Insurgent, the sequel to the popular movie Divergent staring Shailene Woodley and directed by Robert Schwentke is a great step forward for female leads by demonstrating the anxieties in post-feminism.
I saw the film in March with my mom and dad for a family movie day. My mom, as an avid fan of Divergent book trilogy, was especially excited for the movie. Although I have not read the novels myself, I remember leaving the theater for the first film last year pleasantly satisfied. We purchased our tickets for $5 each and proceeded to buy popcorn, candy, and pop. I was surprised the theater was not full, as we saw the film on the opening weekend. When I saw Mockingjay opening weekend a few months back, there theater was almost entirely full. What was so different about the movies that pushed viewers away from the Divegent series?
Insurgent begins almost right after the first film ended. While running from the corrupt government, Tris and her friends find refuge with the Amity group. After their location is compromised, they then head back into the city and hide out with the Factionless. Soon Tris discovers Erudite is not looking for her to kill her, but they need her in order to open a box that belonged to the city’s founders. She turns herself in and successfully completes the simulations that open the box, which reveals their city was an experiment and the Divergents are completion of the experiment. They are then welcomed to leave their city and join the rest of the world.
Although the film follows the cliche teen dystopian trend, Insurgent goes in directions that other teen dystopian films with female leads are missing. For example, in The Hunger Games, Katniss is also thrown into a world with a corrupt government, and it is up to her to save it. Jessica Critcher notes that “Katniss is courageous and she does whatever she has to do to keep her family safe.” Although these are redeeming qualities, Katniss’s bravery often gets mistaken for being feminist because she is a female. Katniss is constantly trying to work against how her society functions, but she must follow the rules to do so. Instead of making her own choices and being herself, the Capitol decides how she must act, which includes her relationship with Peeta. Even in Mockingjay when she is helping District 13 work against the Capitol, they use her and control her actions similarly to how the Capitol did. Katniss never gets the chance to be herself, and she allows the society she is currently living in to control her.
Unlike Katniss, Tris needs to indulge in own personality herself to overcome the controlling society, not give in to them. When Tris discovers she is Divergent, she begins to learn about herself and uses her uniqueness is a source of empowerment. In fact, the Divergents may be a nod to postfeminism. According to Gill, “Notions of choice, of ‘being oneself’ and ‘pleasing oneself’, are central to the postfeminist sensibility…” which is the “…almost total evacuation of notions of politics or cultural influence.” (153) In the city Tris lives in, all citizens are divided into five factions based on their personality; Erudite, Amity, Candor, Abnegation, and Dauntless. Not only does this system allow citizens to be themselves, but they are given the choice of which faction they join. However, this system has issues with politics and culture, so it would be difficult to label it as postfeminist. Since Tris emerged as a Divergent with traits of all five factions, one could argue this is Tris overcoming the system and is leading the world into postfeminism.
Another surprising aspect in Insurgent was Tris’s relationship with Four. While Katniss is constantly confused about her love life, Tris is confident with her relationship. Nothing is forced about their relationship like how Katniss is supposed to “choose” Peeta or Gale; it just happens naturally. Tris and Four care deeply for each other, and they work together while still using their individual strengths to get things done. After Tris and Four realize the Erudite faction is looking for her, Four asks her not to go, but she leaves anyway. Her lack of communication with Four shows how the “choices” that postfeminism allows her to make do not actually impact a relationship. Four still follows her decision to leave, and doesn’t question why she leaves. Tris confidently makes decisions on her own, but Katniss struggles over these similar choices. Although some might say Tris is a feminist for being independent, it is unclear whether the choices she makes are good for others as well.
After analyzing how postfeminism comes into play in Insurgent, I am still puzzled why The Hunger Games is more popular. Although this is a review of Insurgent, I think it’s important to understand why Katniss is praised and Tris is ignored in media culture. It a comes down to choice. Katniss makes decisions in a world where she is told that she can’t be who she wants to be while Tris lives in a world where everyone can make decisions about their future. Also, instead of blaming Katniss for the deaths of the tributes, society is to blame, while Tris blames herself for the death of her parents. In other words, Katniss is feminist, and Tris is postfeminist. There are many debates about whether our society still needs feminism or if we have moved into postfeminism. I might be making a stretch, but the praise of Katniss may signify culture is still in need of feminism.
Overall, I enjoyed Insurgent just as much as I enjoyed Divergent. The characters in Insurgent are not stagnant, and they continue to develop despite being the sequel of a film. I look forward to the next installment of the series, and I hope to read the books in the future as well.