It’s tough to be a geek girl sometimes. We don’t meet many others like us in real life. When we seek out nerdy sanctuaries, like Internet forums or comic or video game shops, at times we might be made to to feel like we need to prove our worth, mettle, or legitimacy more than we would if we were male.
Nerd Culture is one formed by the outcasts, but sometimes it can be just as cliquish and standoffish as the mainstream culture to which it often felt denied. If a glamorous blonde woman walks into a comic shop, would she be accepted? Or would she just be hit on, or ridiculed for not knowing anything about the store into which she entered?
That’s the premise of Astrópía, a fabulous 2007 Icelandic film now available on Netflix Instant. Hildur needs a job, so when she sees a “help wanted” sign in the window of the comic shop to which she takes her friend’s son, she applies. She doesn’t know anything about comics, anime, superheroes, or tabletop gaming. But she says she worked in public relations, and she can do the bookkeeping, so the boss hires her.
Hildur’s co-workers are suspicious of her at best and hostile at worst. They see Hildur as a encroaching on their territory, a pretty girl who’s trying to get by on her looks and who’s invading their sacred space. One morning Hildur shows up to work with messy hair, wearing a t-shirt and black-rimmed glasses. A co-worker balks, tells her that she doesn’t have to dress like that just because she works there. “I overslept,” Hildur replies, disgusted. “It happens.”
Astrópía isn’t the story of a beautiful woman who’s also a nerd, and who has to prove that despite her appearance (though that would also be cool). In many ways, Hildur is what her co-workers assume of her. She was a socialite who lived off of her boyfriend. Technically, she did work in PR for her boyfriend’s car dealership, but she had few responsibilities. She preferred to spend her time lounging around or going out with her friends.
When Hildur falls on rough times, she has to learn to support herself. She has to fight against the stereotypes others hold against her, and in so doing she also sees the layers in others as well. In the process she encounters some people who genuinely don’t make surface assumptions about people: her boss, for example. He didn’t hire her because she was pretty, or really even because she said she had sales experience: there was an opening and she was the first applicant.
He’s the one who suggests that she join his Dungeons & Dragons group. She works at the shop’s tabletop game counter and knows nothing about it. Playing with them will teach her what she needs to do her job, and it’ll also help her get to know her coworkers and the store’s regulars. Most of the group doesn’t know what to make of her at first. But then they watch her play.
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