There are plenty of films Poles could watch during Christmas.
There are the classic old tales, like one of the many adaptations of Dickensian “A Christmas Carol” – a story known even to Polish kids. After all, is there a better way of scaring children into obedience than a night visit from three scary ghosts who would be more than happy to show them the consequences of their wrongdoing?
Then there are more modern big-screen hits, such as “Holiday”(2006) or “Love Actually”(2003), tempting Polish women with their promise of a sweet wintery romance with their supernaturally attractive movie leads, be they Jude Laws, Hugh Grants or Colin Firths.
Yet neither one of those movies nor gents hold a candle to an eight-year-old boy, who has been holding our hearts hostage for the last thirty years or so.
The boy in question is Kevin, the hero of “Home Alone” (1991).
Kevin McCallister: International Mini-Man of Moneymaking
“Home Alone” or as it is known in Poland “Kevin sam w domu” ( “Kevin is Home Alone”) is not exactly a niche tale known only in our country.
This 1990 production can boast of a remarkable international success.
On its opening weekend in U.S. in November 1990, the movie was screened in 1202 theaters, earning more than 17 million dollars. This result alone almost completely compensated the movie's 18 million dollar budget. And with the 533 million dollars of overall earnings, “Home Alone” set the Guinness Book record for box office performance – and it remained unbeaten for 27 years.
Since the 90’ the movie and its first sequel “Home Alone 2” Lost in New York” (Polish “Kevin sam w Nowym Jorku” which translates into “Kevin is alone in New York”) has been a constant part of Christmas TV programming in many countries. Though the following movies – and there are four more of them – failed to capture both the magic of the previous installments, as well as the hearts of the audience.
Still, even after thirty-three years, the two first Kevin movies remain Christmas a staple.
But nowhere more so than in Poland.
“Home Alone” in Poland – Nobody puts Kevin in a corner!
Polish People took to Kevin like a fish takes to water.
The first movie debuted in Poland on the 25th of December 1992 – more than two years after its international premiere. But since that time “Home Alone” never left many Polish houses during Christmas.
The one time it almost did – in 2010, when Polsat, the Polish TV channel traditionally airing the film, didn’t include it in its Christmas programming – it created un an uproar among the internauts in Poland. "Polsat killed Christmas 2010 – there will be no Kevin this year!" proclaimed a phrase popular among the freshly created pro-Kevin Facebook groups.
It soon turned into a battle cry of sorts, when finally an official petition with over 50,000 signs was issued to the Polsat board. “Bring Kevin back!” (pol. “Przywróćcie Kevina!”) was its overall mission statement.
And surprisingly enough – it worked.
Faced with such an indomitable will of the people, the station's programming board conceded and reinstated the Christmas classic to the schedule.
Moreover, Polsat has done a lot to atone, and during Christmas, Kevin has never left us home alone.
After almost assassinating Christmas in 2010, Polast’s lineup announcements include the preemptive announcement: “Christmas without him? It's absolutely impossible!" (pol. 'Święta bez niego? To absolutnie niemożliwe!'") This could also be loosely translated as: „Look, you've got your beloved baby boy back, see? So put down your pitchforks and torches…”)
During the 2021 Polsat Plus Group's earnings conference president of Polsat Television, Stanislaw Janowski, stated:
"There are important things and more important things, and Kevin on Christmas Day belongs to the latter."
In summary, many Poles watch “Home Alone”, particularly on Christmas Eve. To put it in numbers:
- 8,9 million Poles watched “Home Alone” in 2000 (so around 20% of the country’s population)
- Around 4 million – in 2017 and the following years
These viewership numbers indubitably confirm the special place this fictional 8-year-old holds in the hearts of Polish people. But one question still remains unanswered: why?
Why are Poles die-hard fans of Kevin?
There are many reasons we might feel so strongly about “Home Alone”. But, in my view, two major factors are incredibly impactful.
On one hand, this 1990 movie presents us with the idyllic vision of capitalism.
The McCallisters are presented as belonging to the middle class. And yet, they live in a huge house where almost that can easily store a family of fifteen (!). And said fifteen people can also afford to fly out across the ocean, just to spend Christmas in Paris – at one point they even consider taking a private jet. Apparently, the only thing that they can't quite afford is a home security system. Or a babysitter.
This vision of middle-class wealth was particularly tempting for Polish people when it hit the screen in 1992.
Back then, the country had just undergone great systemic changes. From PRL, which has its roots in communist ideals, Poland was slowly steered into a capitalistic way of life.
Therefore, for people who still have a fresh memory of what it’s like to own nothing, it was easy to fall in love with the sugar-coated promise of McCallister’s America, a world where a man could not only prosper but even more importantly, was allowed to defend his rights. Even if by doing he has to resort to using deadly force, in the classic “Get of my property!” shotgun-wielding way.
And that takes us to the second secret of the movie's unprecedented popularity. And the reason is precisely that: the (excessive) use of deadly force.
“Home Alone” is, in my view, a wolf in sheep’s clothing.
Yes, at first glance, it is a family drama slash comedy. It tells a story about incredibly neglectful parents, and their incredibly resourceful genius baby boy, who all on his own and armed only with his wits must defend the household from two incredibly dim-witted career criminals.
On a second glance, however, one might start to notice certain details. Like: why didn't said baby boy call the police when he learned that his house was the robbers' next target? Or how exactly did Kevin manage to meticulously plan, not to mention create all those intricate deadly traps?
I’m just saying – this whole setup has clear signs of pre-planning. And given that Kevin’s one Christmas wish was for his family to disappear – it might just be providence that it was the robbers who got the paint can slam in the face.
So this Christmas Eve when you are watching Kevin, never forget: he is watching you, too…
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