Gender Roles – Women
Gender Roles – Men
Room for Improvement:
Self-Esteem and Body Image
Gender Roles - Women: 5 Stars
Astrid is a fierce warrior who might have been her generation’s hero in an all-out war between the Vikings and the dragons. She comes across as mean and overly competitive, but it doesn’t take long for her to see the beauty in the way that Hiccup has bonded with Toothless. She quickly abandons her own quest for glory when she realizes there may be another way to end the war with the dragons.
Gender Roles - Men: 5 Stars
Hiccup is the smallest and skinniest of the Vikings, who doesn’t have the skill or strength to be the warrior he wants to be. And when he finally has the opportunity to kill his first dragon and impress his father, he can’t bring himself to do it. How to Train Your Dragon delivers a unique message to young boys by rewarding a young man who doesn't have the heart to kill one of the terrific beasts that is terrorizing his family. Instead, the film celebrates his decision to spare the monster’s life. How to Train Your Dragon shows us that there is also heroism in empathy and understanding.
Friendship: 4 Stars
It was surprising and encouraging to see that both male and female Vikings were recruited into dragon training. Furthermore, the young boys never discouraged the participation of their female counterparts. On occasion a macho comment escaped, but for the most part, the girls were respected as equals throughout the dragon training competition.
Self-Esteem and Body Image: 3 Stars
Astrid is a tad thin for her strong hips and shoulders, but some of this is simply a part of the boxy and disproportionate artistry of the Vikings (Hiccup’s father also has an enormous torso that balances on a rather smallish pair of legs). Astrid isn’t a raving beauty or a typical passive princess, but an average girl with a plated helmet who carries a sword and a shield.
Plot: 2 Stars (Spoilers)
Astrid doesn’t have a large role in this film, but she is given a small opportunity to help Hiccup save Toothless and fight the monster at the end of the film. She becomes something of a confidant - someone he can trust with his secret - but at the end of the day, Hiccup is the one who has to convince his father that the dragons can be tamed. Just as it is Hiccup and Toothless
who ultimately save the Vikings from the fiercest dragon of them all.
Character Development: 2 Stars
Unfortunately, there isn't much depth to Astrid’s character. We don’t know why she is so mean and determined at the beginning of the film. We don't know what it is that she is trying to prove, and to whom. It would have been a welcome treat to have a deeper look at her transformation - to learn what sort of dreams she's giving up and what sort of sacrifices she's making when she sides with Hiccup against the Vikings. But there’s only so much time for character exploration, and she's more or less a sidekick in someone else's story.
Love: 3 Stars
Hiccup and Astrid are brought together by an unexpected secret - and a subsequent struggle to make peace between the Vikings and the dragons. They both have the same sense of passion and rebellion, but there isn’t enough intimate conversation for their attraction to feel like much more than a flirtatious friendship. Astrid could’ve had a stronger response to Hiccup’s rant about being a coward. She could’ve told us a bit about how she learned to prefer the “nice guy” over the chiseled warriors that surround her. But we never get a full picture of what eventually draws her to Hiccup. If nothing else, How to Train Your Dragon lays a solid foundation for a more developed romance in the sequel.
Family: 2 Stars (Spoilers)
How to Train Your Dragon presents a rather dismal view of father-son relationships. Hiccup’s father is embarrassed by his weak and clumsy son, failing to realize the boy’s potential simply because he isn’t strong and fearsome. The fact that Hiccup is intelligent, patient and dedicated is lost on his father. And while Hiccup does eventually re-gain his father’s love and acceptance, it is only after Hiccup finally proves himself by killing the monster at the end of the film. It’s unfortunate that his father never truly learns the value of Hiccups many gifts.