How to Train Your[self to Not Freak Out About Disabilities]

Today’s post will talk about a movie I still can’t stop talking about: ‘How to Train Your Dragon’. (What a wonderful film, right? LOVED IT!) If you have yet to see it, you’ll have to wait just a few weeks longer or so for the DVD release.

So why am I talking about it now? Several conversations as of late have reminded me of my fascination with the movie, so why not? SPOILER ALERT! If you have yet to see this movie and don’t want a significant incident to be revealed, stop reading!

Assuming that you have in fact scrolled down after reading the SPOILER ALERT, I will ask this: Did anyone else find the movie’s last few minutes a little too intense for a kid movie?

Serious content has become a trend in many films aimed at kids–Pixar’s ‘Up’ and the topic of grief/grieving is a prominent example. But what was so particularly striking about this particular ending was the long term severity of its consequences for the main character.

I’m going to stop talking in generalities and go into specifics: In a nutshell, as the film approaches its end, the audience watches a battle take place, and the dragon [Toothless] saves the boy [Hiccup] from death.

The scene changes, and we are now a day or so after the battle. It is bright day in the village, and yet the movie takes a rather dark turn: as the child removes his blanket to get started with the day, we learn that the battle resulted in him losing a leg.

Yep, I repeat: We learn the boy has become [permanently?] disabled. This ties in to the fact that his dragon friend Toothless was also “different”, where he was missing a part of his tail.

Dealing with disabilities is not a subject that can be easily delved into. It was almost glossed over–when it ends, you get the feeling that it is a happy ending. There is no discussion whatsoever related to the injury.

A permanent disability is a very traumatic incident to include in a children’s film. We’re talking about life long physical and psychological implications.

To present the subject so briefly was confusing at best: What was the thought process or motive with the inclusion of this incident? Did it encourage conversation about disabilities? Not much that I’m aware of. I was surprised I didn’t hear much [if any] discussion related to this conclusion while it was running in theatres amongst disability activists and the disabled.

This is more “food for thought” than anything–as more movies are including sensitive subjects, maybe we should all begin to think more about how to use these situations as opportunities for learning.

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One Response to “How to Train Your[self to Not Freak Out About Disabilities]”

  1. KristenC says:

    This is good food for thought!

    I think the ending plot twist was chosen specifically to come full-circle in Toothless and Hiccup’s relationship, rather than as a plot device for shock/realism. As it is, the impression I got from that scene is that now the two are equally disabled and that mirror dependancy reflects on their bond.

    However, the briefness of the scene does read strangely. If regarded alone, losing a leg is very traumatic, but it was also a reoccuring theme in the movie here – other characters are actually permenantly disabled as well: Gobber, for one, and Toothless for an obvious second. When Toothless was maimed the seriousness of it was addressed (the dragon struggling alone, the lesson on impending death), which makes me think Hiccup’s mirror injury was to be regarded in the same light, as a pain–>dependency–>friendship thing.

    I agree the ending *could* be less ‘glossed-over’, but on the same vein I wouldn’t have enjoyed *too* much more angst over it. As a person with a disability myself, I actually liked that the pain was not handled in such detailed trauma that it ended up reading as pity. It was rare and enjoyable to see main characters overcome definite painful disabilities and save the day anyway.

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