Perhaps at the time–1992–there was no scarier fate to any gender than ending up a homeless, middle-aged woman. That being said, the now iconic Pigeon Lady (Brenda Fricker) from Home Alone 2: Lost in New York–the almost slightly better than the first movie sequel–intended to serve as a cautionary tale about a woman who becomes so distraught with mistrust after the man she loves falls out of love with her that she drops out of society entirely, trusting only pigeons as companions.
Confessing to Kevin McCallister (Macaulay Culkin) after he wears her defenses down enough to take him to her secret place in Carnegie Hall (which yes, does sound a bit creepy, and would be even more sinister if she were a man), “I had a job. I had a home. I had a family.” Kevin pries, “Any kids?” She returns wistfully, “No. I wanted them. But the man I loved fell out of love with me. That broke my heart. When the chance to be loved came along again…I ran away from it. I stopped trusting people.”
While Kevin–as representative mouthpiece for the audience–insists that it’s “sort of dumb” to shut people out in this way, as time wears on, the Pigeon Lady only serves as a visionary, a beacon for all the reasons why we should not trust anyone (fugly slut or not–oops, mixing movie analogies). In point of fact, the testament to society’s collective lack of confidence in others is that the Hughesian canon is, with each passing year, less palatable to the masses. And not just because of the constant commentary about Hughes’ tone deafness about race in all of his scripts, but because no one can any longer believe in a world where Samantha Baker (Molly Ringwald) is lusted after and appreciated by Jake Ryan (Michael Schoeffling) or a tomboy drummer like Watts (Mary Stuart Masterson) wins out over the “popular girl” archetype.
Of all the Hughes character creations, however, the Pigeon Lady is the most honest manifestation of not only what losing all hope and faith can do to a person, but also the means of self-protection one can achieve upon disconnecting from society and severing all ties to mankind. The Pigeon Lady may have showed a moment of weakness in terms of revealing a shred of vulnerability to Kevin–especially after he gives her the gift of one of the symbolic turtle dove friendship ornaments from Duncan’s Toy Chest. But one imagines she’ll wise up real quick once Kevin leaves New York with his family, grows up to be an embezzler at some company in Chicago and forgets she ever even existed–that he owes her his very life for saving him from getting anally raped and worse by a mugger or delinquent (besides Marv and Harry) in Central Park.
Most importantly of all, the Pigeon Lady knows that the only relationships worth a damn are the ones you can control. Even if it means baiting your lackeys with food so that they will never leave you. Because there is no blow more damaging to the human psyche than abandonment–which will consistently occur when you place your reliance and already scant emotional stock in humans.
So when you see the Pigeon Lady in Home Alone 2 next time, try to look at her anew. Not as a sad soul to be pitied, but as a woman shrewder than any of us for breaking ties with a society that only seems to encourage recyclability (even more with humans than with aluminum and plastic–the latter material of which most people have decided to model themselves after anyway).