Hildur loves it. She becomes the perfect salesperson for the game, because she can speak with all the enthusiasm of a recent convert. When another person unfamiliar with general nerd culture comes into the store, Hildur is able to relate to him, and send him away with an armful of purchases. Lifelong D&D fans have to respect her as well, because Hildur is learning fast and clearly knows what she’s talking about.
Astrópía breaks down the boundaries we set between us and other people. We seek out the niches in which we feel comfortable, but sometimes we become wary of or cliquish against anyone on the outside. We judge people by our perceptions of them. Besides, just because we can find niches we like doesn’t mean that we belong only in them. The movie calls attention to that by developing Hildur’s character in the best, most realistic way.
When we first met Hildur, she’s sitting in a bubble bath reading a romance novel. But her mind is far away: she’s imagining herself as the heroine and her boyfriend as the dashing hero. She’s always been a daydreamer. It makes perfect sense that she’d fall for the imaginative world of Dungeons & Dragons, that as soon as the Dungeon Master begins setting the scene she’s transported into a wild fantasy land. Viewers are transported along with her; the fantasy sequences are beautiful, thanks to the gorgeous Icelandic scenery. The world transforms around the viewers and Hildur and, at least for the moment, Hildur transforms with it.
Hildur’s new found passion for D&D and her work at the shop do teach her to have more confidence and competence in her life. Beyond that, though, she doesn’t entirely change. Her horizons are expanded, but she doesn’t suddenly embrace anything that is science fiction or fantasy. Instead, she and her new friends learn that appearances or labels don’t matter. People can like whatever they like, and their interests don’t have to fit within a certain prescribed model. We shouldn’t exclude people from our niche groups just because they don’t fit our molds, or share all of our same interests.
What I love about Astrópía is that everyone grows a little bit in the course of the movie. Hildur is spoiled and shallow when the movie starts, and she’s fending for herself by the end. But even at the beginning she wasn’t a total stereotype: she was always feisty, and always objected to peoples’ expectations that she parade around in skimpy outfits just because she’s beautiful.
Hildur’s not the only one who grows. She learned to be more responsible, but at least she never made off-the-cuff judgements about the people at the comic shop. They were the ones who stereotyped her at first. Most of the denizens of the comic shop didn’t trust her at the beginning. In fact, the group’s one female nerd was the slowest to accept Hildur, because she felt that she’d earned a special right to be a woman in a comic shop, and Hildur didn’t fit the girl geek mold.
In the end, Astrópía forces us to chuck our labels out the window. I’ve always been proud of being a female geek. I haven’t stopped being so, but I should always remember that maybe I wouldn’t feel like such an elusive species if I didn’t put so much stock in labels. It would be nice if I could find anyone else around where I live who shares many of my same interests. Just because they like shopping or don’t understand why I’d watch so many animated Japanese movies, however, doesn’t mean that they won’t be receptive to sharing at least one of my geeky interests. A movie night with Astrópía could be a great place to start.
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