Monday, March 24, 2014

Book to Movie: Divergent

Please be warned that this post has spoilers for both the book and movie Divergent.

Every book fan wants to see a respectable, faithful interpretation of the story. There are movies that excel in this endeavor (Hunger Games forever!!!) adaptations that fail (Narnia movies just didn't do it for me) and films that positively crash and burn and make fans pretend it just didn't happen (I'm looking at you, City of Bones). For me, Divergent belongs in the first column. 

Sure, they opened with an unfortunate voice-over exposition (necessary, I suppose for those who haven't read the books; for the rest of you, just focus on the impressive post-war Chicago scenery). And there were a number of casualties to the editing room floor that I could enumerate (no chocolate cake; Tris was never temporarily eliminated from the initiates; the kiss didn't happen in the chasm). But I prefer to focus on the many many things the filmmakers salvaged- little details that make this feel like a true adaptation. Things like Four approaching Tris in the Pit after he's had a few drinks; Tris's first meal being the mysterious hamburger; Four walking away from the fight as Tris loses consciousness. So many details and moments I was surprised and pleased made it to the movie.

An empowering film that makes me
want to buy a punching bag
Maybe I'm so jazzed because my expectations going in were so low, though I should not have doubted Shaileen Woodley, who seems to be starring in every YA novel adaptation this year (for a while there it was Spectacular Now, Divergent, The Fault in Our Stars trailers on rotation during commercials; Shailene everywhere!). I was already mighty pleased with her portrayal of Tris (and Theo James's Four, my new unattainable crush--- gah! his voice! those lips! that jaw!) but the scene where Four is under simulation and she flips the gun around to her forehead; damn, that was a well acted scene. Her murmurs of "It's okay, it's okay, it's okay" were just so powerful. Also powerful was the zip-lining scene- and if you've already read Allegiant, you know why (*emotion*).

Most thought provoking was Tris's fear landscape during the final initiation test. In the book, Tris, raised in Abnegation where physical contact and open affection are at a minimum, has a deeply ingrained fear of intimacy. Being raised in Abnegation is like being raised with Catholic guilt! Makes me feel a camaraderie with Tris. 

Is it getting hot in here?
In Tris's (book) fear landscape, she's alone with Four in a bedroom.  It's Four, he's hunky, he wants to do a little more than kissing and she's tempted, but just not ready.  Sex is everywhere and its meaning diminished by its prevalence.  But sex is a big deal.  It's okay to be nervous, it's okay to say no.  So often in YA there's some supernatural reason why two characters don't have sex because it's going to kill one or the other (Mean Girls moment: You will have sex, and you will die). That's not a good message for readers, because none of these characters is really making a decision or making up their mind; the situation is deciding for them. Young readers need to be taught to make an informed decision about sex based on their thoughts, feelings, and open communication with their partner. And they need to know that it's okay to wait.  I like that in Divergent, there's nothing keeping Tris and Tobias apart except for their decision to wait until the time is right for them. 

Just because they've decided to go slow
Doesn't mean they won't have a fantastic kissing scene
In Tris's (movie) fear landscape, things start out the same, until a fear of intimacy becomes something more violent- a fear of partner rape.  This really changes the nature of Tris's fear.  Whether for better or worse... that's in the eye of the viewer.  But since it happened, I was happy with what they did with it. Acquaintance rape is a legitimate fear; largely because many perpetrators don't recognize their actions as rape.  It doesn't matter if you're in a relationship, it doesn't matter if you've done things together in the past, it doesn't matter what your expectations were.  I loved the way Tris wouldn't let her "No" go unheard- she unappologetically owns her body and unwaveringly stands by her decisions.

While I hope this is empowering to women watching, I also hope it affects any guys in the theater.  Real-life Four stops when Tris says stop; he's a highly desirable, attractive man who knows that consent is sexy.  Simulation-Four doesn't stop; what he's doing (physically and verbally pressuring Tris) is NOT okay- and he gets his ass kicked.  Rape culture will end when we empower the vulnerable and educate the ignorant.

What did you think? Anything you were disappointed didn't make the cut? How did you feel about Tris's fear landscape? Were you also a little weirded out to when the guy who plays Caleb is was also in the preview for The Fault In Our Stars as Augustus Waters?

Augustus? Wait, shouldn't you two be in love?


My Fear Landscape

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