Monday, October 27, 2014

Movie Sequel Delight

On Sunday, I saw How To Train Your Dragon 2 at the ever-excellent Museum of the Moving Image. The movie is good, even allowing for my brain damaged overreaction, and I want to call attention to an aspect of the story that I think is admirable*.

By this second movie, the protagonist, Hiccup, has lost a lower leg, and designed a fantastic prosthetic leg. His dragon is also disabled and is only able to fly with a prosthesis. Neither refers to their disability with anything but humor, and informationally.

There is a significant moment when Hiccup has just met Cate Blanchett**, and points out his "peg leg". There are obvious nerves there, but her character just carries on. The disability is part of Hiccup, but does not define him by any means.

So, I think that's pretty cool: the protagonist, the hero, is the disabled kid who is beloved by his village and his family, independently of his disability. The movie is not about the lost leg, the prostheses, positively or negatively, they're just there, like the sheep.

For me, that's not where the good ends, and although I may be stretching here, I think that they got something else right. (Spoilers ahead!) The villain of the story, Drago, is revealed in the last act to have a prosthetic arm. He lost his arm to a dragon as a child, and has lived since then to wreak revenge on all dragons. In most movies, that would be motivation enough, he lost a limb, of course he became a bitter and vicious murderous warlord, right?

Hiccup is having none of it, though, and calls him on his lie, saying words to the effect of: you're a bad person anyway, irrespective of your supposed justification, you like being a vicious, murderous warlord. The villain can't demur (and doesn't).

There, writ large, are choices that face those of us with disabilities, and those without: How do I approach the disability (which informs and is informed by everyone around me)? How do I approach my life?

Hiccup's choice, buoyed up by everyone around him, is the opposite of Drago's. He chooses to go forward, rather than justify bad behavior with a hidden and shameful disability. Hiccup doesn't hide, and is not ashamed.

It's not the core of the story. It isn't greatly highlighted. It is there, though, and having disability be part of the scenery and a small, significant part of the narrative, is a good thing, and progress.


* I do think it's a shame that Hiccup and Astrid weren't gender-flipped in the first movie, but that's life; perhaps DreamWorks Animation SKG will make a different choice in future.

** I'm trying not to spoil the story!