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How To Train Your Dragon 2 – SPOILER WARNING

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I don’t like the term political correctness, nor do I appreciate commentary that is solely or even primarily motivated by it. So here it is: How To Train Your Dragon 2 is sexist. I’ve commented on problematic gender politics before in reference to Mission Impossible: Ghost Protocol and Skyfall, but in those cases there was plenty of high quality material to engage with so the sexism was less prominent. The fact that the sexism in HTTYD2 was such a problem highlights the weaknesses in the film overall. The film has a number of great set pieces, including dragon aerobatics, battles between new villain Drago Bloodfist (Djimon Hounsou) and our heroes, and the death of a major character that delivers genuine emotional impact. Furthermore, the central relationship between Hiccup (Jay Baruchel) and Toothless is warm, engaging and affecting. But the introduction of an important female character, Valka (Cate Blanchett), is an expansion of the promising female element provided by Astrid (America Ferrera) and suggests the importance of the feminine in Hiccup’s development as well as the film’s world as a whole. Valka is as accomplished a dragon-rider, not to mention as compassionate, as Hiccup, and as fierce a warrior as Stoick (Gerard Butler), so to have her side-lined and ultimately subordinated is a rather depressing conservatism on the part of the filmmakers. Children’s animated films have long propagated the ideal female character as a passive princess who waits to be rescued from some form of imprisonment, and while there have been some progressive alternatives (Fiona in the Shrek franchise, Elsa and Anna in Frozen), HTTYD2 seems to take one step forward and then two steps back. This is disappointing as the film’s promotion of patriarchy is neither necessary nor consistent – Hiccup’s dramatic arc could have easily continued on its initial trajectory with a more prominent role for Valka. Instead, we are left with a few impressive set pieces that add up to less than the sum of their parts, undercut by a discouraging assertion of patriarchy.

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1 Comment

  1. […] Predicted winner: How to Train Your Dragon 2 (the only nominee I’ve seen as well) […]

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