Thursday, June 19, 2014

Red Rage

Major spoilers will be in this post, but I intend to delve into how I believe the "Red Rage" works in HTTYD2, and how it can be broken. This was a hard post for me to write... for many reasons. It's a complex subject, and to be fair a very emotional one. Click the "read more".

In the second movie, the Alpha can use its power to control other dragons. Drago uses this to terrifying effect. Hiccup, when trying to convince him that what he is doing is wrong, says, "Let me show you." gesturing to Toothless. He wants to show the man that Dragons are not what he thinks they are. It worked on Astrid in the movie, worked on Stoick in the series, and probably would have worked on Eret, but Drago's reply is chilling.

"No, let me show you! No dragon can resist the command of the Alpha, so he who controls the Alpha... controls them all. This is true power, power to control the will of others, and in the face of such power, you are nothing." 

Now, I hope I got that right, but it is pretty close. What Drago is referring to is his Alpha's ability to almost mind control the smaller dragons. I discussed Alphas in an earlier post, so if you want to know why this power makes sense, see that one. This post is to explain the mechanics. 

The Bewilderbeast approaches Toothless, stares down at him, and begins thrumming. Toothless shrieks and begins flailing around as if in pain. He rubs his head against the ground and shuts his eyes tight, but it does no good. His eyes snap open with pupils contracted, and the Alpha tells him to turn on Hiccup. Toothless doesn't stop himself, and during that entire scene, he doesn't slow down for even a second. He keep moving forward looking completely sinister and wicked... soulless. He is under the spell so strongly that he charges his blast and fires it straight at Hiccup, Hiccup of all people and Toothless doesn't even show a sign of emotion. His boy has been pleading and begging him to stop, to snap out of it, his voice trembling in fear, but Toothless can't stop. In the end, Stoick saves Hiccup, but he loses his own life in the process. Toothless wakes up looking dazed and confused. I think it is clear that he doesn't completely gather what has happened until Hiccup rejects him and shoves him away. It is only then that Toothless sees what he has done, and as soon as the guilt hits him, he falls back under the sway of the Alpha and is taken away by Drago.

So... what happened? How exactly did the Alpha control Toothless so thoroughly? I have an opinion, and it is at least an opinion that I like. Hopefully you will at least find it interesting. Was is mind control? To be honest, I don't think so. I really don't. That seems very sci-fi. To have one being able to put his mind into the mind of another and force him to do things just doesn't feel right. Toothless isn't under some spell, some binding force from the outside. He has no consciousness forced into his head. No, I really don't think he does. The force that is controlling him, making him do such awful things is from within.

To obey the Alpha is to be a dragon.

It is in there very nature. Toothless isn't controlled so much as he is commanded. When under this command, every aspect of his nature that would question it is shoved away, shoved so strongly away that when it returns he almost cannot remember what happened. Toothless must follow the commands he is being given. He cannot as a dragon resist. It would go against the very purpose of the Alpha dragons, and thus it is the ultimate weapon of survival... or the ultimate doom of all dragons. When the Alpha begins thrumming, he is giving orders. He is communicating. At the end when Hiccup "blocks the Alpha out" he covers Toothless's ears, he shields his eyes. He is protecting Toothless from the commands, protecting him from his own dragonish nature that would obey them without question. When Toothless goes to kill Hiccup, all the aspects of him that make him relate with Hiccup, that make us love him, even love itself, it is all stripped away from Toothless. He is dominated by one thing and one thing only, the fact that he is a dragon and that as a dragon he will obey the Alpha. He isn't himself, no more than we would be ourself if all our kindness, love, and conscience were shoved down and hidden away. Toothless tries to kill Hiccup because as a dragon it is in his nature, and nothing Hiccup can do or say can reach his heart... because the command of the Alpha has shut Toothless's heart away.

BUT! But, but, buuuuuuuuuuuuut! That isn't how the story ends! I love the theme in this movie of Hiccup becoming more dragon-like (fire sword, spiky helmet, flying!), but as we see in the first film, as we see in that first scene, Toothless becomes more like Hiccup. He out of all the dragons has been shaped and made better by Hiccup. He's learned how to love like never before, learned what it means to be part of a family, and it all started with Hiccup. All those cute and snarky antics in the film show that Toothless is picking up bits of Hiccup, he's learning how to be, well, human-ish! He and Hiccup both take steps in each others directions, both becoming more alike, and that is what makes their bond so unique... even compared to Valka and Cloudjumper. So... when Hiccup goes up and tries to get him out of the "Red Rage" he is essentially trying to remind Toothless of who he is. Toothless isn't some dragon, he's not defined by his species. He's a kind being, a being who loved enough to be forgiven... and to care about being forgiven. Even that display of shear love must have truly begun to stir the other side of Toothless's nature. The fact that he was forgiven. Dragons shouldn't feel guilt, and dragons hold a grudge to the death, but Hiccup openly, tearfully forgave him. But the true back breaker comes next. Hiccup tells Toothless that he's his best friend.... his best friend. And with that Hiccup reaches forward, and he touches Toothless. It is exactly what happened in the first film, and it is EXACTLY what action Toothless did when he first dared to trust, first dared to do something that might not be completely dragon-like. It's how they became friends, how they changed the world, how they learned to love, how Toothless was freed form a life that revolved completely around scouring for food and scratching for survival. And with that touch everything was broken, and the elements of Toothless that were being drowned out by the deep instincts of his dragonish nature were completely swallowed up in the more powerful emotion... the most powerful drive. Not nature, love.

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