I will admit that I never had much interest in Raya and the Last Dragon. The movie simply did not appeal to me given what I saw of the trailers, none of which particularly inspired confidence in the plot. As others noted, the similarities in design to Avatar: The Last Airbender* were off-putting as well. It is one thing to do so as an homage and quite another to do so as a means of cashing in on someone else’s popular property.
Everything I heard about the movie following its release only made my instinctive decision not to see it in the first place a wise choice in hindsight.
The video below goes into detail about the main theme of the movie, which is trust, and how the film completely destroys its own attempted message. Crossover Queen’s article here also has some words of wisdom that will bolster the videographer’s argument, and I have a different piece available here on my newsletter which may be of use as well. The fact is that trust must be earned, particularly when one is dealing with someone who has been hurt by those who abused his or her trust.
Raya, in the film, has had her trust abused multiple times. Sisu, the titular dragon in the film, has not – though that changes as the tale progresses. In a complete (and dangerous) one-eighty degree reverse from normal storytelling, Sisu’s naivete wins the day. She never learns to husband her trust, sharing it only with those who have earned it.
As the videographer below notes, that is a dangerous message to send. Trusting everyone with everything is a recipe for disaster and, quite possibly, death. Yet Sisu is never forced to grow and recognize that her outlook is erroneous and even counter-survival. The film is a textbook case of “message over storytelling” if ever there was one, since a multitude of other tales have pointedly reinforced the idea that while refusing to trust anyone is counter to one’s own health and well-being, so is offering carte blanche to the entire world.
If you are writing a story that has this type of theme, future authors, then I sincerely recommend listening to the video below, as well as visiting the attendant links. You do not want your fiction to carry such a dangerous message as that found in Raya and the Last Dragon. As beautiful as the CGI is, it cannot cover up the mismanagement of the film’s theme in service to this deadly narrative.
Be careful what you write. It can have greater and more far-reaching effects than you realize.
Raya and the Last Dragon Ticked Me Off
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If you liked this article, friend Caroline Furlong on Facebook or follow her here at www.carolinefurlong.wordpress.com. Her stories have been published in Cirsova’s Summer Special and Unbound III: Goodbye, Earth, while her poetry appeared in Organic Ink, Vol. 2. She has also had stories published in Planetary Anthologies Luna, Uranus, and Sol. Another story was released in Cirsova Magazine’s Summer Issue in 2020, and she recently had a story published in Storyhack Magazine’s 7th Issue and Cirsova Magazine’s 2021 Summer Issue. Order them today!
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