Decent Films Mail > Mailbag #18

Re: How to Train Your Dragon (2010)

I always enjoy reading your reviews. Regarding How to Train Your Dragon, I have two sons (and one on the way). These days it’s hard to find strong male role models for young boys. It seems the scrawny and wimpy boy character is celebrated these days more than the strong, brave boy/man. It’s discouraging for a mom who wants to show her sons models of strong, brave men. Because of this, I’m not sure if I’m interested in having my son watch this movie.

I sympathize with your dissatisfaction with male role models in contemporary family films. Unfortunately, positive female role models are even rarer! Family films, like Hollywood fare generally, is pretty male-centric, even if the males aren’t necessarily much like the heroes of yesterday. (As a father of three boys and three girls, I’m equally sensitive to both sides!)

For what it’s worth, Hiccup in How to Train Your Dragon may not be physically strong, but brave he certainly is — as well as smart and empathetic. No other Viking on Berk would have dared to approach a dragon unarmed, like Hiccup does. The shot in which, wincing and looking away, Hiccup actually reaches out and touches Toothless on the snout is pretty breathtaking. And there’s the fact that Hiccup initially has the dragon helpless, at his mercy — but instead of killing it decides to release it, even though he knows it might kill him. Finally, in the end, Hiccup and Toothless go toe to toe with the biggest, baddest dragon of them all.

That doesn’t make Hiccup a model of macho manliness, certainly. And Hiccup’s father Stoick is a regrettably overbearing caricature of paternal authoritarianism — although he does get a truly heroic redemptive moment at the end. As I noted in my review, Gobber is a more positive manly-man figure … and even Hiccup’s bullying peers are ultimately redeemed. All in all, it’s a pretty positive picture, I think.

P.S. Have your boys discovered “The Spectacular Spider-Man” and/or Disney’s “Zorro”? Just wondering.

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