“Kevin’s mom.” That’s probably all you need to hear to know I’m talking about Kate McCallister, the mother from the Home Alone franchise. She’s a figure we evoke when we need an example of an awful parent. While not, perhaps, at the level of “Wicked Stepmother” or “Mommie Dearest,” Kate often finds herself in their company on lists of “The Worst Movie Moms,” not for willful cruelty, but careless neglect. And, frankly, she belongs on a lot of those lists... but I’ve noticed something lately that has prompted me to speak in defense of Kevin’s mom. Because, yes, Kate deserves your judgment, but she didn’t act alone.
Earlier this month, I rewatched Home Alone after 25 years to see how the movie held up. My main takeaway? Kevin’s entire family, including his mom, is absolutely awful to him. But when the article was posted to Romper’s Facebook page, I noticed something interesting in the comments: while readers agreed his family was terrible, only one parent, his mom, Kate, got called out specifically.
“The most insane part of the whole thing is that the mother left her YOUNGEST kid. That is usually the one you make stick the closest to you or hold your hand in a crowded place,” read one comment. “Mom was definitely lacking in the caring/empathy department,” another agrees. And a third: “His mom was the most hated woman of the nineties! Possibly of all time!”
OK, let me ask you all a question: where is that level of scorn when we’re talking about Kevin’s dad? Being a better parent than Kate wouldn’t be a difficult bar to clear but, somehow, Peter McCallister fails to do even that.
Because not only did he also leave his kid home alone, his response to that egregious error is (as I noted in my previous article) lackluster at best. Did he stay put in the airport and do everything in his power to get on a plane? Did he exchange personal belongings for plane tickets? Did he offer to “sell [his] soul to the Devil himself” to get home to his child as soon as possible? No. He was like “Let me go to my brother’s apartment and call the French police because that’ll do anything and we’ll get on a plane when we can get on a plane!”
But it’s not just Romper readers who have fallen victim to this sexist line of thinking: it’s everywhere. I Googled the term “Kevin’s mom”: 6.85 million results. “Kevin’s dad”? A little more than half of that at 3.89 million. And, granted, she’s a bigger character in the movies but that’s also because she’s actually trying to do something. Not like that absolutely negligent tool Peter.
I took to Twitter. Comments about “Kevin’s mom” abounded, and were similarly biased.
“Someone should have called CPS on Kevin’s mom,” observes @Dreadheadleo. This sentiment — the state needs to come to protect Kevin because his mom is awful — is a common theme in the comments, incidentally. Not so incidentally, Kevin’s dad is almost never mentioned in this context. Most “Kevin’s dad” searches are references to the father of Korean pop singer Kevin Moon. When people do tweet about Peter McCallister, it’s usually to wonder what he must do to afford such an extravagant house (as though Kate isn’t capable of contributing to the household finances... but that’s another rant).
“Kevin’s mom in Home Alone 2 was the prototype Karen,” posits @ketchup_lt. “Irresponsibly loses her kid and leaves him stranded, but then proceeds to berate and abuse the hotel staff and blame them for it when she finally catches the trail.”
OK, guys. I don’t want to point fingers (I do, actually), but if we want to talk about Home Alone 2, Kevin’s dad is very much the one who loses him.
Peter was the last parent to interact with him and knew the boy was behind him as they rushed through the airport. When he gets to the gate, does he look behind him to make sure Kevin was there? No. He just smiles and says “Everyone here? We made it? All right!” in this annoying, self-satisfied way, without so much as a backward glance as he boards the plane himself. Kate, meanwhile, has to be shoved onto the plane in the middle of checking to make sure everyone is there. Now, was it irresponsible not to check and make sure everyone was on the plane? Of course. But that was as much Peter’s responsibility as it was hers.
Look, I’m not saying Kate is simply a victim of misogyny here. But I am saying it’s misogyny that “Kevin’s mom” means something and “Kevin’s dad” doesn’t. Christmas is a season of giving. This year, let’s all give Peter McCallister at least as much crap for being a bad parent as we give “Kevin’s mom.”