If you are anything like me, you like a female heroine that reminds you of real women. Not the edited version that Hollywood likes to present as real women pretty, helpless, always in a love triangle, willing to be what men want. (Now I preface here that my statements of generality do not necessarily speak for all movies, just most.) I’m on a quest to find movies that mirror the strong females in the books.
Today’s book to movie is an almost obligatory next step in a series. Unfortunately, the moving from book to television does not always prove advantageous to the female characters or female fans desirous to see the characters they love brought to life. I enjoyed Hermione from the Harry Potter series, she was slightly annoying, awkward, and smart in the books and in the movie, but let us be honest Rowling’s didn’t push hard against female stereotypes when creating the character.
Now Katniss Everdeen from the Mocking Jay series is not the stereotype. She is terrifying, unapologetic, fighter, unconcerned with looks, and intelligent. At times I could see myself in her, my mother, and my friends. While I’m not jumping for joy over the adaptation of Katniss from the book to movie some of her more controversial aspects remain, which is why I like the movies and books. Unfortunately, I can’t say the same at all about Divergent.
The first time I watched Divergent it was early on a Saturday morning while I nursed a hang-over. I turned on HBO just as it was starting. I had heard about the Divergent trilogy the year before when I attended the National Book Festival and Veronica Roth was a speaker. Even though I wasn’t able to attend her session, I walked by and from the large crowd I gathered this Divergent thing was big. I didn’t have too many expectations for the movie. I had never even read a book jacket. My expectations were an action movie. As soon as the movie was over, I wanted to watch it again (mostly for Four–Theo) and to read the books to learn more about Tris. She seemed like a cool heroine, if you understand that movies diminish all badass heroines. I read all three books within six weeks (yes I have a job) and I learned that Tris was awesome and her journey was powerful and moving something men and women could connect to, but I’m not here to laud Roth. I’m here to tell you why you should stay away from the Divergent movies.
Tris is badass
No really badass! Don’t cross her in a dark alley. Don’t get on her bad side. The only other time in recent memory I’ve thought a female lead was this awesome was Katniss Everdeen. Tris is smart and clever (Erudite), compassionate (Abnegation), and brave (Dauntless). In Divergent, the first book in the series, Tris makes a brave decision to leave her family, friends, and way of life in Abnegation to become one of the Dauntless. Initiation proves more difficult than imagined and Tris has to work very hard to rise in the trainee ranking during the physical portion learning to fight and in general getting into shape. The book provides vivid details on the pains of training and her eventual breaking point where she almost killed another trainee with her bare hands. However, the movie shows her getting her butt kicked over and over during training. If it weren’t for the final fight scene we might never know she learned to kick butt! Don’t get me wrong the fight scene between she and Four is awesome, but more would have been great.
Let’s start with holding hands
Tris’ original faction, or community as we might call it, is Abnegation. They don’t admire themselves in the mirror, eat meat, think of themselves first, or indulge in touch. Imagine growing up unfamiliar with touch. Then imagine meeting this really hot guy (that looks like Theo) and you want to get close (I want to get close to) but the idea of touching is unfamiliar and awkward. Let us, also, remember that you are 16 years-old and just plain awkward anyway. For Tris and Four (also from Abnegation) those first touches are mixed with fear, longing, and excitement. In the second book, Insurgent, they fight and make-up a lot, as Tris is going through a very difficult mourning period for her parents. There are several romantic and steamy scenes, but nowhere do they come close to sex. It’s not until the third book, Allegiant, that there is sex and it is only once. The first movie, I feel stayed true to the book in regards to their relationship. However, the second movie veers away from Tris’s character development and the development of Tris and Four’s relationship. I can only guess because sex sells (in movies).
Selfless means …
Selfless means giving of one’s self for the benefit of others with no gain for yourself. After reading the series, I found myself searching for the common thread and landing on the exploration of selflessness. I don’t think about what it means to be selfless. Do you? But I feel that Roth took me on a journey exploring what it means to accept it and be it. At the end of Divergent Tris’ parents give their lives, not only for her, but also for the greater good. In Insurgent, overwhelmed with grief Tris believes that risking her life and jumping into danger is the selfless thing to do, which lands her in the enemy’s clutches. Finally, in Allegiance as her heart begins to heal and she and Four plans for the future does she truly understand her parents sacrifice. Once it was all over her journey brought me to tears. But of course leave it to the movie to rip the heart out. The first movie is fine, but it’s the 2nd movie that had me throwing in the towel. Where is her grief? There is a lot of running, jumping, and amazing, graphics but none of the emotional turmoil that Tris endures from the book. I almost forgot that the time difference is only days, not months by the way the story was written.
This weekend the third and last movie was released from the Divergent Series- Allegiant. Critics are saying this movie is the best in the trilogy. Part of me wants to believe them, because when I finished the last book I cried (not sobbed). It was a great end for a heroine, but I can’t bring myself to do it. The writers let me down in the second movie and it cannot be forgiven. I want to say that you shouldn’t watch the movie(s), but that’s pretty far-fetched. When the CGI isn’t blowing your mind, Theo James will be wearing muscle shirts. It doesn’t get better than that.