Divergent, which opened today in theaters across the country, has been called a “chick flick” and if that is how the film has been classified, the times they are a changin’. This dystopian young-adult film has more than its fair share of romance and in terms of appealing to “tweens,” it has a lot more going for it than a certain film with glittering vampires. At least the heroine in this film can kick butt along with the guys and does not need a man to make her complete or to help her to make up her mind.
Beatrice, or Tris when she changes her name later in the film, is pretty strong in her own right and as positive female role models go is pretty damned impressive. Unlike the vapid Bella Swan in the Twilight films, she has the ability to grow and chose her own destiny. Of course she still has the average teenage problems of feeling that she just doesn’t fit in and she’s right.
Divergent is clearly aimed at a young female audience, although at the pre-screening the viewer’s age range was fairly evenly distributed. The reactions from the younger female members of the audience were louder and more appreciative of the scenes aimed particularly at them. As a “chick flick” this science fiction/action/romance film is another example of just how the times are changing in this market.
In 1991, the Ridley Scott film Thelma and Louise was one of the first chick flicks to go against tradition. Two strong women, one more forceful than the other to be sure, go on a road trip where they show that the female of the species is not just the “little lady at home.” While this film could be seen as the forerunner to this new version of films aimed at women in the audience, it was not replicated by other filmmakers.
Twilight, which has a complete absence of a powerful female role model, is the biggest example of how chick flicks seemed to take a giant step backward. That changed with The Hunger Games and Katniss Everdeen. This young lady gave younger female moviegoers a more positive role model. The reluctant heroine in a dystopian post-apocalyptic world set a high standard in this new version of a chick flick. Unfortunately, the film franchise is pretty sparse in the romance department.
Divergent could lose points on originality since this film also relies upon a reluctant female hero but where Everdeen is concentrating on not loving Peta, Beatrice/Tris openly pursues the mysterious Four. The other thing that Divergent has is humor. The Hunger Games and its sequels are all pretty darned grim. There are not many chuckles to be found in the franchise.
There was a lot of laughter from all the audience at the advanced screening, although the female quotient was considerably louder. Divergent shows a continuing trend of chick flicks that are changing from the familiar The Bridges of Madison County type scenario. In this newest “romance” film, not only is the heroine the one who chooses the guy she wants, but she can also kick his butt if he steps out of line. A refreshing change that beats the hell out of the bland heroine of Twilight.
By Michael Smith