The Movie 'Divergent' and the Split in Society

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Abraham Lincoln once said: “A house divided against itself cannot stand”. ‘Divergent’ is set in a post-apocalyptic society where a faction system is created in order to form a more perfect society with each faction simulating an ideal characteristic: Candor (honesty), Amity (kindness), Abnegation (selflessness), Dauntless (bravery) and Erudite (intellect). At the forefront of these factions are Abnegation and Erudite, these factions, although aiming towards one goal, the prosperity of the faction system itself, are often found in conflict. Thus, causing a major displacement in the dynamic of the communities as well as enforcing a level of ambiguity to be placed in the direction of the so-called government. These controversies and disputes are extremely applicable to the political unrest and controversy, we were facing at the time the movie was created (2014). This film narrates the potential outcome of unresolved turmoil furthermore expressing how groups can wield their followers into a sense of adherence with each side's ideologies. The system in its truest form puts a rift between all groups, ‘faction before blood’, if you are not for the cause of your own group you are against them, and this entire film expresses the lengths each the system will go through to make sure its citizens never forget it.

Integration of the above ideologies begins at a very young age for children of the communities, and most of the teachings are based around the fear of non-conformity. They grow up hearing and learning about their place in the system, and how it is their one duty as members of that faction to act and behave as that group is supposed to. For instance, if you are a part of Dauntless, you are brave, you are fearless, you are resilient, and you must act as such. Anything outside of that shows a level of disloyalty to not only your faction, but to the entire system it is founded upon. The government and those in power surround citizens with examples of fear: the factionless, and more importantly, Divergents.

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Divergents are people who have an equal aptitude for more than one faction which comprises the person's ability to conform. Those that do share this fate are taken care of quietly, and they are known as a threat that must be taken care of to preserve what has been set in place. The main character of the film, Beatrice Prior (Shailene Woodley), was born into Abnegation, and she quickly learns that she too is a Divergent. Beatrice’s family is high up in the community, and this factor makes an impact on the path she chooses for herself and the reputation of her family. Abnegation since the society was created has presented itself as the leaders of the municipal government as they are a class devoted to self-sacrifice. Mostly meaning that they would be the best equipped to handle the role without bias, for the good of the people rather than themselves. We are able to see from early on in the film that factions such as Erudite are not too pleased with the way Abnegation is running the community. They accuse them of stealing food, taking bigger rations for their own people, harboring Divergents, and not being diligent enough to do what truly needs to be done in a government. This puts a spotlight on Beatrice’s family, and when Beatrice chooses Dauntless as her new faction tensions begin to rise, and the curtain that is held up between the two opposing parties begins to fall.

Shortly after Beatrice joined Dauntless, she began a series of tests that would determine if she would be officially initiated into the faction. As this was going on, she began to take notice that there had been an influx of shady business occurring between Erudite and Dauntless. Such as meetings between the factions, and adverse propaganda from newspapers that was all being aimed at Abnegation. Other factions began to turn towards Abnegation in contempt. Beatrice felt a sense of loyalty towards the place she used to call home, and her Divergent nature began to seep out as she found herself with an ultimatum. Fight to uncover the truth and potentially get herself killed, or sit in complacency while the world around her turned upside down. The day of the initiation came and went and her fears and suspicions about Erudite’s intentions became crystal clear. Erudite had been planning to implant all Dauntless members with a serum that would turn them into mindless drones. Drones that would go on to overtake Abnegation and their place in government as well as kill off the entire faction. The serum used did not work on her because of her divergence, thus she began to take action. Beatrice with the help of a few others single-handedly freed the Dauntless while putting a stop to Erudite’s plan. In these few moments, she proves to the system that her eccentric nature is something that could potentially bring peace, and prevent things such as this from occurring. It establishes the point that there are things that need to be fixed in the society and the only way to truly fix them is to evolve. Divergenets are evolving and they along with Beatrice will bring about change, even if it starts a fight, they will end it.

At the time the movie was created (2014), the political parties of our own country began to be at a loss. This was four years after Obamacare had been put in place, and the scrutiny the bill faced as well as the unrest between the parties began to fester. Republicans and Democrats are the two main parties in the United States, and they have their fair share of differences. Republicans being more conservative and focused on the growth of the economy much like the Erudite and Democrats being more liberal and more focused on the humanities much like Abnegation. These differences used to unite them, it used to be seen as a small form of progression when parties fought, or rather a step towards the problem being solved. Now it has become more of a fight to prove who is the best party, who can gain the most support, and who can out the other party more. Propaganda is used on a daily basis for the purpose of turning us against our friends, family, and people we care about due to which party they associate with. These small but imperious links between the film’s culture and the U.S. is something to be noticed. The parties have given us the illusion of a choice, but in reality, we are forced to pick one side or the other, or live with the fear of being scrutinized. There is no middle ground and we have lost the ability to discuss differences without hostility, and open our minds to the fact that there may be more than one answer to any given problem. I believe that like people that are Divergents, there is unity in our differences and that people with different mindsets, thoughts, and strengths can empower each other to make the next step towards the continuous progression of the country. Then and now, we are at arms with the idea that we have to follow the direction of a group or be an outcast. America was once a country of possibilities and choices. A place where we could express our hopes for the future and not discriminate against people based on their beliefs. ‘Divergent’ is an embodiment of our inability to do just that. A warning to the governmental parties of the power they have over their citizens, and how the things they promote and execute can have a long-lasting negative impact on the direction of our society and the morale within it.

What’s more is the media’s reaction to the film itself. The movie received very split reviews on the overall character portrayal, and what some thought to be a cheap rip-off of ‘The Hunger Games’. More of the positive reviews relished in the fact that young adults understand the movies concepts and relating them to their lives now. A critic on Plugged In wrote about exactly that, “…today's young adult, book-based movies offer themselves up as something more than just simple entertainment. In addition, they also offer broad allegories, fantasy filters through which viewers can ruminate on real-world issues”. Reviews such as these gave the film high praise in some areas expressing that there is as a reason these movies are made and there's a reason teenagers and millennials alike are eating them up. It not only gives them something to relate to, but a way to conceptualize their feelings about growing up, and how our society plays a huge dramatic role in that process.

Ultimately, ‘Divergent’ is a brilliant example of the pandemonium that occurs in a battling government along with how each group’s advocates are willing to go for a sense of belonging to something bigger than themselves. It is a movie that gives us a high-stakes fictionalized story that can still be thought about and related to our own real-life situations. Beatrice Prior demonstrates the internal struggle of going against the current status quo of two powerful groups, and working to normalize individuality and differences. We must learn to grow together rather than tear each other down to prove irrational dominance. The house that is our society will fall in the midst of our division, and at the rate things proceeded in our government since the making of this film. I hate to say we are already half-way there.

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