Where Are the Women? How to Train Your Dragon 2


This is how you portray women in a film with a male protagonist: as existing as people in their own right not defined solely by their relationship to him.


Is there a female character with significant screen time who grows, changes, and/or learns something over the course of the story? (for an ensemble cast, or a film with a male protagonist) [why this matters]


Is there a female character (either a protagonist or a supporting character with significant screen time) in a position of authority (politics, law, medicine, etc.)? [why this matters]


[no issues]


Is there a female character who is primarily defined by her emotional and/or sexual relationship with a man or men? [why this matters]


Is there anything either positive or negative in the film’s representation of women not already accounted for here? (points will vary)

Ruffnut, one of the hero’s gang of sidekicks, gets to express her sexual desire for a hot guy, and the film also offers us her female-gazey perspective as she looks at him. Her attraction to him is a recurring motif, and nicely balances out the (far more clichéd) lusting after her that two of her male compatriots engage in.


IS THE FILM’S DIRECTOR FEMALE? No (does not impact scoring)

IS THE FILM’S SCREENWRITER FEMALE? No (does not impact scoring)

BOTTOM LINE: This is how you portray women in a film with a male protagonist: as a mother who is not defined solely by her motherhood, as a girlfriend who gets to rescue the hero (and take over his leadership in his absence), as part of a mixed-gender gang with desires of her own (just like the guys get to have).

Click here for the ranking of 2014’s Oscar-nominated films for female representation.

NOTE: This is not a “review” of How to Train Your Dragon 2! It is simply an examination of how well or how poorly it represents women. (A movie that represents women well can still be a terrible film; a movie that represents women poorly can still be a great film.) Read my review of How to Train Your Dragon 2.

See the full rating criteria. (Criteria that do not apply to this film have been deleted in this rating for maximum readability.)

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Tue, Feb 10, 2015 11:01pm

Who the fuck cares about the women seriously. the movie is great its beautiful but who cares.about this. :(

Thu, Feb 12, 2015 12:47pm

The scoring criteria are fair enough, but I think the treatment of Valka here is problematic – great introduction, but she rapidly becomes useless once it’s time to get stuff done.

Thu, Feb 12, 2015 2:28pm

I actually didn’t like how Ruffnut seemed solely defined by her lusting after the guys. Nothing wrong with showing it, but when it’s all you show, I see a problem.

I also thought the movie did Astrid a disservice by making her more the hero’s girlfriend, as opposed to a stronger character in her own right. She was too passive.
Great movie, overall, though.

Sat, May 08, 2021 4:36pm

I feel like you could’ve taken away points, since the protagonist could’ve easily been female. I know, I know, it’s a sequel, and the male was the protagonist in the original movie too, but they could’ve easily made it about Astrid instead. There might be something to say about the fact that the movie about a girl is merely a sequel, an afterthought, to an original movie about a boy, but hey, it’s better than no movies about women at all.

MaryAnn Johanson
reply to  SailorSerena
Mon, May 10, 2021 11:44am

the male was the protagonist in the original movie too

That’s why I didn’t take away those points.

reply to  MaryAnn Johanson
Mon, May 10, 2021 2:10pm

I know, but lots of movie sequels follow a different character other than the protagonist in the original movie. Take how the sequel to The Little Mermaid follows the daughter of Ariel and Eric, Melody, instead of the original movie’s protagonist, Ariel. HTTYD2 could’ve easily done just that: the first movie was about Hiccup, sure, but the second movie could’ve easily been about Astrid instead. I’m sure there are lots of people who would gladly eat up a film that shows the world of HTTYD through Astrid-colored lenses, including me.

MaryAnn Johanson
reply to  SailorSerena
Sat, May 29, 2021 11:50am

You’re not wrong about any of that. But I also was not trying to go out of my way to find reasons to ding a movie in these ratings. I mean, there are plenty of solid, inarguable reasons to ding them. :-) And this movie still would have rating well even if I had done that here.