Sunday, March 23, 2014

Consent within 'Divergent'

I've spent the last few days since first seeing Divergent trying to figure out the best way to write this post. Not because I was ready to trash the movie, because I won't. I actually really liked it a lot. This post is more about the topic of consent. Consent in books. Consent in Hollywood. Consent in your very own high school.

Now, the topic of consent is such a tough subject for teens these days due to the fact that "rape culture" is so blatantly shoved in the faces of every teenager and young adult from the time they first discover the internet and movies. An age that's constantly getting younger with a more tech-driven education and upbringing. We are taught through images that woman are lesser than men and should fall in line to what the man wants, but that is not the case. Not ever.

One of the things I loved most about the film adaptation of 'Divergent' was the openness it had to consent and female power. From the very heart of the story, it's about a girl choosing her ultimate fate despite what her upbringing was or how it looked to other people. The decision was solely hers. A consensual agreement between the Factions and those choosing. From that point on, there are some scenes that involve Tris being attacked and nearly killed by fellow Faction members, entirely because she was too strong of a competitor, but was fought off thanks to Four. This was not a "damsel in distress" situation either. It was a difficult but necessary portrait of consent in the modern age where men think that overpowering a female will gain them the upper hand. In this case, not so much. The next day, one of those attackers comes up to her and apologizes but she stands up (an act of bravery and strength) and says, "If you ever touch me again, I will kill you." Literally, no means no.

As the movie continues, Tris and Tobias become closer to each other. One scene shows them kissing in his bed and Tris stops and says, "I don't want to go too fast." Tobias agrees showing, yet again, the power of the female in consent. He loved her enough to take things at a speed at which she was comfortable with, and that is important. Which makes the next scene tough.

Tris makes it to the final test before officially becoming Dauntless and must make it through the Fear Landscapes without cracking or showing her Divergent status. Her final and most difficult fear that she must face, sexual assault. It could've been anyone assaulting her, honestly, but the decision to use Tobias is what made it even harder. In the scene, Tris awakes in Tobias' bedroom and Tobias is walking towards her. They begin to kiss gently, only Tobias starts becoming a bit more aggressive to the point of holding her arms down. Tris tells him no but he continues causing her to fight back, eventually kicking him back and overcoming the final fear landscape. Lesson again, no means no.

After she comes out of the fear landscape, she is applauded, even cheered, for fighting back against Four and not giving in to his fabricated, aggressive desires. The way it should be when females fight back against men. It isn't a sign of weakness. It's a power move that must happen in the situation. Some people I talked to question the fact that this scene was different from the book in a way. But after re-reading that scene (pages 392-394), it isn't much different. She states, "My fear is being with him. I have been wary of affection all my life, but I didn't know how deep that wariness went. But this obstacle doesn't feel the same as the others. It is a different kind of fear--nervous panic rather than blind terror." (page 393) Then soon after, he is trying to go further and she tells him, "I am not going to sleep with you in a hallucination" before turning him away (page 394).

While the film itself took on a much more visual stance on consent and the female body than the book, they are both strongly feminist and fighting for the same ideals and issues as each other. This is the overarching meaning of Divergent. And this is why you should go see it and read the book. Female empowerment is something that is one the rise, and I couldn't be happier. I wish for equality and consent among all women and am thankful for a film/book that so strongly stands for that too.

So huge kudos and applause for author Veronica Roth for creating such a strong female character that stand when it is hard to.
What did you think about Divergent? Did you think the issue was taken too far?Were you happy with Tris and fighting back? Feel free to comment and discuss!

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