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How to Train Your Dragon: The Hidden World Cultural Analysis (Scrapped Week 2 Post!)

I had seen the last two How to train your dragon movies, and while scrolling through Foxtel’s list of movies, I found the last movie in the trilogy and decided to watch The Hidden World. The synopsis of this movie is about a young adult called Hiccup and his dragon, Toothless, along with a whole dragon village, who decided to look for the Hidden World after dragon trappings, and to put the dragons in a safe place. This movie was made by DreamWorks Animation, and is a movie made and written in America. The intended audience was kids, teens and families, and people who had seen the last two How to train your dragon movies, so plot knowledge is also expected.

Promotional Poster for How To Train Your Dragon

The movie is set in a fantasy setting where there are dragons, and the village is based off Viking warriors, so previous knowledge of Vikings would make the story more enjoyable, as people understand that Berk, Hiccup’s village, is based off Viking stereotypes, such as drinking beer, horned helmets and long beards. The villagers also have a variety of Scottish and Scandinavian accents to play the part. And although very prominent and obvious in the story, basic knowledge of dragons is required, such as they breathe fire, have wings and so forth. While these are all very simple concepts for most of the Global North to know about without even thinking, it does require some cultural knowledge about Scandinavia and fantasy creatures that a person might not understand.

Global North (blue) and South (red)

The film also focuses on comedy, and relies on understanding some visual humour between two dragons, such as Toothless hanging down from a tree like a bat, or acting awkwardly. There is also spoken humour between characters. There is a chance that an audience not from the West may not understand the humour, as it is reliant on cultural boundaries and expectations.

How to train your dragon is made by the major animation studio DreamWorks, which is based in California and part of Hollywood. It definitely is made for a Global North, as it is an animation movie for kids and aimed a Western audiences, all of which are in the North. There is not much evidence for hybridisation of cultures in the movie, only Vikings, unless a fantasy friendship between dragons and humans count… Ah, If only dragons were real. But only as pets. No Game of Thrones behemoths please!

An example of an Asian Dragon, demonstrating different cultural fantasy creatures

For a person in the Global South, they might have different expectations of dragons, as there are many cultural stories like Asian Dragons, dragons that are snakes or a different depiction entirely. The cultural proximity for dragons in the West is very similar, all with common features of wings, lizard-like body, two or four legs. Anything else would likely be unfamiliar to Western audiences and they would struggle to realise it as a ‘dragon’. As a Westerner myself, How to train your dragon is a movie that falls in line with my own cultural expectations of how characters should act and the presentation of the world. It would be hard to interpret how the Global South took this movie, and if anything was misunderstood.

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