Ages 11 and under
Aloneness and Christmas should never be associated with one another, that simple fact on its own proves how much power Home Alone has carried in its twenty-six years of enlightening the yuletide season for families everywhere. After becoming the number-one box-office hit of 1990, this instantly landed among the other classics guaranteed to bring smiles all around in this reflective time of year.
We are introduced to the mildly Catholic McAllister family in snowy Chicago, presently home to two other groups of relatives, forming a party of fifteen in a single house. The stress of their living situation is felt right away as we see relative upon relative stacking up to crowd the intimacy they should be feeling during this traditionally religious time of year.
Our focus within the typical family is young eight-year-old Kevin. He is an annoying, whiny little brat with no real acting charisma, but he’s still got that adorable boyish charm to calm anyone’s nerves. Proving his role model for anyone’s common feelings in the Christmas season; he is bullied by his entire family, is accidentally abandoned at home by himself as his family flies to vacation in Paris, and is left to man the house singlehandedly against a duo of house robbers.
The coincidences in this engaging scenario are for the greater part unbelievable, as several plot points are thrown in only to fulfill their duty in progressing the main plot. Then once their duty is up, they leave as suddenly as they arrived. The laws of physics and biology are also broken more than the bones of their victims, which includes the embarrassing ice-slip of a fat, old police officer who attempts to capture Kevin after an accidental robbery.
Then back to the disoriented family on the plane to Paris, the mother does not realize that their son was somehow left home alone until it’s too late. Once they land at the overwhelmingly Caucasian French airport, she expresses undying sacrificial commitment to getting back to her son, saying she’ll even “sell her soul to the devil himself” to see her son again. Funny considering that the only exchange we see her have with her son before this declaration emphasizes a deliberate refusal to forgive or understand his rogue behavior. So any soon-to-be mothers looking for a Parenting 101 course will need to search elsewhere.
But it simply makes the lonely existence of Kevin back in Chicago all the greater. In fact, the editor should have just left out the entire subplot altogether, and focus on the boy’s waltz with the Christmas demons. The haunting John Williams musical score captures his feel of aloneness during the season of Christ’s birth, paced smartly by director Chris Columbus between spurts of slapstick and gentle sobriety.
Once the burglars plan a strike on his Christmas-colored house fit for a vintage ad, he springs to action: tar on the stairs, a blowtorch at the back entrance, a loaded BB gun at the ready, and the nutrition from a microwaved macaroni and cheese dinner fuel him in a duel against two denizens of thievery.
The hectic sequence of Looney Tunes style pratfalls distorts the faces of the two poor imbeciles who underestimated their opponent; as staged by perfectly timed gags that slowly build up to each punchline for a quick punch to your laughing gland. It all makes up for the kids and their parents watching to raise grins from a gloomy scenario.
Kevin, in the course of his unwelcome trial, becomes a kid acting like an adult acting like a kid in a world where the adults think they’re kids acting like adults. He does everything that any eighties child would dream to do as an eight-year-old in his situation to feel like the man of the house, including the unnecessary application of aftershave and deodorant. But as he evades exploitation by the dangerous adults in the neighborhood, this spooky environment of his unprotected neighborhood pushes him into manhood as he learns not to let his fear turn him into what he’s most afraid of.
When his trial is all over, the joy among the holiday season outshines the ugliness of whatever tries to stop that joy from lasting. If only more Christmas specials made nowadays remembered this key element to the most wonderful time of the year, then it would influence the subsiding of our material madness for the greater things to come.
Whether you celebrate Christmas, Hanukah, Kwanzaa, or any other winter season holiday, it is not secret in any of these traditions that aloneness is not commonly accepted. It’s heavily pressed by everyone that we should be spending as much time as possible with our loved ones.
Most people would love the time spent away from work and school to reflect on the happy times they spent with their relatives in the last year, but for anybody who has autism, it may not be much different from any other day of the year.
Six-Word Lessons on Growing Up Autistic, Lesson #94: Relationships are Not Always a Priority.
For me, Christmas has been about watching Christmas specials, putting up colorful decorations, and singing seasonal carols, not about spending time with family. I can’t pinpoint exactly when it was I started seeing Christmas as a time to celebrate family, but my guesstimate would be around late high school. Before then, I was wrapped up in my own view of the holiday, unwilling to view it as the season of giving.
I know that this is a problem with a lot of people, thinking of giving to others besides fulfilling everything on their wish list, but anyone on the spectrum would not pick gifts over family as a deliberate choice, they simply would not know better otherwise.
So if there are some traditions you may love to do as a family, your child with autism may not have any interest in them, let alone even acknowledge that the traditions exist. For myself, my father and sister always had a tradition of preparing a Christmas Eve seafood dinner, which I never caught on to until I was in high school. My mind was just on my personal televised special schedule and what I would get as gifts, not our family bonding activities.
Six-Word Lessons for Dads with Autistic Kids, Lesson #67: How About We Watch Some Football?
So things like watching football together, looking at gingerbread house displays, and our usual Christmas morning cinnamon roll breakfast were for me a solo-activity that just happened to accompany my other family members. In the case of another person with autism, they may need help every year well into adulthood in finding appropriate gifts to give their family.
Six-Word Lessons on Growing Up Autistic, Lesson #93: They Don’t Feel Sharing is Caring.
Yet ironically, this is how I got myself into the family traditions of each Christmas. I found that I really enjoy finding just the right gifts, making sure it’s nothing predictable like a “Macy’s gift card” or the number one thing on their wish list. I wanted it to be very personal, original, and meaningful to them. I also take the liberty on each of their birthdays to illustrate my own card.
There are other ways that you can keep your autistic child from being a loner every Christmas, and encourage him or her to partake in family traditions. Everybody has the potential to express love in different ways to their family, just like how I personalize my gifts and birthday cards for them. So you too can work with your child in knowing how his mind works and what he thinks of the Christmas season, to make it easier for you all to…
Six-Word Lessons on Female Asperger Syndrome, Lesson #92: Be Willing to Find Middle Ground.
Once middle ground is met between autism and the other family members, you should in time have the Merry Christmas that works best for you all.
- Train your autistic child early in the year to focus less on himself and more on the family, teach him how to observe others so that he will know what kinds of gifts he can give them. Visual items like this are an easy way for those on the spectrum to see what love looks like.
- Come up with traditions that everyone in the family loves. Don’t always resort to staring at a TV screen, use family bonding activities like board games with simple rules. You also could come up with your own little game that involves what you’re thankful for.
- If things become too much for your autistic child and he appears clearly overwhelmed or tired, and he says he needs to be alone, let him be alone. Don’t force him so much to be a part of the family that he is pushed past what he is capable of. Socialization gets very tiring for him.
If there is a specific movie you’d like to see reviewed, please email me at Trevor@TrevorsViewOnHollywood.com for your recommendations.
Have a great weekend, and happy watching!