Wednesday, March 26, 2014

Pass The Popcorn: Divergent

I have a lot of close friends who never had a child. I have others whose offspring are already away at college, medical school or out in the real world. Still another (a late bloomer, I guess) has a toddler. Think about that for a moment. Wow, is she brave!

Now, I love these women, I do. But, I also feel sorry for them.

How do my peers, women of a certain age, survive without a teenager on hand to tune them in to what's hot, what's not and what definitely-absolutely-positively cannot be missed?

How, for example, would any of these women know about Divergent? OMG.

Yes, Divergent is the latest pop culture phenom. (And I have my daughter to thank for my intimate knowledge of it.) First was Twilight. Then, The Hunger Games. Now, Divergent.

What happened to teen fiction? Somewhere along the way, the romances of yesteryear (how we all swooned over Healthcliff back in my day!) and the real-life real-girl narratives (Are You There, God? It's Me, Alex) morphed into these dark, dystopian sagas. It's not enough for a heroine to be a typical teenager, riddled with adolescent angst or — worse! — acne. Now, apparently, you have to be in a love triangle with a vampire and a werewolf. Or be in a fight to the death with other teen tributes. Or be a square peg individualist in a round hole faction in a futuristic, post-apocalyptic, bombed-out version of Chicago.

That, my friends, is where Divergent comes in.

Last weekend, my daughter and I had second-row, center seats for the new movie based on Veronica Roth's bestseller. After a war which virtually annihilated the human race, the powers that be decided that the survivors' best chance of ... well ... surviving would be to restructure society into "factions," each based on its members' core personality traits, and each playing a prescribed role for the betterment of all.

Sounds orderly if nothing else, right? The problem is that our heroine, one Tris (née Beatrice) is an anomaly. Despite some standardized testing that makes the SATs look like a walk in the park with puppies and kittens and ice cream, her results are "inconclusive." She doesn't fit into one of the factions. She is, in a word, in a bestseller title, divergent.

So, what would you do if you found you didn't really fit in? Well, naturally you would risk your life to join the toughest group, right? Of course right. 

Tris selects "Dauntless," whose brave members serve as society's warriors. But, choosing Dauntless doesn't mean that Dauntless chooses you. So, Tris has to go through all kinds of initiation hell: leaps out of moving elevated trains, scaling an old ferris wheel, hand-to-hand combat with nasty characters who are considerably larger, stronger and just plain meaner. There's blood. There's guts. 

There's a hunky instructor.

Tris and "Four" (as one smart-mouthed initiate asks, "What, were One, Two and Three taken?") fall in love and foil a deadly coup driven by another faction, the "Erudite." But, even as they escape in the final moments of the movie, we know it ain't over. There are two more Divergent books and probably three more Divergent movies (following the examples of Harry Potter, Twilight and Hunger Games, Hollywood will certainly split the last book into two installments).

Here's what I think my daughter and her peers find so appealing about all this. As teenage girls, they feel a lot like Tris. They are asked to conform. They are pigeon-holed as "brains" or "beauties." They may not be forced to fight each other in a ring, but things can get pretty brutal online.

Here's what I like. Tris is a girl. She's brave; she's strong; she holds her own. She even holds her own against boys. Does she ever!

Here's what I don't like. The way the studio felt the need to glam her up for the movie poster. Shailene Woodley was nowhere near as curvy or "come hither" in the actual film. Her hair was pulled back. And her stretch pants weren't quite that stretched.

Still, if Tinsel-town's executives are willing to produce bazillion dollar projects about a girl ... well ... stretch pants or not, things are looking up.

If you enjoyed this post, I invite you to order a copy of my new book Lovin' the Alien at   

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