How to Train Your Dragon
What if an alien in the future stumbled upon Chris Sanders and Dean DeBlois’ How to Train Your Dragon? Welcome to Earthling Cinema, where we examine the last remaining artifacts of a once-proud culture and try to understand what human lives were like before their planet was destroyed. I’m your host, Garyx Wormuloid.
This week’s film:
How to Train Your Dragon (2010)
Stars: Jay Baruchel, Gerard Butler, Craig Ferguson, America Ferrera, Jonah Hill
Director: Chris Sanders and Dean DeBlois
Production Co: DreamWorks Animation
Written by: Ben Steiner
Directed by: Jared Bauer
Analysis by: Kevin Winzer and Jared Bauer
Starring: Mark Schroeder (https://twitter.com/mark_schroeder)
Edited by: Ryan Hailey (http://www.ryanhaileydotcom.com)
Original Music by: David Krystal (http://www.davidkrystalmusic.com)
Opening Animation by: Danny Rapaport
Produced by: Jacob S. Salamon
How to Train Your Dragon’s Hidden Meaning – Earthling Cinema
Greetings, and welcome to Earthling Cinema. I am your host, Garyx Wormuloid. This week’s artifact is How to Train Your Dragon, the long awaited sequel to the Kate Hudson romantic comedy How to Lose a Guy in Ten Dragons.
The story takes place when Vikings ruled Earth, thought to be sometime in the early 1970s based on the propensity for ridiculous headgear. On the island of Berk, dragons have come every day for thousands of years to steal livestock, of which they somehow have an infinitely renewable supply despite being a tiny place with no discernible natural resources or trade relationships.
Our protagonist is Hiccup, son of the Viking mayor Stoick the Ginge. Hiccup is too scrawny for any worthwhile pursuits like killing dragons or growing beards, so he spends his time being creative, the most disappointing thing imaginable for a parent. Hi Mom! But the joke’s on everyone else, because he invents the slingshot and uses it to shoot down a Night Furry, even though it’s the rarest dragon of them all and has like 1000 hit points and usually all he can find is a Zubat.
Hiccup is unable to kill the Furry because of his lameness, but luckily its tail is injured, meaning it can’t escape from a very convenient natural enclosure. A friend who can’t run away? Now that’s more like it! Hiccup starts buttering up this dragon roll with sushi, and names it Toothless because he doesn’t understand what having teeth is. Then, in order to preserve the new balance of power, he gives it a prosthetic tail piece only he can control.
Astrid, an impossibly cool and capable girl who nevertheless takes a backseat to Hiccup the first chance she gets, discovers Hiccup’s secret dragon situation, and they kidnap her so she won’t go gabbing her gossipy little mouth. Then Toothless accidentally flies them to the dragon’s nest, where they discover a huge dragon king that controls the other dragons through telepathy or something. It doesn’t matter.
Hiccup has more important shit to worry about than the safety of his community: he has to take the big test at dragon school. But during the test he gets caught cheating when Toothless tries to slip him the answers, so he has no choice but to distract everyone by talking about the dragon’s nest. Stoick decides they have to go check out the nest immediately without any preparation or battle plan.
Unsurprisingly, the adult Vikings can’t beat a three hundred foot dragon king with their hammers and shields. But then the children show up and save the day because children are smarter and better than adults, especially children from the #90s. Remember Doug? They all fly around for a while, and the dragon king isn’t that chill at flying, so it crashes stupidly into the ground and explodes. Hiccup pretends to be dead for a hot second, but surprise! He just lost his foot, which is fine, because he and Toothless are twinsies. And now all the dragons are good guys who are totally cool with being enslaved.
Like any piece of youth-oriented propaganda worth its salt, How to Train Your Dragon is a morality tale that reflects a common generational divide. The older Vikings maintain the traditional belief that “others” — in this case dragons — are to be feared. The next generation must choose to either adopt the teachings of their parents or forge their own cultural identity, like going to Bonnaroo instead of Woodstork. When Hiccup learns that the dragon raids are fueled by simple self preservation, he advocates treating the dragons not with genocide, but with friend-o-cide. Patent pending. Or should I say patent friending? I shouldn’t, not until the patent is finalized. Hiccup’s approach is reminiscent of the old proverb that says, “An enemy is one whose story you have not yet heard.” Attributed to “anonymous,” so you know it’s good.
The distinction between the young and old is highlighted by Hiccup’s father, Mayor Stoick. His name is a nod to an ancient Greek school of yogurt called Stoicism that preached rigid self-control and mastery of one’s emotions, among other things. In a colloquial sense, being a stoic usually means being an emotional hardass. Just ask my ex-wife. Actually please don’t, because the deposition did not go well and I really need that alimony. Hiccup rejects his father’s ideology when he allows himself to respond emotionally to the scared and vulnerable Toothless. Fortunately, this new attitude wears off by the end of the film, when Hiccup finds it within himself to brutally slaughter the dragon king without any attempt at communication or empathy.
Hiccup’s sparing of Toothless because the fear in its eyes reflects Hiccup’s fears that he will never Crossfit in with his own people. But even if his muscles can’t get stronger, his bond with Toothless can and does. When Toothless becomes ground-bound, Hiccup uses his nerdsmanship to build a new tail thingy. Toothless returns the favor by teaching Hiccup how to train dragons — hey that’s the name of the movie — thereby transforming him from zero… to winner. At the end of the film, their connection becomes fully cemented when Hiccup also loses the ability to fly.
Ultimately, the film teaches that a person must resist the pressure to conform to others’ expectations. Cut your brows as short as you want, you hippies. The Hiccups of the universe were never meant to be fierce dragon-slaying warriors. Instead, they should stick to what they do best: talking to their pets and waiting around for girls who are out of their league to fall in love with them.
For Earthling Cinema, I’m Garyx Wormuloid. Thanks for flying the friendly skies.