When you think about all the movies you’ve seen, how often does a girl or woman successfully evade a rape by fighting back not just with her words, but also with her body? According to the article Beth Lalonde wrote for Medium.com, “The ‘Divergent’ Rape Scene: Here’s Why It Matters,” your answer will probably be never. Or at least never until you had experienced what happens when a fear-simulated version of Four attempts to rape Tris in the Divergent movie. If you have already seen the film, then you have to read her piece. At the same time, however, I think that you need to keep yourself open to the possibility that the scene Lalonde discusses isn’t as positive as she would suggest. While it may rewrite the sexual assault script in the way that she suggests, it also rewrites the book, Tris’ character, and Tris’ relationship with Four in a way that may not prove to be completely positive.
Lalonde begins the article by discussing the experience that she and a theatre of young girls had when they sat down to watch the Divergent movie, but ended up seeing 30 seconds of the wrong movie – 300: Rise of an Empire 3D by mistake. (How an audience expecting a PG-13 movie could mistakenly be shown even a short section of a rated-R film is, however, one for another time.) Lalonde recounts how the new 300 movie begins with a female sexual assault victim screaming in response to the brutality she is experiencing as is typical in Hollywood portrayals of sexual violence by men against women, but isn’t able to stop them from attacking her. In contrast, the author eloquently argues that the Divergent movie is revolutionary because Four respects Tris’ wishes to take things slowly in their first kissing scene:
He listens to her no. He respects it.
In a media culture where – well, where movies like 300: Rise of an Empire 3D make millions of dollars – this in and of itself is nothing short of revolutionary.
Teenage girls all around the world are going to witness Tris insisting on consent, and teenage boys are going to witness Four listening to her.
Without a doubt, this moment in the film is an example of a positive budding sexual relationship for both young women and men, and it is something that young adult readers and moviegoers need to see more of in materials directed toward them. Teens should see more characters, who are unafraid to say whether they’re comfortable or not with the sexual part of their relationships and who respect one another. Heck, it’s something that people of all ages, not just teens, need to see more of in our culture because the opposite examples of unhealthy relationships and rape culture have been systematically ingrained in us from every possible source since we were children. (Not saying that every book needs to set a good example because I think young people can also learn from the mistakes of book characters and from their own mistakes. Isn’t that how we learned?) Unfortunately, there is a moment between Tris and a fear-simulated version of Four that plays out much differently than the positive relationship we’ve just discussed.
Continue to Part 2 of the Rape Culture In The Divergent Movie blog series now.