People generally remember the Mighty Ducks as a scrappy team of underdogs, who battled against the odds and achieved success in a string of Disney films in the 1990’s. That memory however, is only partially true. Yes, the Ducks overcame great adversity to beat their rival Hawks in the first film, and the powerhouse Iceland team in the second film, but in the third film, this was not the case. Sorry to ruin your precious memories, but in D3: The Mighty Ducks, the Ducks were the villains. It’s a shocking allegation, I know, but keep your torches and pitchforks at bay until the end of this article.
The third film attempts to cast the Ducks yet again as the downtrodden underdogs, this time at a prestigious private school, Eden Hall Academy. Off the heels of their impressive win in the Junior Goodwill Games, Eden Hall has offered the entire team full scholarships to their school. There’s your first hint at the Ducks true villainy, they’re taking away scholarships from other students. There was almost certainly a Junior Varsity team in place at Eden Hall before the Ducks arrived, what became of them? These were kids with their own hockey dreams, dreams that were crushed by the Ducks arrival. I can only presume they were stripped of their scholarships so they could be given to the Ducks, as there isn’t a single non-Duck on the squad. Eden Hall is portrayed to be a hockey powerhouse; I find it very hard to believe that none of the preexisting members of the junior varsity squad were good enough to make the team. It’s far more likely that they were simply cast out from the school as their scholarships were handed over to the Ducks.
The Ducks scholarships almost certainly came at the cost of other student’s hockey careers, the least they could do is be respectful of the institution and thankful for the opportunity. Unfortunately, that’s just not the Ducks’ style. From their first practice under their new coach, Ted Orion, the team shows itself to be disrespectful and arrogant, unwilling to follow instructions laid out by their new coach. Captain of the team Charlie Conway is the worst offender here, coming off as an immature douche whose ego is out of control. Never is this more apparent than when he tries to hit on a girl and is shocked that she’s never heard of his team, even after he mentions that there’s an NHL team named after them. His ego is further on display during his constant clashes with Coach Orion, which eventually get him kicked off the team, deservedly so.
Of course we can’t mention ego without mentioning Luis Mendoza. You might remember Mendoza as the lovable Hispanic kid from Mighty Ducks 2, who in could skate lightning fast, but couldn’t stop. He has the same problems this time around, but now his character has grown into something resembling a slimy pervert. One of Mendoza’s first big scenes finds him attempting to look up a cheerleader’s skirt. He follows this up by constantly hitting on the poor girl. The film however attempts to vilify her boyfriend, a Varsity player, because he’s less than thrilled with Mendoza’s actions.
If you need further proof of the Duck’s villainy, look no further than their former beloved coach, Gordon Bombay. He’s not coaching in this film, instead he shows up as a lawyer, his old career. You see, after the Ducks show absolutely no respect for the rules of the Eden Hall, the board of trustees decides to revoke their scholarships. This is a completely logical step and there’s absolutely nothing wrong with that decision. Of course the film tries to paint this as some great injustice, but it simply isn’t. The Ducks were given a free ride and showed absolutely no intent of abiding by the rules. They disobeyed their coach, they disobeyed their teachers and they destroyed school property when they froze and subsequently shattered the Varsity team’s jerseys. Also while we’re on the subject, I’m pretty sure stealing liquid nitrogen is a crime. Simply put, the Ducks deserve to have their scholarships revoked.
But that’s not the case, as they recruit a smooth talking lawyer to get them off and keep them enrolled. Does that sound even remotely heroic? Not only that, but he also manages to get suspected steroid user, Dean Portman cleared to play in the final game, given the Ducks an obvious unfair advantage. Portman wasn’t enrolled in the Academy, there’s no way he’d be qualified to play out of the blue, but somehow Bombay has managed to get around this. How exactly is this team the underdogs? They weasel out of being kicked out of school and then get to skirt around rules and regulations and add an extra player mid game. The Varsity team are absolutely the victims in this film.
Sure, the Varsity Squad are not exactly endearing characters, but can you really blame them for their reaction to the Ducks? They’ve earned their spot on Varsity, and now they have to deal with the Ducks coming in and demanding to be handed opportunities. This isn’t just any group of kids coming in; it’s an incredibly popular group, so popular that they’ve got an NHL team named after them. It’s only natural that the Varsity players would feel somewhat threatened and not welcome them with open arms. Let’s not forget, one of them has to deal with Mendoza constantly hitting on his girlfriend. The Ducks are completely disrespectful to the school and its traditions, and the Varsity squad was well within its rights to attempt to haze them and take them down a peg, they certainly needed it. But that’s not what happened, is it?
Instead of being a story of humility, and learning to adapt to changes, the Ducks are once again catered to like the stars they think they are. The school ends up falling all over itself to appease them, even eventually rebranding its JV squad the Eden Hall Mighty Ducks. They’re just spitting in the face of the school allegedly proud tradition by flushing the old Warriors name down the drain. You know, one day these kids are going to have to play for a team that isn’t fucking named “The Mighty Ducks.” Do you think anyone who played for the University of Hawaii liked being on a team called “The Rainbow Warriors”? Of course they didn’t, that’s an awful name! But guess what, they were there on scholarships, getting a good education for free, so they learned deal with it.
This isn’t some plucky underdog tale; this isn’t a story about a small group of rebels leading a revolution. As far as I can tell, everyone at Eden Hall was perfectly happy with the way things were, and no one was clamoring for change. This is instead a story about a group of egomaniacal athletes getting catered to at every turn. They’re allowed to exist above the rules of the school, which bends over backwards for them to a ridiculous degree. The Mighty Ducks are absolutely the villains of D3, there’s just no way around it.
From their arrival, which no doubt screwed over other student athletes, to their never-ending arrogance about their past accomplishments, to their complete lack of respect for Eden Hall Academy and it’s traditions, the group doesn’t do anything that’s even remotely endearing. They are the powerhouse hockey team that’s too sure of itself, just like Team Iceland was in Mighty Ducks 2. But much worse than that, they’re the team of kids that everyone caters to, with a slick lawyer to keep them from getting in trouble. That’s right; they’re no better than their hated rivals The Hawks, from the first Mighty Ducks film. In D3: The Mighty Ducks, the scrappy team of underdogs became everything they once stood against. They became entitled and arrogant. They became brash and disrespectful. They became villains.
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