Why The McCallisters Are Awful Parents

Even though Home Alone has become a Christmas holiday favorite as it was once the highest-grossing comedy of all time, some fans and critics can’t seem to shake that the McCallister parents (Peter and Kate) are very terrible. Kevin McCallister seems to live in a toxic household, where he’s constantly being blamed for acts that are mostly in retaliation for being mocked or treated badly.

There’s been a lot of fan theories and speculations over the years. One, that Peter (John Heard) is crooked. When he first meets Harry (Joe Pesci) dressed as a police officer, his response is a concerned half-laugh “Am I under arrest?” Who would respond this way to a police officer in their own home? How about a simple “Hi, officer, how can I help you?”

It’s not revealed in the movie but reportedly Peter is a big-time lawyer in Chicago. Kate (Catherine O’Hara) is a fashion designer. Living and working in Chicago, I’m sure they’re able to make some good money to afford a nice home in the suburbs. But Chicago is a big city, second in size and population to New York City. This has led some people to speculate that Peter is a mob lawyer or he has been working for corrupt people in Chicago. If that’s the case, why doesn’t he use his connections for someone to check on Kevin when he’s home alone?

Peter’s demeanor doesn’t fit that of a hotshot lawyer. It’s very likely, he’s a financial lawyer. He doesn’t seem to be the type of litigator. Lawyers all have their specialties. Still, he may be working with the Chicago outfit or other crooked businessmen to cook the books. Right after Harry assures him he’s just there to check up on the homeowners, Peter’s attitude changes to more jovial, even asking Harry if he has been treated to eggnog.

Other people have speculated that the McCallisters are part of a cult as both Peter and Kate and Uncle Frank and Aunt Leslie each have five kids. However, I think there is a simple explanation for this. McCallister is obviously a name of Irish and Scottish background. It’s very possible the McCallisters are Irish Catholic which would explain five kids. Also, Kate and their sons, Buzz (Devin Retray) and Jeff (Michael C. Maronna) have red hair.

Kevin also does the sign of the cross before he blesses his microwaveable meal. He later feels guilty about accidentally shoplifting the toothbrush when he is scared by Old Man Marley (Roberts Blossom) at the drug store. He also goes to the church on Christmas Eve.

This leads me to what I think the movie hints at but never does reveal – that Kevin is adopted. More important, Kevin and his “cousin” Fuller are actually biological brothers. While Fuller is played by Macaulay Culkin’s real brother, Kieran, you can’t deny that they look alike, but Fuller looks nothing like his other siblings. And Kevin doesn’t really look much like his siblings. This might explain why there’s such hostility in the house.

I also think this is a connection with John Hughes’ movie The Breakfast Club in which John Bender (Judd Nelson) describes a home life full of physical abuse, toxicity and neglect. Bender recalls how the previous Christmas he got a carton of cigarettes as a present. After Brian Johnson (Anthony Michael Hall) wrote his theme to Shermer High School Vice Principal Richard Vernon (Paul Gleason), the administrator talked to Bender and discovered his behavior was the result of his home life. Therefore, Kevin and Fuller and others were taken out and put in the foster care system, eventually finding their ways to the McCallisters.

It also explains how in the second movie, Kate says Kevin is more street smart. If he was born into a broken home, he would’ve gotten tougher a lot faster, which is why Kevin’s first instinct to Buzz’s bullying is to attack him. Buzz is twice Kevin’s size. Yet, Kevin is ready to fight. However, he’ll only fight when provoked which is what Buzz does. Since he was also living in a broken down home, that’s why he likes Christmas trees so much. His biological family never had Christmas trees and he never got much for Christmas.

Now, since Kevin and Fuller are brothers, I’m thinking that at first, Frank and Leslie were fostering them to get money. Frank is obviously very cheap and expects Peter and Kate to always foot the bill. He even steals crystal salt and pepper shaker on the plane flight to Paris. Heard, may he rest in peace, was born in 1946. Garry Bamman, who plays Frank, was born in 1941 and is older. This is how he’s able to walk around Peter’s house treating him and the family badly. He’s the older sibling and that still carries on in some families well into adulthood. This is why when Frank calls Kevin, “a little jerk” in anger, Peter doesn’t do anything but tell Kevin to leave.

Really, ask yourself, what would your folks done if an uncle called you a jerk? Go call your nephew a jerk at the Christmas dinner and see what happens.

Mainly, I think Frank originally fostered Kevin but he was too much. That’s why Frank is so hostile toward Kevin in both movies. Frank and Leslie live in Ohio. It’s not like they’re always visiting each other. Frank won’t let Kevin watch a movie with the “big kids.” When he finds out Kevin was left at home, he acts nonchalant saying he left his reading glasses behind. In the sequel, Frank threatens violence against Kevin for spying on him in the shower. He later sleeps during the recital. At the airport terminal in Miami, he acts like Kevin’s bag is riddled with smallpox and refuses to touch it.

It’s quite obvious, Frank and Kevin have a rough checkered history together. While he was able to keep Fuller, he passed Kevin off to Peter and Kate. This explains why Kevin has never seen much of Old Man Marley since he’s been living next door. But I think Peter and Kate are new to the Chicago area after having moved up from the Nashville area. This is something Peter says when he tells Kate they don’t have any flights to Chicago from Paris leaving as soon as possible.

There are so many other cities closer to Chicago that Kate could fly too. There’s Detroit, St. Louis, Milwaukee, Indianapolis, but yet Peter says Nashville which is almost 500 miles away. It’s quite possible that they’ve only moved to that big mansion in the suburbs in the last few years. Of course, the same house was used in Planes, Trains and Automobiles, but I think there’s a connection I’ll get to later. Peter and Kate are newly into money after having moved to their new home. This might explain why they haven’t made too many close friends that would help. However, they have people that can help back in Nashville.

Going back to the adoption issue, Peter and Kate are taking care of their niece, Heather (Kristin Miner) because her parents, Rob and Georgette, are living in Paris. It’s quite possible Rob and Georgette lived in the Chicago area before moving and Heather stayed to finished her last year of high school. However, they also have a brownstone in New York City they are renovating. My guess is that the brownstone was recently purchased in between the events between the first and second movie.

Angela Goethals as Linnie McCallister in the first Home Alone

Peter and Kate have two daughters, Linnie (Angela Goethals) and Megan (Hillary Wolf). It’s possible that Megan is their daughter as she has brunette hair just like Peter. But Linnie is a blonde. This makes me guess that Linnie may also be a foster child as there is a different actress playing the role in the sequel. Maureen Elisabeth Shay plays Linnie, but yet seems to function as a glorified extra. She only has two lines which are “Give this to Kevin” and “Kevin’s not here.” Goethals didn’t have many lines in the first movie but that might explain why she wasn’t in the movie. As a matter of fact, many of the kids don’t have much dialogue.

Maureen Elisabeth Shay, at right in the yellow robe, as Linnie McCallister in Home Alone 2. She looks a lot similar to Jeff McCallister (Michael C. Marrrona) at left in the green robe.

Or, it could be leaving Kevin behind caused the social services to take Linnie from the McCallister household. The character could be another child the McCallister are fostering, even though Shay has more similarities with her on-screen siblings, most notably Marrona. It could be a simple scheduling issue. Goethals was still a minor when filming of Home Alone 2 went into production and her parents might have thought she needed a bigger role or the salary wasn’t enough. Let’s face it, Kit Culkin was pulling the same tactics with his kids. A lot of parents of child actors do it.

I don’t think the McCallisters have lived at the house for many years, which is why Old Man Marley asks Kevin if he lives nearby when seeing him in the church. Even though Kevin says the basement has “bothered him for years,” it could be a figure of speech as he’s not gotten use to things around the house since moving in.

This is why he’s scared of sleeping on the third floor. And another thing no one has addressed is Kevin has had to give up his room for the guests. He finally gets a nice room to himself and Frank and Leslie bring the kids in. He doesn’t want to sleep on the bed with Fuller because he has a bed-wetting problem. Also, why do Frank and Leslie not prep to prevent Fuller from doing so. In the sequel, Frank comments the rubber sheets have been packed, but they didn’t think to bring them in the first movie.

No one gets mad at Buzz for eating Kevin’s whole pizza in a manner of less than two minutes than “fake retching” while others are trying to eat. Peter is such a dumbass he puts the passports on the kitchen counter around children. He actually makes it worse by spilling Pepsi on the table causing it to land in Frank’s lap and Fuller to almost get injured. Then as they are cleaning up the mess, no one bothers to check if they’re not tossing passports into the trash, because they do just that with Kevin’s.

Yeah, even if he hadn’t been left behind, his passport is at the bottom of a kitchen trash bag underneath pizza boxes, stale pizza bread and milk and Pepsi-soaked napkins. Good parenting skills, there, Peter and Kate. In 1990, Peter doesn’t think enough to put the passports in a carrying on bag or something. No, he just leaves them out on the kitchen counter.

Also, Kate is upset that milk spilt on the counter but Buzz just ate a fucking large pizza at $12 in 1990 dollars in two minutes. Adjusted for inflation, that’s about $25 in today’s number for a fucking plain cheese pizza, they should’ve at least been pissed at Buzz for that alone. But no, Buzz seems to constantly get the benefit of the doubt, including when Kevin humiliates him while he’s singing a solo in the second one. I guess he’s the Josh Duggar of the McCallisters. (Nice topical analogy).

If the McCallisters are Irish Catholics, that would explain why Buzz is allowed to get away with so much. Some families operate under the patriarchy that the firstborn son will be the next in line to be the “Man of the House. ” This type of toxic abuse was and is still common in many households and families, even those in affluent neighborhoods. Being the youngest, Kevin is expected not to have as much as the other kids. This is very common as the oldest kids get the better clothes and toys while the youngest get the hand-me-downs. Even for a well-off family like the McCallisters, this would still be common.

But moving aside from how the parents treat their kids, they obviously don’t prepare ahead. In the first movie, heavy winds cause a tree limb to fall on an electrical wire. If they were leaving early the next morning, they should’ve had a battery-operated alarm just in case. In the second, Peter foolishly unplugs the alarm clock. Didn’t anyone else bother to set an alarm? If you’ve barely missed a flight once, you would prepare not to miss it a second time.

But one thing that’s always bothered me especially about the first movie is how Peter and Kate don’t set good examples for their kids. Kate is too busy blabbing to a friend on the phone to realize Frank has overstepped his boundaries as a guest in their home. Both her and Peter send Kevin to bed without supper. But when she walks through the kitchen telling people to drink milk, her demeanor is really uppity.

Later on the flight to Paris, Kate seems to be more interested in her appearance as she applies make-up rather than double-checking on her kids. They intentionally bought first-class tickets to avoid their kids. They’re relying on parentification of Heather and quite possibly Buzz to look after the younger kids, even though Fuller and Brooke are both very young to be left without parental supervision. Peter passes it off as he stuffs his face with food saying he never got to fly when he was a child. Didn’t any one of them not notice that Kevin wasn’t there? Or did someone not realize that when Heather accidentally counted the Murphy kid in the shuttle van, this means her count is incorrect. He passes right by them and tells them to have a good trip. When Kate realizes Kevin was left behind, she says, “What kind of a mother am I?” Of course, it’s always about her.

Later when they land in Paris, they immediately go up to someone talking on the pay phone and take the receiver from her and hang up on whoever was on the other line. What if the French woman was relaying important information? They basically just assume that since they’re Americans they have a right in a foreign land to throw their weight around. Even Peter does the same when speaking with the airline clerk at the ticket counter. He just assumes the airline should bump people just because.

They get snippy with the police but the police are confused. Yet no one bothers to call and check back with the police. They’re would’ve done a better job contacting an American embassy. Peter gets mad when he tries to talk with someone French on the phone. Yet Rob and Georgette are in the same fucking room more concerned about Frank giving everyone shrimp that was supposed to be saved for later. How the fuck you’re going to live in France without learning to communicate in French?

Also, the phone call Kate makes to the village police department is only five minutes or so. In that time, Leslie also tries to call other people but can’t get through so everyone is like, that’s it. And Peter waits until the next day to call the Murphys but yet that should’ve been one of the first calls he makes. This is why I think Kevin is adopted as well as Linnie. They could’ve called a social worker but they’re waiting to get someone else to help them out.

I also think the cop’s demeanor performing the welfare check reinforces the theory that Peter is a corrupt lawyer and the local law enforcement know it. The high and mighty McCallisters are in Paris and they take kids in to foster so they can get more money. But yet they expect the police to help them babysit. Also, some law enforcement can be a little cranky, archaic, sexist and misogynistic. The cop is just mad he’s dealing with a frantic mother. But when you think about, he really can’t do much. He knocks on the door and gets no answer. There’s no sign of an immediate danger. Kevin’s hiding and doesn’t respond. He’s not wanting to face a lawsuit from breaking down the door.

In the end, Peter and Kate don’t learn a damn thing. When they finally get back home at the end of the first one, they’re so emotional and happy that Kevin is okay, they leave him alone 45 seconds later. Worse, by the next movie which takes place the following year but Kevin has gone from 8 to 10. It could be his birthday is around Christmas? However, Peter and Kate are still treating Kevin the same. After catching a quick flight from Miami to New York City on Christmas Eve for about a dozen people, which is damn near impossible, they blame the hotel staff for allowing Kevin to leave.

No one bothers to question the woman who took the reservation who should’ve clearly noticed she was listening to a recording. Peter and Kate go full Todd and Karen as they blame those in the service industry for their own incompetence. Granted the hotel staff of the Plaza aren’t the best. But NYC is a city in which 10-year-olds do a lot on their own. If a reservation is made, they have to give him a room. Cigarette vending machines used to be in family-style restaurants and they worked on the honor system of kids not buying them.

The concierge played by Tim Curry is suspicious and when he notices that the card is stolen, he notifies the credit card company and police of its use. When Kevin returns being chased by Harry and Marv (Daniel Stern), he takes the card and tells Kevin that he’s notifying police. Yet Peter gets mad because he called the fucking police. Usually that’s standard operating procedure when a credit card reported stolen is used. The concierge has known Kevin for less than 24 hours and only had one interaction with him, yet he’s expected to treat Kevin with kid gloves.

To make amends rather than doing what most businesses would’ve done and telling the McCallisters this is now a police matter and they can’t discuss it further, the concierge offers the McCallisters who have arrived in NYC on Christmas Eve a free presidential suite, that is open. Do you know how much money they’re losing on doing this? And when the concierge tries to tell Kate that she needs to be worried about her safety as she’s going to go looking for Kevin, she fucking slaps him. At this moment, the concierge should’ve thrown them all out on the street and called the police.

But no, Kate gives him an ugly look as if everything is his fault. In real life, no one in the service industry would’ve let anyone assault them. What sucks is this is too common in movies of women slapping men for no reason. I’ve done another post about this and hopefully, it’s a trope Hollywood will stop immediately. Assault is assault. And Kate did it in front of her family. I hate to stereotype Irish Catholics but they always seem to be the ones who believe that corporal punishment is necessary.

In the end, they’ve gotten a free suite in the Plaza and Peter and Kate are still using the fact that they’re adults to get everything. All 10 of the kids are sleeping together on couches and futons in a room as Fuller drank two Cokes and probably pissed all over the bed, because Frank and Leslie don’t seem to think bed wetting is an issue. Frank and Leslie have their own bedroom and Peter and Kate got the motherfucking master bedroom, which just goes to show that you can be some of the worst parents ever in movies and still get treated as royalty.

Because Kevin was able to stop Harry and Marv again from successfully robbing and burglarizing a place, in this case Duncan’s Toy Chest, Mr. Duncan (Eddie Bracken) decides to reward Kevin’s good deed by delivering a truckload of wrapped gifts to their hotel room. But something like this wouldn’t have happen. By no means would Mr. Duncan be able to find out where the McCallisters were staying. Hotels don’t give out that information. Also, how could a bunch of people bring all the gifts into a hotel room without disturbing at least one of the 14 people staying there.

So, everyone is amazed at a bunch of gifts under a huge tree is in their suite, they don’t stop and question it. Buzz asks “Who’s Mr. Duncan?” but doesn’t even bother for a response before they begin to tear into the gifts like the zombies in Dawn of the Dead. No one bothers to call the front desk wondering how someone got into their room. Were the gifts for the previous Countess of Worcestershire? They don’t even bother. The only thing they’re bothered with is Buzz saying “Sweet Honey Iced Tea.” And even Frank screams for no one to open any of his gifts.

And Kevin decides to run off to Central Park to meet the Pigeon Lady (Brenda Fricker). Again, they pay no attention to Kevin. They just let him run off outside in his pajamas. The only time they seem to care is when Cedric the Bellboy (Rob Schneider) drops off the room service bill with is almost $1,000. And Peter screams at Kevin about it. He doesn’t mind that Frank is a freeloader and was going to allow them to stay in a flea-bag motel in Miami for Christmas. He doesn’t care that a stranger has showered him and his family with hundreds of dollars worth of free gifts for a majestic Christmas morning. He doesn’t care that he probably would’ve spent Christmas getting Kate out of jail through a bail bondsman.

No, he’s fucking upset over a room service bill. Considering that the hotel allowed Kevin to check in without an adult, I’m sure Peter could get this comped. What makes me laugh is how Peter and Kate don’t face any consequences. Once is happenstance; twice is a coincidence; but three times is enemy action. In today’s world, all kids, adopted or biological, would’ve been taken out of that home.

It’s no wonder in the third Home Alone which contains new characters, Hughes was smart enough to have the child played by Alex D. Linz to be home alone due to having the measles. I know they’re all movies, but it’s no wonder why a common fan theory is how Kevin turns into John Kramer, aka The Jigsaw Killer. Not only does Kevin torture Harry and Marv with Rube Goldberg traps that would’ve seriously injured and killed them, but he’s grew up witnessing people treat others badly and not value what they have.

Published by bobbyzane420

I'm an award winning journalist and photographer who covered dozens of homicides and even interviewed President Jimmy Carter on multiple occasions. A back injury in 2011 and other family medical emergencies sidelined my journalism career. But now, I'm doing my own thing, focusing on movies (one of my favorite topics), current events and politics (another favorite topic) and just anything I feel needs to be posted. Thank you for reading.

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