Wiki How to Train Your Dragon, alright. Step 1: Live in a world with dragons. Glad to hear they’re starting with the essentials. Step 2: Almost kill a dragon. Wouldn’t seem to engender a lot of loyalty to me, but okay! Step 3: Wait until the dragon develops Stockholm Syndrome?! I should know better than to trust Wikihow, maybe the movie has better advice… *Film Theory theme* Hello internet! Welcome to Film Theory! Hey, Hollywood? We need some new franchises in theaters! Alright? I mean, just look at the film lineup for the rest of 2019: A reboot of “Men In Black”, remakes of “Dumbo”, “Aladdin” and “The Lion King”, and sequels to “The Avengers”, “Spiderman”, “Star Wars”, “Jumanji”, “Rambo”, “Terminator”, “Fast & Furious”, “Frozen”, “Angry Birds”, “Toy Story”, and “The Secret Life of Pets”! It’s like horror films don’t scare Hollywood executives, Their actual nightmare is creating new and creative screenplays! Cue the airhorn, because that was a sick but predictable burn! *Airhorns* One such sequel that premiered earlier this year was “How to Train Your Dragon”. Now, this is a franchise we’ve never covered here, mostly because I’d never seen the movies up until recently. But having just caught up with the franchise after a few really long flights, I’m finally sinking my teeth into these tales of Toothless, by addressing the biggest question that comes out of the whole theatrical empire: Not “Could dragons exist?” No, not “How do massive lizards fly?”. It is way more obvious than that! Today, I am gonna answer the question of “How do you train your dragon?” And the answer is… not like you see in the movie! I mean, I know the movie makes it seem all magical and heartwarming, but when you look at the realities of what’s actually going on on screen, the entire premise goes up in flames. You should NOT train your dragon. I’m not talking about “Oh, dragon training would be dangerous, because they’ll eat you and they’ll burn you with their hot fire!” No, the entire concept of training your dragon is simply broken at a fundamental level, and you definitely shouldn’t do it the way that Hiccup does in the movies. So saddle up, Vikings of questionable geographic origin! “Are you sure you want that kid running the village?” It is time to theorize! For anyone was like me and missed out on this franchise, here’s basically what you need to know for today’s theory. Hiccup lives on the island of Berk with his father, the chief. Berk is prone to frequent dragon attacks. So, like most people being tormented by a species of wild animals, they fight back. In one of the dragon attacks, Hiccup injures an elusive Night Fury dragon that he eventually names Toothless, and befriends. Over the course of the film through his interactions with Toothless, Hiccup learns that dragons are really just glorified cats, that can be won over with beams of light, chin scratches and dragon-nip! Children in Berk’s society have to undergo a process known as “dragon training” “I’ve decided I don’t wanna fight dragons.” “I think it’s time you learned to fight dragons.” “You go first.” “You get your wish. Dragon training, you start in the morning.” “Oh man, I should have gone first.” And Hiccup skyrockets in popularity, as his tactics serve as a non-violent model to follow for the rest of the village. By the end of the film, everyone in the village has their own pet dragon, completely forgetting that these are enormous deadly wild creatures, who were literally at their throats only a few hours before. Sure, they were being mind-controlled by a giant dragon overlord, but still, you’ve been fighting these things for generations and now you’re like, “Oh, look at how cute they are!” No! Stupid! Bad idea! And this episode’s gonna tell you why. Now, let’s make one thing clear: By the end of the movie, what we see aren’t trained dragons, they’re domesticated. Dragons. That may seem like a minor point, but it’s actually a huge difference. You see in the real world, we use a lot of words about animals interchangeably that aren’t really the same at all, and when it comes to training a dragon, the difference between words like “train” and “domesticate” is the difference between getting you the world’s most awesome pet, and you getting personally barbecued to death. So let’s get our definitions straight. To tame an animal is to take an individual wild animal and make that specific animal not afraid of you as a human. To train an animal is to get it to repeatedly follow a command. You blow a whistle, your dog sits. To domesticate an animal is the most intense of these three, and requires fundamentally altering the species over many generations via selective breeding. Basically transforming it to behave the way that humans want. So today we’re gonna address the possibility of all three, but specifically focus on training. Since you know, that’s the title of the movie. Now Hiccup, for all his supposed dragon knowledge, is not the example of proper training that the people of Berk should be following. What he does is dangerous, destructive and worst of all, inhumane. Now that may sound extreme, until you take a second look at the events of this film, without all the sappy feel-good music. What happens to kick off this entire movie? Hiccup injures Toothless, wrecking his tail flap, an injury that completely grounds Tootless. I meant Toothless not Tootless. Not a dragon without farts. So we are starting the relationship with a critical injury, and then it proceeds to get even worse. Hiccup moves on to reconstruct a new tail piece for Toothless, and while it’s all real nice and good that he works so gosh darn hard on it, it was repairing an injury that was his own fault. And as soon as that tail piece is on, guess what Toothless does? Does he turn around and thank Hiccup? Does he tearfully tell him that he’ll miss their companionship? No, he flies away! He tries to escape the human predator! Like a wild animal should and would do in that moment. But even then, Hiccup can’t leave well enough alone, because he hangs on through the air, and discovers super conveniently that the dragon can only fly if he – Master Human is controlling the prosthetic tail piece. Just think about that for a second. This would be like clipping a bird’s wings and replacing its wing tips with remote-control wing tips, so we could fly them around like a model airplane. When you really think about what’s going on here, to a wild animal who’s scared and injured, it would be immediately classified as animal cruelty, or at the very least, a pretty barbaric way to get a big animal to do what you want. And Hiccup sees no problem here. In fact, he spends most of his time riding Toothless around, congratulating himself about how amazing he is. “Yes!” “Yes, I did it!” After that, he goes on to chase down the dragon to get a saddle on it, again not voluntary since Toothless will literally die if he can’t fly. Then he has to integrate all kinds of reins and turning systems to control the dragon, instead of rigging a system where, you know, Toothless could control it himself. Hiccup doesn’t design or even attempt to design, something that would allow Toothless to fly independently, until the short film “Gift of the Night Fury”. And even then he still has systems in place that allow him to maintain control. It’s like saying to your dog, “I love you, as long as I still have the ability to shock collar you!” It’s only in the third and final film that Hiccup finally respects this animal enough, that he designs something that makes him completely independent. Meanwhile, every time Hiccup falls, Toothless crashes headfirst into the ground at full speed, or directly into cliff faces. Even when his control system works, and Hiccup is managing to navigate, think about what’s happening here. Sure, it looks epic, and they’re working like a team, but in reality, this dragon is a helpless passenger in his own body. He is a slave and no matter how many times it happens, he only has one choice but to keep going, because again, a dragon that can’t fly is a dead dragon. The long story short here is that whether he had good intentions or no, Hiccup used force to train his dragon. He stripped away its independence and Toothless was required to submit to him. So what should Hiccup have done to train his dragon? Well, it comes as no great surprise to anyone that it would, at the very least, be a lot harder to train a gigantic lizard than it looks like here. But is there any world where this is possible? Using anything even remotely like the real methods of animal training, could you train your dragon? Maybe there’s a way that this story could have turned out better. Maybe we call it: “Film Theory’s Guide To How To Actually Train Your Dragon”. It’s… catchy…? Maybe it just needs an acronym – F.T.G.H.T.A.T.Y.D.! *Crowd cheers* So let’s look at what Hiccup should have done if he were actually training a dragon, or any kind of reptile that even remotely resembles a dragon, because I want to give him a fighting chance here. Referring to reputable zoo and reptile resource guides, the F.T.G.H.T.A.T.Y.D. immediately encounters a few issues, other than its terrible name. Because in most places you look that respond to the question of “How do I train my reptile?”, they answer with “Ehhhhh… you don’t.” To quote Safer Pets, an online resource about training and caring for exotic animals: “First it’s important for you to realize that your pet lizard will never be like a dog – or even a cat.” “You will never be able to have the same level of interactions and trick training as with a pet dog.” “If this is what you’re after, then you might be better to consider a different sort of pet.” Maybe not with that attitude, Safer Pets! No, but seriously, why are they so negative towards this whole thing? Is it just that we haven’t spent the last few millennia domesticating our local crocodiles, and that’s why they’re not willing to play fetch? Well, no. It turns out that the problem with training your dragon, or any other reptile, starts with the brain. Have you ever heard anyone refer to their “lizard brain”? You usually use the phrase when you’re referring to some impulse decision, or reaction that you just can’t control, like your involuntary reaction to a jump-scare in a horror movie, or how I seem to eat the entire box of Springtime Oreos before I even realize it. Every single spring! They’re the basic Oreos, but I still am like, “Ah, they’re yellow frosted! Great!” These are all primal reactions. It tastes good, so eat it. It’s scary, so run away. These “lizard brain” actions are controlled by the three most primal areas of our brain: The brain stem; the cerebellum, and the basal ganglia, which aptly enough, are the same areas of the brain we share with lizards, including reptiles. Reptile brains are just much smaller than mammal brains relative to body size, because they only need to have these three areas. For reference, a saltwater crocodile and a horse have almost identical weight ranges, from 800 to 2200 pounds. A crocodile brain weighs in at about 8.4 to 15 grams, while a horse’s brain weighs in at 530-655 grams. So why are their brains so much bigger? Well, humans and other mammals, like dogs and cats, have other areas of the brain layered on top of those primal areas called the limbic system, which allow us to have more complex emotions, like how dogs experience excitement to see their owners, or depression when they’re abandoned. The limbic system also enables us to develop trust and behavioural pattern recognition, that allows us to train and be trained. Reptiles literally don’t have the parts of the brain necessary to develop relationships with humans. Their brains are missing the emotional cognition to be trained to do the types of tricks that you see in “How to Train Your Dragon”. “No, come on!” I hear you saying, “There’s videos on YouTube of people training lizards, like Komodo dragons, duh!” “They even have “dragon” in their name!” But that kind of lizard training looks very different than training a cat and a dog. The most advanced dragon trainers in the world, who work with big lizards like Komodo dragons, can only train them to do what’s known as “target practice”. Lifting a rifle onto their shoulder and shooting at a target downrange. I just did that to see if you were paying attention. No, you cannot train your lizard to shoot a gun. Target practice here means basically, classical conditioning for your dinner. Instead of throwing some mice, or other animals into the reptiles habitat, trainers take a target, basically a ball or a plate on a stick into the enclosure, and train the reptile to touch the target in order to get it’s food. That’s it. Like that is the level of training that you can do for your dragon. The end. Biologically speaking, it is impossible to do much more than that, and the reason trainers typically even bother doing this is to help move reptiles to different areas of their enclosure, to receive things like medical care, or give them exercise. Not become helpful pets, or even show off for the zoo visitors. Reptiles in captivity are known for being lazy and lethargic, because they don’t have to defend their territory anymore. Their lizard brain is no longer needed for survival, so the only way to get them appropriate activity is to get them to work for their food. Even the crocodile hunter himself, Steve Irwin, describes using himself as bait in crocodile enclosures, so the crocs would regain their sense of territorialism and fend him off to get their blood pumping. This is a very rudimentary form of training, and it certainly isn’t for fun. It’s because to keep the reptiles healthy, they have to use their instincts, because that’s the only thinking that they’re capable of doing. Anything you train a reptile to do isn’t them being loyal to you, it’s just them using an instinct. All that said, for all you reptilian apologists out there, it’s important to understand the difference between intelligence and emotional complexity. Reptiles are extremely smart, so just because they’re not emotionally capable doesn’t mean they’re not capable-capable. They have memories that span almost their whole lifetime, and big reptiles like alligators can navigate 30 – 40 miles of waterways easily from when they’re born. Which can be said for basically none of us who are working on or watching this video, because human babies are virtually useless. Reptiles are also pretty much the kings of Darwinism, where a lot of female reptiles will only give the green light, so to speak, to the biggest strongest male in their area, meaning that the only genes that get passed down are from the very best of their species. But we as humans who don’t really care about that, and instead just want a cuddly iguana, can’t mistake all of that for love or loyalty, or trust, or any of the emotions that we hope to get out of a real pet. Reptiles still aren’t domesticated after all these millennia. But that means that whether you’re adopting a Dragon from the wild, or you’re picking up a Chameleon at the pet store, (Literally the pet that I’ve wanted all throughout elementary school), you are adopting the equivalent of a wild animal. So how do you train your dragon? 1.You set realistic expectations that you won’t ever have a true relationship with them, 2. You beat them around an enclosure to give them lots of exercise, and 3. You appreciate that they’re instinctually way smarter than us, but don’t know how to brag about it. Relationships just don’t figure into that equation. Which is a real bummer, because it would be totally amazing to ride your alligator in Florida, or watch your basilisk lizard skip across your bathtub. But at the end of the day, you cannot train your dragon, which means that the F.T.G.H.T.A.T.Y.D. is finished. And that means back to the drawing board for me. The dragon circus… No. Kangaroo best friend- a kangaroo can be your best friend! Yes, and away! But before I go, remember! That is just a theory- a Film Theory! Aaaaand cut!