Saturday, April 17, 2010

How to Train A Dragon
was not a film I relished seeing. However, the story gives a provides an empowering message for children on several subjects we have discussed in class. There are strong female characters and a positive light shed on flexible gender roles that children are not used to seeing in their current cartoon repertoire.

The story is about Hiccup, a lanky, awkward teen boy who lives in some Nordic village that is characterized by its continuous battle against raiding dragons. Interestingly, both women and men fight at the front lines and have the opportunity to die defending their civilization. This seems to be a strong critique of the current military situation in the United States that does not allow women to fight in combat. Teens train to fight dragons, but Hiccup is geeky and physically weak, and is not allowed to train initially, though his father later relents and allows him to. The student who is best at dragon fighting is a girl named Astrid. Hiccup develops a weapon that shoots rope to trap dragons and captures some rare form of dragon that was yet unseen by any villager. Yes, the cartoon was pretty campy and stupid at times, but it redeemed itself later. The machine is a success and Hiccup hits a dragon, it is injured by the machine and can no longer fly. Hiccup “cheesily” befriends it, calls it “Toothless,” and makes a prosthetic device that will help the dragon fly with the help of a human rider to control the device like a stick-shift vehicle. Hiccup learns about dragon behavior from Toothless and uses it to become the best dragon fighting trainee. Hiccup's success angers Astrid because she is clearly the better dragon fighter, without Hiccup’s privileged knowledge.

The world that DreamWorks created showed women and girls as being naturally accepted as part of the working and fighting force. At one point in the film, Astrid responds to the way in which Hiccup treats her as an object. She punches him for having "kidnapped" her in order to change her mind about he and his dragon, forcefully reminding him that she is not his to control or maneuver. Later, after she decides Hiccup is not a patriarchal clown, she is the one who takes the perceived “masculine” role in kissing him first, or making the first move. Snoutlout, another young male dragon trainer, is shown to be the stereotypically "masculine" teen, and is seen as foolish and stupid throughout the film. Hiccup's father eventually realizes that his son's talents with inventions and working with dragons are valuable even though they are not stereotypically “masculine” like dragon fighting would seem to be. Thus, throughout the film gender roles are presented as fairly flexible. Hiccup is shown as skilled and smart even though he is not a strong fighter, Astrid and Ruffnut, another female dragon fighter trainee, are shown as feminine but physically strong and capable. The main message of the entire story is to accept everyone as they are, and to let each person use their own natural skills to help the whole, regardless of gender or gender roles.


  1. I feel like movies and television are slowly breaking down stereotypes with men and women as well as race. I find your blog interesting because it seems like the stereotypes are trying to be erased for the next generation, teaching children that it's okay to be who they are no matter what sex they may be. The "Ice Age" movies are another franchise that I believe are trying to break stereotypes. In these, movies different animals come together and form a herd (family) even though everyone say that they should be enemies.

  2. I agree with Rhianna. Popular culture in a lot of ways is blurring the lines on gender in ways that I didn't see as a child. Even with a movie like Shrek 3 you see Fiona and the other princesses taking a more assertive role in trying to save Shrek, the dominant male role. Even Charming, another male role, is depicted as a more feminine character. He often throws tantrums and does the classic Herbal Essences hair shake.

  3. Actually the Vikings were remarkably non-sexist. Women ran everything when the men were fighting, and they were even many times allowed to fight as well.

  4. After reading this post I was interested to know the gender of the writers. I looked up the information on

    The movie is based on a novel written by a woman, but the screenwriters/directors are all male. I think it's quite interesting and, possibly, a small testament to the evolution of men's attitudes concerning women's roles, that the male writers did not downplay the strength, abilities,and attitudes of the female characters in translating the story from page to screen.

  5. I completely agree with Lindsay. Hollywood provides images of women that are unrealistic, unhealthy, and often negative (we all need to be a size zero). While this movie isn't live action, I think it's great that the male screenwriters/directors recognized and respected the strength of women.


Note: Only a member of this blog may post a comment.