Saturday, August 26, 2017

No Sparkling Furries!

I sat through Pete's Dragon earlier this year. Not an experience I'd recommend, unless you happen to be babysitting a child of at most seven or eight. Much as the Wikipedia article amusingly puffs it up as a "fantasy comedy-drama adventure film" what it is is a disposable, simplistic cut-and-dried Disney kids' flick with none of the wit, social references or double-entendres which make better "family movies" palatable to the rest of the family. Dime a dozen.

In fact, the only thing which caught my attention was the dragon itself. They gave it fur. Presumably this makes it not only more huggable on screen but more marketable as an overpriced plush drool-catcher for whichever life-sapping little parasitic monster you're hoping to render comatose for ninety minutes by renting the movie in the first pace. Seriously though: furry dragon.

Not that it's all that surprising. As one of the tired old myths most abused in modern media, right up there with fairies or vampires, dragons tend to go through endless reiterations and permutations to keep them smelling fresh while retaining brand-name recognition. Still, there's a point beyond which you've deconstructed the original idea so far as to be left with nothing. You want to give your dragon chameleonic glamor magic to stay hidden from Google's satellites? Fine, whatever. Make it a nice, goofy, helpful, saccharine house-pet of a dragon? Whatever, that's kind of implied by the slur "Disney" in the first place. But the scales have got to stay. Whether they're lizards or snakes, whether they breathe fire or poison, winged or not, whether their blood makes your skin poke-proof or not, dragons are reptiles. They appeal to our instinctive fear of the slithering in the grass, the alien, cool, slick, un-mammalian tetrapods next door. And you know what? That sells to kids. Snakes are freakin' cool! Dinosaurs? Fuhgeddaboutit. Watch a five year old bob its head along with an iguana and tell me you can't sell scales to snots. Idiots.

Dragons are imperious reptiles. Vampires bleed people and can't go out during day-time. Zombies decompose and like to chew the fat. Elves are better than you. Werewolves are misanthropes with anger management issues. If you can't make that work, then you've got no claim to the myth itself. Let sleeping wolves lie, don't rape the classics and try, just freaking try to maybe come up with an idea that stands up on its own. Maybe "giant, furry, flying chameleon with puppy-dog eyes" is enough in itself without misappropriating some random title of legendary nobility. Regardless of how many disparate bits of classic folklore went into those myths, we have reached a consensus on them. We know, intuitively, what these names signify, the core around which all the fluff can revolve. It takes a speshul kind of hack to miss a point so obvious.

Enough with the stupid sparkling!

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