Screentime: How To Train Your Dragon To Go To War

(Paramount Pictures)

Whether we like it or not, our kids are going to learn from the movies they watch. What’s more, we have very little control over which lessons they take to heart, and which they miss. Films have messages on the surface, messages buried within, unintended messages, poorly constructed messages. Whether the lesson they take from Spirit: Riding Free is “horses are great” or whether its “horses are terrifying” largely depends on which parts they were paying attention to, which parts linger in their little brains.

Dreamworks’ 2010 animated feature How To Train Your Dragon has a lot of different messages in it, most of which are great. There’s the lesson about being true to yourself, finding your own purpose. There’s a story about a young boy raised in an aggressive, violent society, taking it upon himself to redefine what masculinity and courage actually mean. There’s even a message in there about what loss and grief can do to a family dynamic if you really look. I don’t know which of them my daughters’ will take on board, but I know which one lingers in my little brain: The message about warfare.

Towards the end of the first act of the movie, there’s a line which feels weird, out of place. Its spoken by Astrid, after Hiccup yet again embarrasses himself in anti-dragon training. Furious with his ineptitude, she loudly yells “Our parents’ war is about to become ours!”

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The reason it stands out is that in an instant, the conceit of the film is reframed. It brings the concept of warfare to the front of what was previously more an issue of pest control. Suddenly we are thinking about HTTYD in terms of War, it’s lessons recontextualized as being about not everyday life, but about conflict.

This is a deliberate act. The film-makers wanted to make a connection between the Vikings’ “war” against the Dragons, and present-day warfare. Well, if they want to make that connection, let’s do it.

What does How To Train Your Dragon have to say about warfare?

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At first blush, the message is a simple one: Humanize your foe. By treating your enemy with empathy, you can learn about the underlying cause of your conflict (be it socio-economic, or, y’know, a Big Dragon with a magic roar). This is a nice message, and it is handled well by the film. Hiccup slowly builds trust with Toothless, then teaches others to do the same. It is only after everyone learns to think of the dragons as sentient creatures that the larger problem can be addressed.

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Unfortunately, that message falls apart when they reach the Larger Problem. As mentioned above, the larger problem is just a much larger version of those creatures the film has spent its entire run-time teaching us to sympathize with. So is the message “Empathize with the enemy unless the enemy is very large?”, “Empathize with the enemy unless they have a power you don’t like?”, “Empathize with the first enemy you encounter, but kill the crap out of the second one?”

Worse, it’s pretty clear that the Big Dragon is acting out of self-preservation. Sure, she’s enlisted an army of smaller dragons to help feed her, and that’s no good. But how else do you expect her to eat? She’s clearly too unwieldy to do much hunting herself. And given Toothless’ appetite, can you even imagine how much a dragon of her size would eat?


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Hiccup, after risking everything to convince the Vikings that dragons aren’t so bad, doesn’t even ATTEMPT any of his non-violent tricks to subdue Big Dragon. He just goes straight for destruction. He makes no effort to delve any deeper into the socioeconomic or evolutionary circumstances that have created this nest. Perhaps dragons operate something like bees, and by destroying their queen he has doomed them all to extinction. Perhaps Big Dragon is an elected official and the food brought to her is akin to taxation.

I mean, yeah, that bit where she eats another dragon seems bad, but to be honest, it’s not even super clear she realized he was there. Even if she did, plenty of places still have the death penalty and we don’t know what kind of heinous crimes that dragon committed. At the very least we see him attempt to get away with tax evasion. Seems like a harsh punishment, but I imagine Hiccup’s remote village of literal Vikings has some pretty backward ideas about law & order too.

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But none of this matters to Hiccup. All he sees is a big ol’ dragon getting fed, and that’s enough to scare him into destroying her.

Of course, it always had to end this way. Final acts require a climax, action movies require a final fight. The dictates of the genre have to win out in the end, no matter how good your intentions.

Perhaps that’s the real lesson behind Astrid’s words. We humans can empathize, we can form alliances, we can learn to see the humanity in even our deadliest enemies, but when it comes down to it, when we see something we don’t understand, something that scares us, our first instinct is always to shoot first and ask questions later. No matter how sensitive or evolved we are, when something new comes along, we fear too much, too quickly, to ever consider understanding first. The cycle of violence repeats. Thoughtlessly, we attack. Our parents’ war, inevitably, tragically, becomes our own.

Hopefully my kid just picks up on the “Be nice to animals” thing.

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Father Figures: Dedicated

“My wife and I grew up together close since single digits. Dated in the late teens, and went our separate ways.

We stayed in touch and even though we didn’t always see eye to eye, we still talked. Years later we reconnected through friends, and at the time she’d just had a son. He was 5 weeks old and the other half (to be polite) wasn’t around. We stayed together and I raised him as my own.

Our son grew and has become a wonderful caring person and a great son. When he was 8, my wife was pregnant with our second son. Even though my wife took excellent care of herself and the baby, God felt he was too good for this world and took him too heaven at 31 weeks. Our angel baby is and will always be loved. We grew stronger as a family and we worked hard to push through our hard times.

She became pregnant again and worked until the day before her delivery, when she had a c-section. She gave me another handsome, and chubby, baby boy. My wife is a tough girl who had two rough pregnancies and smiled the whole time.

I give everything I have to her and all my boys. Even though We continue to struggle with what ifs, we remain dedicated to our family and our future.”

– Jason Houdek

Want to share a story about fatherhood? Email fatherfigures@thedad.com

Check out the previous editions of Father Figures here

Gary Larson’s ‘The Far Side’ Comics to Return In “A New Online Era”

The Far Side Returns
(TheFarSide.com)

Fans of The Far Side have a new reason to celebrate. The iconic cartoon recognized the world over is making a triumphant return, not to the comics page of newspapers across the country, but to the world wide web of all places.

The news may sound minor to those not familiar with cartoonist Gary Larson’s feelings on sharing “his children” on the internet. Back in 1999, Larson emailed a fan site asking them, and fans at large for that matter, to refrain from sharing his comics on what was then a relatively new medium at the time.

“…Please, please refrain from putting The Far Side out on the Internet. These cartoons are my “children,” of sorts, and like a parent, I’m concerned about where they go at night without telling me. And, seeing them at someone’s web site is like getting the call at 2:00 a.m. that goes, “Uh, Dad, you’re not going to like this much, but guess where I am.”

While keeping photos off the web these days seems unlikely if not impossible, at the time, many fans respected Larson’s feelings on the topic. Books, reprints, and calendars continued to fill the void for many, while others went about sharing their favorite panels on message boards and eventually social media sites like Facebook and Instagram.

However, all of that may have changed with a recent announcement on TheFarSide.com teasing a change in policy may be coming soon.

“Uncommon, unreal, and (soon-to-be) unfrozen. A new online era of The Far Side is coming!”

Fans have reacted with enthusiasm and, of course, their favorite panels.



Originally running in print form 1980-1995, Larson’s single-panel comic became part of the fabric of modern humor. While details are yet to be released as to what form this new “online era” will take, chances are you’ll be able to see all your favorites from the award-winning comic series is some way, shape or form in the next few months.

Don’t Get Downsized at Dunder-Mifflin While Playing The Office Game

(Target)

Fans of NBC’s The Office have had reason to celebrate recently thanks to a few new developments.

Cardinal, the game maker behind such sitcom based hits as “Golden Girls: Any Way You Slice It,” has released a new Dunder-Mifflin based game that’s sure to have you saying “that’s what she said.”

The Office: Downsizing, currently available on Amazon, is a game of workplace survival in which players choose their favorite character and attempt to make it to the weekend without getting canned. According to the description, it all starts by choosing a side.

“Be part of Team Michael, intent on exposing Toby as the Scranton Strangler. Be part of Team Toby, just itching to issue a pink slip (or two or three). Orrr, BE TOBY in disguise! Each day of the week comes with a new email from HR and enough episode-specific gameplay references to separate the avid show watcher from the hard-core Dunder Mifflin devotee.”

The game, suitable for 5-10 players, comes with everything you’ll need to ascend the corporate level all the way to middle management. Complete with name badges, a dry erase board and your very own Dundie Award, this game is sure to be a hit next time you have 20-30 minutes to kill.

The game is currently on sale for $11.99 on Amazon and makes a great gift for that secret Santa exchange coming up in a few months.

Also announced this week, a new podcast featuring Pam and Angela will launch this fall.

“Office Ladies” premieres Oct. 16 on Stitcher’s comedy network, Earwolf. Photo credit: Adam Hendershott Photography. (Earwolf)

Real-life pals Jenna Fisher and Angela Kinsey are reuniting once again for Office Ladies, a weekly podcast where the pair will answer fan questions and share behind the scenes details. The first episode debuts October 16th and will be available on multiple podcast platforms.

I’m not sure why they didn’t call it That’s What She Said.

Just a heads up, if you buy stuff using the provided links, The Dad may collect a small commission.

Guy on Instagram Hilariously Adds Himself Into Movie Posters

The Shining Remixed by thatguyinthemovies
(Instagram/thatguyinthemovies)

Not all heroes wear capes.

Some are just really good at PhotoShop.

Instagram user @ThatGuyInTheMovies is one such hero. Calling himself Guy, “an unknown actor that’s been in every movie ever!!”, his Instagram account is nothing but movie posters, but with a twist. Using his graphic design skills, Guy has inserted himself into every poster, with hilarious results.

And somehow he doesn’t even have 10,000 followers yet.

Just look at these gems. From looking supremely unimpressed with the dancing couple in momentary Best Picture winner La La Land:

 

View this post on Instagram

 

#lalaland @lalaland

A post shared by ThatGuyInTheMovies (@thatguyinthemovies) on

Guy does superhero flicks too. Sometimes spotting him is a little like playing Where’s Waldo?:

Notice him reaching out for help from his friendly – and lazy? – neighborhood Spider-Man:

 

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“If only somebplblpone could hear my cries for helbpbpl!” @tomholland2013 #spidermanhomecoming #poster #film

A post shared by ThatGuyInTheMovies (@thatguyinthemovies) on

Dunkirk is obviously a prime selfie situation:

And he joined the Trainspotting 2 crew for a potty break:

 

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#t2trainspotting @t2trainspotting

A post shared by ThatGuyInTheMovies (@thatguyinthemovies) on

He doesn’t just do recent movies. Check him out giving Mrs. Robinson a hand:

 

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Is this a tighter fit Mrs. Robinson? #thegraduate #mrsrobinson

A post shared by ThatGuyInTheMovies (@thatguyinthemovies) on

And joining Marty McFly in disbelief that Doc made a time machine… out of a DeLorean!

 

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A magician never reveals his secrets. @backtothefuture_movie #backtothefuture

A post shared by ThatGuyInTheMovies (@thatguyinthemovies) on

Who knows if Guy really is an actor, but who needs to audition when you’ve already landed prominent roles in some blockbuster movie (posters)?

I’m also impressed by his lack of vanity. Look at him hiding BEHIND Shelly Duvall:

 

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“Ahhhhhhh” #theshining #shellyandme

A post shared by ThatGuyInTheMovies (@thatguyinthemovies) on

Take a spin around his Instagram page for more hilarious edits to your favorite one-sheets.

I hope he does Basic Instinct next.

Science Teacher Wows Class With Amazing Experiment

5-Yr-Old Boy’s “Up” Photoshoot With Great-Grandparents Goes Viral

5-Yr-Old's Up Photoshoot
(Facebook/Rachel Perman Photography)

5-year old Elijah had high hopes with he chose to celebrate his fifth birthday with an “Up” themed photoshoot. He’s a big fan of all the characters in the Pixar flick, so he was thrilled and perfectly suited to dress up as Russell, the boy from the film. But he also had the idea to cast his grandparents in supporting roles so he popped the question. 90-year-old Richard and Caroline happily agreed and everyone completely nailed it.

The boy’s twin-sister celebrated turning 5 with an epic, unicorn-themed photoshoot.


Their mom, and photographer, Rachel Perman was diagnosed with cancer right after her twins were born and the photoshoot was a chance to celebrate a milestone she thought she might not make.

Well, she’s currently in remission, so, “It’s a celebration for me and them!” she told CBS News.

She’s been floored by the attention the photos received, adding that the kids were excited to be the subject of one of her photoshoots, knowing she provided the service for others.

“I had no clue this would receive recognition,” she told Good Morning America. “It’s been fun to see how many people are touched by it! I keep telling the kids, ‘You are good at bringing happiness to us. Now you are making the nation happy, too!'”

Xbox Promotes Gears of War 5 by Tattooing Its Artwork Onto Fans

(Getty/Andrea Borile; Xbox)

Tattoos definitely aren’t the sign of reckless rebelliousness that they used to be, but that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t put a little thought into what you’re permanently inking on your body. For instance, Xbox believes etching your flesh with the sigil of a not-yet-released video game is totally a fine and normal idea.

In honor of the Gears of War 5 release later this month, Xbox is hosting a number of tattoo events worldwide, appropriately called “Gear Ink.”

While ‘Gears’ has no doubt prompted a number of badass tats in the past with their famous skull emblem and chainsaw-featured weaponry, few would disagree that the 3rd person shooter franchise is a bit passed its prime.

(Twitter/ROFLcopterEVO)

That isn’t stopping Xbox from leaning hard onto their inked-up Gears community, though. In fact, it’s kind of a genius marketing ploy; turning fans into walking billboards must mean the game is amazing, right? For the sake of the newly tatted, I sure hope so.

The pop-up events kick off on September 5th in Shoreditch, a district in the East End of London, before heading to Los Angeles, Berlin, Paris, Melbourne, and Mexico City.

(Xbox)

Fortunately, the first event is already promising some of the best tattoo artists in London, so even if Gears 5 falls flat with reviewers, your tattoo will still look cool as hell.

If you want to check out the newest Gears game but are feeling a bit hesitant to let a needle grace your pristine baby bod, Gear Ink is offering all guests an opportunity to sample the new Horde, Versus, and Escape modes coming to the latest entry in the franchise, even if you don’t want a permanent reminder of it.

Too far to check out an event in person? Stay tuned to Xbox’s Twitter, Facebook, and Instagram accounts for live coverage.

Chance Encounter on Flight Leads to Breakthrough for Child With Autism

Breakthrough for Child with Autism
(Twitter/Rachel R. Romeo)

Maybe it was a simple coincidence. Maybe it was fate. No matter what you believe, some things in life are hard to just chock up to chance.

Such is the story of Rachel Romeo’s recent flight home from a conference. The speech-language pathologist had boarded an 8-hour international flight and was seated next to a father and his young son. In broken English, the father began to explain that his son had nonverbal autism, going on to apologize for what would likely be a difficult flight. Before takeoff, the young boy had already begun exhibiting some behaviors the SLP immediately recognized.


Sharing her experience on twitter, Romeo says things quickly began to escalate. “Screaming, hitting me, and grabbing for my things. The father repeatedly apologized, but did little else,” she recalled.

But instead of sitting back and ignoring the behavior, Romeo saw it as an opportunity to put her skills to work and potentially help not only the young boy, but his father as well. “I asked him how his son preferred to communicate. He didn’t seem to understand. Perhaps this was a language barrier, but I think instead the child had very little experience with communication therapy. I put away the talk I was working on & asked if I could try.”

For the next few hours, Romeo tried creating ways for the boy to communicate. She used common symbols and even a few hand drawings to help illustrate things in a way the child could easily understand. “I made symbols for the things he was grabbing, for his favorite stuffed penguin, and for his dad.”


Romeo says the almost instant results stunned even her. “He took to it very quickly. I introduced way more symbols that I normally would, but hey, how often do we get an 8-hour session?!”

By the end of the flight, the family was able to communicate like never before. “He had made several requests, initiated several times, & his behaviors had reduced quite a bit. The father was astounded – clearly no one had ever tried an AAC approach with him. I gave him the paper & showed him how to use it, and he nearly cried.”

While quick results like this are indeed a rarity, Romeo says that oftentimes it’s as simple as finding ways to communicate that can make all the difference. “This was the human desire for communication, pure and simple. To connect with another person and share a thought. Communication is a basic human right, and I was overjoyed to help someone find it. What a privilege and a gift.”

The term “nonverbal autism” isn’t an official diagnosis, as many on the autism spectrum have difficulties with communication. While there’s much still to be learned, scientists and researchers are making new discoveries every day, much of it surrounding different ways to encourage verbal and non-verbal forms of exchange.

Whether you believe Romeo’s encounter was a simple coincidence or divine intervention, it’s a reminder that one person’s actions can indeed make a huge impact on others.

Cops Assemble at IKEA to Halt 3,000-Person Hide and Seek Game

Cops Thwart IKEA Hide N Seek
(Getty/Johnny Green - PA Images)

If you’ve ever been to an IKEA, I’m sorry about your divorce. Just kidding. But I’m glad you’ve managed to escape. Unless you’re still in there now?


IKEAs are enormous, cavernous mazes that are almost as complicated to navigate as their furniture is to assemble. Visiting one isn’t typically a lot of fun, and that’s even before you factor in the inevitable argument you get into with your wife. The large warehouses are like labyrinths and every trip there is almost guaranteed to last longer than you’d like, merely because of the square footage you need to traverse to reach the exit.

Some clever people in Glasgow found a fun way to put IKEAs size to use. They organized a massive game of Hide and Seek!

Someone organized the Hide and Seek event on Facebook, and 2000 people registered to play the childhood game inside the Glasgow, Scotland location. 10,000 more people indicated they were interested in the event! That’s a lot of people. Too many, it turns out, for IKEA.

The people who run the Glasgow store learned about the event and called in police to help.

“The safety of our customers and co-workers is always our highest priority,” the store’s manager, Rob Cooper, said. “We were aware of an unofficial hide and seek Facebook event being organised to take place at our store and have been working with the local police for support.”

This is probably the first time the police were called for Hide and Seek.

“While we appreciate playing games in one of our stores may be appealing to some, we do not allow this kind of activity to take place to ensure we are offering a safe environment and relaxed shopping experience for our customers.”

Police were turning away potential players at the door so they wouldn’t be able to join the people inside, who were hiding in cupboards, beds, ad even fridges, like Indiana Jones. (Where my Kingdom of the Crystal Skull fans at?… Nowhere!)

Believe it or not, this isn’t the first time an IKEA has hosted Hide and Seek. Previous events were planned in Belgium, the Czech Republic, and the Netherlands, much to IKEA’s chagrin.

They released a statement: “It’s hard to control. We need to make sure people are safe in our stores and that’s hard to do if we don’t even know where they are.”

The problem is half the people inside an IKEA don’t know where they are either! Might as well have some fun with it!