There are so many things I love about “Divergent,” I’ll go through the major points here.
The movie, in a nutshell, is about facing your fears. You get to watch a brave, smart, and compassionate female protagonist test and challenge herself again and again. You see her make choices, grow, and become her own person, a true leader. I write a lot about violence on Reel Girl, and how it is not comparable to sexualization. Narratives are metaphors, and just like in dreams, images express feelings. We, humans, experience universal emotions like fear and aggression. These are not “boy” feelings or “girl” feelings, they are just part of being alive. What is unique, or relatively unique, is what triggers these feelings in each of us. ‘Divergent’ addresses this specifically, by showing the characters go through their “fear landscapes” where they face their terrors and make choices. I loved that my daughter saw a female hero do this again and again.
Another thing that is so great about this movie is the romance. Four, the supporting male character, is in love with Tris because of her bravery. Her bravery makes her attractive. While we see so many narratives where males are celebrated for their attributes, females get defined by their “beauty.” Males have the reputation of being divorced from their feelings, but in my experience, it’s female characters– and of course, actual female people– who get a lifetime of training in experiencing their own bodies as objects and accessories, separate from who they are. ‘Divergent’ is a narrative where the heroine is integrated and unified– body, mind, and soul– and that is rare to see. When you watch the movie, you will understand, how literally Tris defies allowing herself to be fractured into separate factions.
Shailene Woodley made a comment which I loved, differentiating the love story in ‘Divergent’ from ‘Twilight:’
Twilight, I’m sorry, is about a very unhealthy, toxic relationship. [The protagonist Bella] falls in love with this guy and the second he leaves her, her life is over and she’s going to kill herself! What message are we sending to young people? That is not going to help this world evolve.”
On one of my favorite blogs, Women and Hollywood, Melissa Silverstein chided Woodley for that comment, stating without ‘Twilight’ proving movies based on YA novels with female protagonists can make money, ‘Divergent’ would not exist as a film. While that may be true, I don’t think Woodley was speaking from a business perspective, but from her heart about how different the love stories are in these two movies.
A third aspect of the movie that is great is Natalie, the mother of Tris, played by Ashley Judd.
Judd’s part is small as far as screen time, but some of my favorite scenes in the movie were watching mom and daughter work together to save the world. Again, how often do we get to see that?
Kate Winslet as the evil Jeanine is amazing. She is wickedly fun to watch.
Here’s something very cool to tell your kids: the author of the series, Veronica Roth, is 25 years old. When they read the book– I recommend it for kids age 9 and up– make sure they see Roth’s photo. She’s an inpsiring role model. There’s a great interview with her at the end of the book. When Roth was in college, she was studying psychology, specifically phobias, and learning about a kind of therapy where you repeatedly do what you are afraid of. One day she was driving, listening to music, and she saw a scene in her head of a person jumping off a building, not for a self-destructive reason. She put hat scene together with what she was leaning about experiencing fears and boom! ‘Divergent’ was born.
When Roth is asked what characteristics she kept in mind when coming up with her main character, she responds:
I don’t think I ever sat down and thought about how Beatrice was– I just had this sense of her. I knew her. I did set myself a rule that was hard to follow, though: Beatrice is always the agent. That is, she’s always choosing, always acting, always moving the plot by her behavior.
This is exactly the advice I give my kids when they are writing a story. Of course, too often, we see male characters acting and making choices. We are so used to that gender role that as writers, just as Roth describes, its important to keep in the forefront, that the female character needs to keep making choices that drive the plot. In ‘Divergent,’ it’s beautiful to watch a female hero be a true protagonist, commanding her own film and her own story. I look forward to the day when a sentence like the one I just wrote seems ridiculously dated.
I wish Zoe Kravitz as Christina had a more interesting part/ character arc. Once again, we have the girl of color as the BFF to the white protagonist.
As we all know, marketing is its own media. Even if children don’t go to the film, they are likely to see this ridiculous butt pose poster, where Tris is positioned awkwardly to show ass and breast.
I prefer this image in the cover of Entertainment Weekly.
Reel Girl rates ‘Divergent’ ***HHH***
(I recommend the movie for ages 9 and up, but depends on the kid. If you read Reel Girl, you know I think kids desperately need to see female characters with power and agency, and I mostly rate for that. You also know, if you read this review, how I feel about violence. This movie is not gory. As you can tell, I’m a huge fan of the romance here as well. I am concerned with context when I rate (sadly, an anomaly) and I like the context of this love story very much. There are sensual scenes but not extended and no nudity. The movie is rated PG-13 if that means anything to you, though IMO the MPAA is useless and I prefer Common Sense Media if I need to look up specifics about sex/ gore aside from context, which, as noted, too few, including CSM really consider.)
You’ve all got to be joking. Terrible movie, bad book, tragic apocalyptic ideas while people are actually being raped/sold. Enjoy your fantasy kiddos. Actual humans are experiencing much worse than what you’re enjoying reading. You should be ashamed.
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No. The movie was horrible. My one daughter loves the print story, hated the movie. My other daughter (12 years old) fell asleep. It seems like you are so blinded with movies hitting all your must have check marks, you failed to notice that the movie was just not good. Check out rotten tomatoes. 60% of reviews gave the movie a thumbs down.
If you want gender equality in movies, you yourself should start off by not recommending sub standard movies just because they promote your agenda.
Disagree, I thought it was really good. I loved Shailene Woodley, Kate Winslet, Ashley Judd and whoever played Four. The audience I watche with was really into it.
While I haven’t see it yet and don’t expect the film to be as good as Hunger Games/Catching Fire I certainly don’t care about the “reviews” from rotten tomatoes-these “approved film critics” make me laugh.If they don’t like it, it’s their problem.Audiences clearly like this film,it has 7.7 at imdb and 81% (4.1/5) from rottentomatoes audience and this is what matters.
Thanks for the help. I’m going to see divergent so good to know what I’m getting!
Some other things I loved about the movie:
-Tris’ body is NEVER sexualized. The only time we see her partially-naked is in a scene at the beginning of the movie where she changes from her old Abnegation clothes to her new Dauntless clothes. And in that scene, not only is it shot from a distance, but all the other new recruits (including boys) are also changing. It’s not about her body, it’s about leaving her old faction for her new one.
-In the kiss scene, Four who takes off his shirt while Tris remains clothed. In the scene, it is very clear that by doing so he is making himself vulnerable (also because he’s showing her his tattoo). Topless guy and completely clothed girl is such a rarity, and I loved seeing it!
Great points! Can you imagine how different the world would be if women’s bodies were celebrated for what they could do like this?
Margot, I haven’t seen the movie but I did read the book. There is a lot of unjustifiable violence and brutality as part of the initiation into the Dauntless faction, and the ending, as I recall, is very violent. Everyone is different, of course, but I would not hand a 9yo the novel. And I can’t see how you could take a 9yo to the movie and then tell them they can’t read the book. Without seeing your review, I would not have considered going, because visual depictions of the events described in the book would be far too disturbing for me. What you describe, though, makes it sound like that’s been toned down considerably. I will have to see it and see how different it is from the book.
The movie is just as violent as the book. There is fighting, brutality, and killing. I don’t think it is toned down. If the book is too violent for you, the movie will be as well.
As I wrote in the review, and you probably know if you read Reel Girl which I think you do, I think the violence in narratives are metaphors for feelings– you feel like you’re being attacked, you feel like the world is caving in etc. Narratives, like dreams, show us that. There is a lot of evidence that violent play is healthy for kids, a way they deal with fears of death and other things. ‘Divergent’ really shows that with the fear landscapes as I wrote. I don’t think the violence is gratuitous, but part of the story.
I don’t like gore and won’t recommend gory movies, but if I believe violence has a place in the narrative, I recommend the story. I also say this as a writer. I came to my views wondering why, if at all, violence should be in a plot and what purpose it serves.
Here are some more posts about violence/ media/ kids
I also meant to say, YES that poster is terrible. Thanks for calling it out! As if all Tris does in the film is stand around with her hair blowing in the wind looking dreamy, and posing…
I’d agree with a lot of what you said, except I’m concerned about the overwhelming white-ness of the cast. Save for three speaking roles for people of color, I estimated that the population of this film is 80% white. I haven’t read the books, but I’m being told there’s a reason why the cast’s demo would not reflect current Chicago or the composition of the U.S. as a whole which is going to become “majority minority” (hate that term) by 2043 – however it’s still an issue that Hollywood continues to churn out entertainment that excludes people of color. If my kids were people of color I’m not sure I’d be that enthusiastic about dropping everything and taking them to see this.
Agree on lack of people of color. As I wrote, the girl of color BFF trope is annoying, I wish she had more of a character arc to, even if she were white, it wasn’t much of a part. To me, it seemed like the movie made an effort to put people of color in the background but not speaking parts, especially with the boys who in Dauntless who played bigger roles, more could have been of color. Given the lack of narratives for kids with female protagonists, I absolutely and wholeheartedly urge people to drop everything and a take their kids to see this movie, and let’s make more and get more made featuring female protagonists of color.