The primary ethical consideration in regards to “Home Alone” is the comical portrayal of
violence as fun and harmless. However, a secondary consideration is also the film’s portrayal of
criminals relating to showing of one of them masquerading as a police officer. These both fall
under the general issue of the film’s message of how one should react to a burglary, being that
the best way for someone to deal with this situation is through the use of violence. This is
significant considering the film’s primary audience, being children around the same age as the
protagonist, who are particularly impressionable. This means they are likely to relate to the
character of Kevin is some way, and as such are more likely to replicate some of his actions or
view violence against strangers as something comical and acceptable.
Most of the film’s violence is the result of Kevin’s booby-trapping of the house. These
booby traps would cause far more harm than the film presents if they were actually constructed.
While one could argue that Kevin’s motives are just, being to defend his house, the traps he
builds characterize much of the dangerous home-materials he uses as harmless, which is a
dangerous portrayal considering many of the children in the film’s audience would have access
to these materials. One solution to this would be to change the nature of the traps he sets so that
they are not as harmful or would not be as dangerous if they were replicated, but still protect the
house. One example would be; instead of a placing a nail on the basement stairs for the burglar
to step on, his foot simply gets stuck in the adhesive gunk. He could still fall down the stairs after
pulling it out, but this at least removes showing him stepping on a nail. Another example would
be that instead of a blowtorch being set upon Marv’s head, the trap could throw a pie into his
face that topples him over. Lastly, instead of throwing bricks onto the two burglar’s heads from
the roof, he could instead dump a large garbage container of snow onto them which covers them
fully. These examples still contain violence and are comical, but they avoid characterizing acts
that would cause serious harm as fun.
Secondly, regarding the issue Marv impersonating a police officer and potentially
sending the message that police are not to be trusted, Marv could instead pretend to be someone
else in order to gain access to the home. He could pose as an electrician or a television
technician. Here, Kevin could potentially realize that he is not who he claims to be by seeing him
looking around the house in places that are not related to the television or examining their
valuables, which he sees because he has been sent away from the dinner table. This avoids
showing police to be criminals in disguise but also illustrates that children should not
immediately trust anyone who has a uniform of some sort.
Lastly, Kevin should immediately try to call the police when he realizes the burglars are
trying to break into the house instead of firstly setting traps. A complication could arise here,
whereby the burglars have cut the phone line or something of that nature, but this at least shows
the child audience that the first thing to do in a burglary situation is to call the police.
Overall, the primary issue with the story is not the situational content itself, being a child
defending his home from burglars, but rather the means with which he does this and the comical
portrayal of dangerous actions. This can be addressed with revision of the nature of his traps.
Other considerations are the portrayal of police and the protagonist’s first course of action
regarding how a child should react to a burglary, however these can also be addressed fairly
easily while still maintaining the same content.