring once the camera is closer. Then, he looks down—as in he tilts his head down like some Charlie Brown sad sack music should be playing. The movie relies on the audience thinking he’s cute, I guess, a little precocious in his dialogue—seriously, when he helps Old Man Marley with his problem, he demonstrates insight that we have no prior reason to believe he would be capable of. Speaking of that scene, there is also no reason for Kevin to talk to the old man at all. The old man speaks to him and what? That just means he isn’t a mass murderer? Is Kevin so much of an idiot that he would think a killer would be incapable of talking? It’s hard to gauge why Kevin actually talks to him because, again, Culkin does not emote well at all.)

That is all for today. Tomorrow, Kozlovic (probably)... if you know what that means, good for you.

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