Tuesday, March 30, 2010

In Defense Of Astrid

Yes, this is another How To Train Your Dragon post, but there's actually more to it than that. One of the comments to my previous post expressed disappointment in Dreamworks over having Astrid, a strong female love interest, in the movie. The reasons given were that she wasn't in the book and the "strong female love interest" angle has been done many times before.

(Although, to be fair, 99% of the film wasn't in the book)

I feel this is something I need to counter. Not only do I believe that Astrid is a good character, I believe she's an example on how to present a character like this without being tired and cliché.

I'm avoiding major spoilers here, but I am discussing a character and how they fit in the plot, so yeah. MINOR SPOILERS be ahead.

 1 - She is not out to prove what girls are capable of. With the exception of the main character, the village is full of badasses. Male, female, adult, child, they all either kick ass or aspire to, and the only one who is told they're a fool for doing so is the male lead, Hiccup. Nobody questions whether girls can kick ass. They know they can and respect them for it.

 2 - She is not a jerk. Movies and TV shows often seem to think that the only way to portray a strong female character is to make them an uncaring, self-centered jackass. We as an audience are supposed to view them as strong and possibly even as role models, but if you took those same characters and made them men, they'd simply be jerks. There are, however, plenty of shows and movies that understand that being strong doesn't mean you have to be a jerk, and this movie is one of them.

 3 - She is not tacked on. Astrid is a key character in the movie and is not an afterthought. She contributes to the story and isn't just there for Hiccup to fawn over.

 4 - Relative to the rest of the vikings, she is fully clothed. While her outfit is unique, so is Hiccup's. It helps them stand out as main characters. I question the lack of a fur vest or cape, but at least she's not showing off her midriff. A lot of strong, action-oriented women wind up in skimpy outfits, but Astrid is not one of them. This is an especially good thing considering she looks like she's at most fourteen years old.

I would not mind seeing more characters portrayed as Astrid was with the rest of the characters treating them as Astrid was. I can understand the "she wasn't in the book" complaint, particularly if one was fond of the supporting male character whose role she effectively fills. Independent of that, however, I think she was a good character and a good example of a strong female character.


  1. Not to mention she doesn't have some über-feminine/non-threatening name like 'Buffy'.

  2. I'd quibble with you about point #1, but Astrid might kick my ass.

    Astrid is what anime fans might call tsundere.

  3. Something else that the movie had that the book did not... Art that didn't make my eyes hurt.
    I know, it is a style that is popular in some circles, but it's hard to read when my eyes are bleeding.

  4. If I haven't read the novel/picture book/magazine article/whatever a movie is based on already, I actually make a conscious attempt not to. I think that a film adaptation of a print source must be a good movie first and a good adaptation second. It doesn't matter if the movie is 100% faithful to the book if the movie isn't a good MOVIE first and foremost.

  5. The thing about Astrid is that while she sort of did have a role in the movie, it was a role that honestly didn't need to be there- the fact that she wasn't in the book (which I didn't even know until this moment) was totally evident in the way that her scenes, while designed with the larger movie in mind (not tacked-on), were, largely, unnecessary.

    I dunno, she was a fun character, but the way she was always being in the viewer's face as HEY LOOK THERE'S A GIRL IN THIS MOVIE didn't really work out.

  6. Actually, her not being in the book has little to do with anything. The book and movie are so radically different that even the characters who were in the book are mostly unrecognizable. For one thing, the dragons in the book were always trained, never hunted, and could talk. It's an entirely different story with different characters of different ages and circumstances in spit of shared names with the only primary commonality being the presence of vikings and dragons and the fact that Hiccup is one of the weaker vikings.

  7. i love this movie i really do but i think that Astrid came from camicazi, one of the girls that hiccup meets at Fort sinister in the book HOW TO SPEAK DRAGONESE. Camicazi has blonde hair and is extremley tough, just like Astrid. camicazis fav thing to do is fight, which so does astrid. im not sure if hiccup and camicazi like each other but im trying to find that out. anyone no the answer to that