Beastly Reviews: Divergent

This is getting ridiculous. The Twilight saga taught every preteen girl in America to close their legs and wait till marriage. Divergent is now taking them a step further with the coded message that Christians are a discriminated minority who have to fight for freedom against a liberal, intellectual government. Please.

Doe-eyed Tris (Shailene Woodley) lives, as predicted, in a dystopian future, which sings to the decentralist impulse and anti-Obama fearmongering among religious Republicans. She’s labeled “divergent,” which means she cannot be classified into any of the government-enforced castes or “roles” upon which this society and its beige-dressed citizenry depend, and she is forced to flee and find other outcasts.

The film is structured as a series of challenges Tris must face to reach a final showdown (kinda like that other franchise with a strong female lead and a crossbow). There’s a sexy stud named Four (Theo James, my god) who she locks lips with along the way.

Ladies and gentlemen: Theo James.
Ladies and gentlemen: Theo James.

This anti-state teen lit is in vogue right now, but it’s not new. Alan Moore’s V For Vendetta, Trumbo’s Johnny Got His Gun, Orwell’s 1984 and Bradbury’s Fahrenheit 451 were all on my high school reading list when I was feeling angsty and subversive. And there is a time and necessity to subversion, and there always will be. But it’s conflicting when white, Christian people latch on to these ideas and, in doing so, spread the abject lie that their beliefs and their community are under attack. White, conservative Christians have had the upper hand for the entire history of this nation and still do. Just because a black man is in power, they feel their “religious freedom” is dwindling, a now-threatened Constitutional right. God, if only.

Those books I read in high school are powerful and dangerous and everyone should read them. All have been banned by some censoring institution at some point. The Hunger Games franchisefor all its pop-culture pomp, is the youth-rebellion resistance fiction. Divergent is different. There’s something in it that doesn’t sit well with me.

Divergent is based on the novel of the same name by Veronica Roth, a self-professed Christian. In his brilliant review, David Edelstein notes the book’s treatment of intellectuals. One of the “classes” that people in the book can be a part of, “Erudite,” the intellectual arm of society, are largely depicted as control-hungry villains pitted against the “Abnegation” class — the righteous, self-abasing, merciful servants of society. In other words, the Christians.

Intellectuals have always been a threat (both real and perceived) to religion. Edelstein writes: “The novelist, Veronica Roth, reserves her loathing for the ‘Erudites’, who spend their days in intellectual pursuit. She appears to be one in a long line of religious conservatives (her first acknowledgment is to God, ‘for your Son’) who think there’s nothing more dangerous than intellectualism, which makes people apt to seize power and impose Maoist-like uniformity on entire populations — on pain of death.”

Tris and her family are in the

Call me a liberal elite, but I like my intellectualism, and I feel safer among smart people than demented religious fanatics.

Like most college-educated, degree-wielding, filthy liberals I know, I’m smart enough to see that a healthy amount of government distrust is crucial. Because the only thing more frightening than a bunch of angry tea-partiers getting mad about same-sex marriage and forming militias is the actual possibility of totalitarianism. Huxley’s Brave New World warned us about a society that over-medicates and placates its citizens into subservience — a poignant message in today’s world of spin journalism and big pharma.

That’s not Divergent. The movie, like the book, is just a Christian cautionary tale against smart people, our media, our president, and our progressive laws. I’m always amazed how people can feel oppressed by equality — the ones who are always the true oppressors.

Dismiss this fable with a bad script, but if you must see it, drool over Four.

— Beastly

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