Let’s give Divergent credit for what it got right

I just read a scathing review of Divergent. Now, to be clear, Divergent deserves a scathing review. It was not a well-written book and most of the flaws of the book carried over into the movie.

The world was hard to believe. I’ll compare that to Hunger Games which also had a hard to believe world, but managed to set it up so that I was willing to suspend disbelief for it. I would say, “Why would these people tolerate this?” and then be reminded of the destruction of District 13, of the oppressive presence of peacekeepers and the like. It was enough to make me willing to accept it for the sake of the story. Divergent never managed that. I would ask, “Why would these people tolerate this?” and never get an acceptable answer.

However, despite not liking the book, I went to see the movie. And I went to movie for one particular reason: It was a movie that featured a female protagonist in an active role. This is something we should be supporting. We should be actively encouraging female-centric films with strong positive role models for our daughters. And – good book or no – Divergent does feature a smart and determined female lead who survives through her own strength.

So, the one thing I didn’t expect was a review criticizing the film for not being feminist enough, for not being aware enough, for not being diverse enough. The main character is too small and too white. The cast is too white. It ignores the history of discrimination against minorities.

I don’t argue any of these points. They are true. The main character is a little white girl. The cast is so very white that three of the supporting males are practically identical (Will, Al, and Peter are all pale with short dark hair. You could pretty much move them around interchangeably and I don’t know if anyone would notice). Off the top of my head I can think of only two characters who weren’t white – and one of them was a bad guy.

So, yes, I’ll concede. The story had big problems. The movie is far from perfect. But our entertainment media is so very male-centric that I really think we should focus on what this movie did do right: A female lead in a non-sexualized, active role. She doesn’t wait for her prince to save her. She is smart and determined and she fights for her survival and her success. Unlike Bella from Twilight, Divergent’s Tris and Hunger Game’s Katniss are characters I wouldn’t mind my hypothetical daughter seeking to emulate.

Was it perfect? No. It wasn’t. But I went to see it because I wanted to support another movie with a positive depiction of a female character in a lead role.

Divergent shot to number one its first weekend after release. It is another nail in the coffin of the myth that movies about women don’t make money (now if we could only get that myth to lay down in its coffin!).


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