Suffragette Cinema

a feminist look at films and the media surrounding them

Divergent Gives the Middle Finger to Rape Culture

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Divergent takes place in a post- apocalyptic Chicago where there are five factions to which every person belongs to. Each faction holds a specific trait that they honor above all things, intelligence in Erudite, bravery in Dauntless, selfless in Abnigation, honesty in Candor, and peacefulness in Amity. The film follows Beatrice ‘Tris’ Prior (Shailene Woodley), born into Abnigation, but when she comes to age and is able to choose her own faction, selects Dauntless. For the first half of the movie, Tris is shown becoming accustomed to her new faction as she goes through initiation and fights her way to be able to secure a spot in her new home.

There were a few significant moments that stuck out to me throughout Divergent, all of which broke down a form of rape culture and gives empowerment to women.

First, in one memorable scene where Tris and Four (Theo James) are kissing, Tris breaks away from him and tells him that she does not want to go to fast. Four agrees and the two break apart and continue on in their days. This simple but significant moment gives Tris power over her own body and sexuality, she is able to dictate what she wishes to or not to do, and Four accepts this without question. There is no coercion, no awkwardness, and no backlash, it is simply accepted and their relationship through the movie continues to get only stronger.

In another scene, when Tris returns to Dauntless after a brief trip away, she is caught and attacked by three masked men. They carry her as she struggles against them to the chasm and attempt to throw her into it which would lead to her death. During the fight, Tris is able to unmask one of the men, revealing Al (Christian Madsen), one of her closest friends from Dauntless. Hearing the fight, Four approaches the situation and saves Tris from the three men, telling Tris that Al was at risk for being kicked out of Dauntless because of his low ranking, hence his irrational actions. Later that night, Al approaches Tris and begs for her forgiveness, stating that it was a mistake. However, Tris brushes aside his comments stating If you ever touch me again, I will kill you.

While Four’s heroism is the predictable and well played out knight-in-shining-armor-saving-the-damsel-in-distress scenario, Divergent saves itself by putting in Tris’s standing up for herself and pushing away Al’s feeble apologies. She advocates for herself by letting Al know that what he did was not okay and that she would not stand for her so called friends and fellow faction members to treat her so poorly.

A final scene that I wish to discuss, is during a simulation Tris is put into as a way to be tested on her ability to deal and conquer her fears, Tris is shown being sexually assaulted by Four. In the scene, Tris fights back and succeeds in defeating Four and protecting herself. And, when she comes out of the simulation, the crowd of onlookers around her cheer her on, chant her name for her admirable defeat, and praise her for her strength. They tell her she is a model and inspiration for other trainees, that her fighting was perfect, that it was right. They validate everything she has just done.

This is revolutionary. That a young woman is shown on screen being assaulted and comes out as the hero, is seen as someone who is extremely strong.

The fear of sexual assault is something that nearly every women can relate to, and over one fifth of that female population has experienced sexual assault. It is a very lived, terrifying, and real experience and often in the media, it is not something that is taken seriously. This scene, as well as the previous two, give power back to women. They are a visual representation of female empowerment and a culture where rape and violence against women will not be tolerated.

And that, is amazing.

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4 thoughts on “Divergent Gives the Middle Finger to Rape Culture

  1. I definitely agree, Divergent does a good job of undermining rape culture and defying the norm. In my post about Divergent, I also really loved how in her fear landscape Tris was not about to put up with being pressured into sex. I do still have a problem with her being grabbed and attacked, mainly just because of the point in the movie in which it was placed. But I liked your review a lot and I feel like it did justice the positive messages about rape culture in Divergent!

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    • Thanks for your feedback! I love hearing what you have to say and am going to go and check out your Divergent article!
      I’m curious as to what you mean by having a problem with the timing of Tris being attacked in her simulation, though. Do you mean timing in the movie as it was closer to the end?

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  2. Great article! I think it is super interesting how many of us have discussed Divergent in one form or another. It was a fun movie for sure, but was not quite the caliber of movie that I would expect to get this much hype. None the less, good points and well written!

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  3. I haven’t seen this movie, yet. I like the points you make about why it’s almost revolutionary for this particular movie to be so pro-women and their strength, demonstrating the idea that women can take care of themselves. I thought it was very well written, and good job using the point that the media desensitizes people to sexual assault.

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