This weekend the Posse took in "How to Train Your Dragon," an amusing family movie that everyone enjoyed.
***SPOILERS now follow***
Over at National Review, Jonah Goldberg comments that HTTYD is yet another entry in the “monsters can be our friends” line of films, a tradition that goes back to Sesame Street and basically teaches children that there are no bad people, just misunderstood ones.
I agree with his argument but I don’t think that HTTYD actually falls into this category. In fact, it’s actually a quite subversive little film.
Oh, I can see how people might think it is. Indeed, as I was watching it, I was grumbling that here was yet another version of “our ancient quarrel is just a misunderstanding and that surely we can all just get along if we only give peace a chance.”
But then we learn that the dragons themselves are oppressed. They prey upon the Vikings because they are compelled to by an even bigger monster – one that is really a monster and not nice at all.
This is a key distinction. The movie isn’t saying that monsters are really friends we haven’t made yet, it is saying that there are friendly ones and unfriendly ones. The unfriendly ones need to be killed, and if you are smart, you can get the friendly ones to help you.
What Hiccup actually does is break a strategic deadlock by building a coalition of former enemies to destroy a common foe – or to put it another way, he convinces the underlings of a cruel and predatory regime to turn upon their master.
If we want to get allegorical, Hiccup is the OSS or CIA, recruiting a group of exiles and elite operatives to eliminate a long-standing strategic threat. Like our CIA, he’s clumsy, unpopular and prefers to operate in secret.
Unlike our CIA, he actually gets positive results.
Now some might see parallels to Iraq and Afghanistan in all of this, but they really don't apply. The situation is more analogous to the Cold War. The dragons are like the East Bloc nations - as varied and unique as the Czechs, Slovaks, Hugarians, Poles and so forth.
We are of course the Vikings.
Like the East Bloc, the dragons pretty much had to do what they were told, but they hated it. Once the Soviet domination was lifted (or, in the case of the movie, the big hungry dragon was killed), it was possible for the oppressed masses to befriend their former enemies.
Some might say I'm reading too much into this, but basic concept is clear, and that is why HTTYD is a better movie than the latest offering from Disney and the unwatchable "Planet 51."
Do I think the film makers intended this? No.
I think they probably meant to do a monster-victim mixup that Goldberg finds so common, but their dedication to a good story overcame their instinct for political correctness.
As someone important whose name I forget once said: "Life is conservative." The best dramas maybe written by card-carrying communists, but the core plots have to be conservatism because if they aren't, the show gets really stupid really fast.
HTTYD makes the crucial decision to leave the liberal reservation and thus escapes being yet another Ferngully/Pocahantas disaster.
That's why I call it subersive - it's so subversive its authors may not have even realized it.