Adrenaline, 1st Female ‘Hero’ Of Asterix Comics – Real Representation, Or Misguided Tokenism?

Many are celebrating that Asterix finally has a female 'hero', Adrenaline, but others have pointed out that just having a female 'hero' is not quite enough - the why and how of her representation is equally important.

Many are celebrating that Asterix finally has a female ‘hero’, Adrenaline, but others have pointed out that just having a female ‘hero’ is not quite enough – the why and how of her representation is equally important.

Asterix and Obelix have been beloved by readers around the world for sixty years now. In its 38th album, the celebrated French comic book finally has a ‘female hero’.

Adrenaline, who appears as the teenage daughter of Vercingetorix, the Gallic King, appeared in the album titled Asterix and the Chieftain’s Daughter, released on Thursday, October 24th, 2019.

The comic has been written by Jean-Yves Ferri and drawn by Didier Conrad, and has stayed true to the original format started by writer Rene Goscinny and cartoonist Albert Uderzo.

Welcome move, say twitterati

The move is largely being hailed as a positive one, considering that earlier female characters in the comics were depicted either as seductresses (Panacea, Mrs Geriatrix, Cleopatra) or shrews (Impedimenta). Asterix and the Secret Weapon even took pot shots at feminism, implying that the ‘liberation’ women yearn for is clothes and makeup.

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Given this history, Adrenaline’s positioning as a rebellious teenager, who keeps Asterix and Obelix on their toes, is being seen as a welcome change.

“We didn’t want to develop a character who would be based on her seductive side as we usually do with female characters in Asterix. Most of the time they are young attractive women who seduce Obelix and their role stops there,” said Conrad.

Our very own Amul too, heralded the arrival of Adrenaline with an ad that shows her eating a piece of bread slathered with Amul butter by Asterix, even as the Amul girl braids her hair.

But is it all good?

Adrenaline’s age, hairstyle, determined expression, and the assurance that “things will never be quite the same again” have drawn comparisons to Greta Thunberg, the climate change activist, who called world leaders to attention recently. However, according to Ferri and Conrad, the similarities are purely coincidental.

Others, however, have pointed out that not everything is as rosy as it looks, and that the portrayal of Adrenaline leaves much to be desired.

The criticism mainly revolves around the point that to become a protagonist, Adrenaline has to give up her ‘femininity’, thus perpetuating stereotypes that women who are ‘feminine’ are weak and dependent.

“[She] has just finished growing, but hasn’t fully developed yet, so everything that is feminine is focused on her face,” said Conrad about Adrenaline, leading others to question if ‘fully developed’ women deserve to be focused on only in a sexual way.

Perpetuating ‘Feminism Lite’

Beauty and sexuality have often been used to discount and distract from a woman’s accomplishments, as this discussion about Cleopatra goes to show.

But women can be conventionally attractive, and be strong, and have leadership qualities and be rebellious. Therefore, by depicting Adrenaline as a girl who is not fully ‘feminine’, the comic has in fact fallen for a Feminism Lite trap.

Story of macho males protecting the ‘hero’ girl?

There is also the fact that as per what is known of the comic currently, it is about Asterix and Obelix ‘protecting’ Adrenaline from the Romans, leading people to wonder if after all the hue and cry, it is ultimately just another ‘male saviour’ narrative.

The introduction of Adrenaline goes to show two things.

Firstly, that people want to see better representation in pop culture. One hopes that this response to Adrenaline encourages the writers to add more characters from other marginalized groups in the future.

Secondly, that representation cannot be done as a token. Good representation requires a great deal of thought and a great deal of sensitivity. Just adding a character doesn’t do much, if the character sends all the wrong messages.

(Author’s note: This writer of this post has not read Asterix and the Chieftain’s Daughter yet as it has just been published, and so is not aware of what the actual storyline is. The ‘male saviour’ narrative has been mentioned only because she has read others wondering if it is one. If you have read the comic and can say for sure that Adrenaline is a ‘hero’ in every sense of the term, please let us know and we shall update the post accordingly).

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