‘Divergent’ and ‘The Hunger Games’ are two different worlds
Ever since “Divergent” hit the theaters March 21, the internet has been buzzing with discussion – Is “Divergent” the next “Hunger Games?” I think not. While the two franchises share a lot of similarities (futuristic dystopian society, female protagonists, rebellion), they are also very different from one another.
“The Hunger Games” is mostly a political drama told from the bottom-up. Katniss Everdeen (Jennifer Lawrence) is an ordinary girl in Panem, where every year children from across the country are selected to fight to the death in a competition called “The Hunger Games” on national television. Katniss’s fight is against the Capitol, the ruling city of Panem. Her struggle is entirely with external circumstances. She knows who she is and why her life is so hard. Katniss blames the Capitol’s oppression for her family’s starvation, and wants to end it for herself and other citizens in Panem. Katniss’s journey is about taking down the governmental structure and freeing Panem from the tyrannical rule of the Capitol.
Meanwhile, “Divergent” is a completely different story. Tris Prior (Shailene Woodley) is a normal girl in a futuristic Chicago. The city is divided into five factions. At 16, every citizen takes an aptitude test to help them choose which faction to live in for the rest of their lives. Tris, instead of getting one result, receives three, and is labeled as “divergent.” Therefore, she doesn’t belong to any faction and must be eliminated. Her battle isn’t primarily against the system, although that is the source of her problem. Tris is fighting to be accepted in a society in which she doesn’t belong. Hers is an internal struggle. Throughout her adventure, she is trying to uncover who she really is and what she really believes. She is trying to discover herself among the clear-cut ideologies of the factions. While Tris’s story does end up as a political battle, her real journey is through self-discovery, not political rebellion.
While these franchises are completely different, there is one main reason why they are being compared to each other: their female protagonists. This is a problem. Yes, these two franchises are wildly popular. Yes, they are young adult novels adapted to film. That alone might be enough to compare them, but once their female protagonists are thrown in, it makes the comparison unavoidable. Comparing “Divergent” and “The Hunger Games” because of their female leads is troublesome. It says that a female protagonist in an action role is uncommon and unusual – outside of the norm. This should never be the case.
“Divergent” and “The Hunger Games” are both great movies (way better than I expected), and I have enjoyed seeing their leads fight for what they believe in. Their fighting skills are amazing and very believable. It’s not a stretch to think that Katniss is a great shot with a bow or that Tris can fight anyone hand-to-hand. We need more movies like this. I want to see a woman taking action just as much (if not more) than a man. I want the female lead to be capable and believable. Katniss and Tris both have their flaws and shortcomings, but that just makes them more real. I don’t want is a female or male star who is perfect in every way. And the absolutely last thing I want is that female lead to be dressed in the skimpiest outfit known to man. “Divergent” and “The Hunger Games” set the bar, and are an example to the rest of the movie industry. A smart, capable and non-sexualized female lead can be a successful money-maker. Instead of pitting them against each other, why don’t we ask for more?