Rape Culture In The Divergent Movie: Here’s Why It Matters Part 3

rape culture in the divergent movie heres why it matters part 3 300x160 Rape Culture In The Divergent Movie: Heres Why It Matters Part 3This post is the 2nd in a 3 part series, called Rape Culture in the Divergent Movie: Here’s Why It Matters. Click here for the 1st part or the 2nd part.

Warning spoilers and potentially triggering discussion of rape and sexual assault.

Since Beth Lalonde’s argument about the applause Tris receives is unfounded and the artificial Four’s attempted rape suggests she always needs to always be on her guard around Four despite evidence to the contrary, one could argue that the rape scene in the Divergent movie may instil a fear of rape in teen girls or may reinforce the same fear in the minds of teens who have already had that fear instilled in them by society. Are you wondering either how the simulated rape scene that is thwarted by Tris could instil the fear of sexual assault in teens or how our society could instil this fear in them? If you’re wondering, then you need to understand that this is the very essence of what has come to be known as “rape culture.” In an article printed in The Globe and Mail, Jordan Venton-Rublee defines rape culture as “the environment that puts the onus on the victim, not the perpetrator. It is the actions and attitudes that lead to the survivors of sexual assault being responsible for proving that they were in no way responsible for the crime.”  Venton-Rublee gives a series of examples, which depict the ways in which survivors of sexual assault are reminded by society that the onus was always already on them:

Watch your drink so you don’t get drugged – not “don’t drug another person’s drink.” Don’t wear that, in case it send the “wrong message.” It’s the idea that a survivor’s testimony somehow becomes invalid if they, at some point talked to, walked with, or went home with the person who assaulted them. Especially if it’s night time. It is the comments that come out of sexual assaults that somehow because the survivor drank, they deserved what happened. It is the defence that mentions that the accused are “good boys,” or are “too attractive” – as if that excuses someone’s crimes. It is the fact that when an article about rape culture, sexual assault or even prevention is published online, it has to be patrolled. Otherwise, anonymous commenters perpetuate violence with comments such as “rape is a lie,” rape doesn’t exist because “women must want it,” that this is all part of some “feminist agenda” to hurt men.

In the case of teen girls who see the Divergent movie, it may cause them to be afraid, perhaps subconsciously, both that someone they know may sexually assault or rape them and that they may be forced to prove that it wasn’t – in any way – their fault, despite the that Tris is depicted as strong enough to fend off the artificial Four during the simulation. If you accept that it may, indeed, instil a fear of sexual assault in teen girls, then one could further argue that it actually maintains the status quo of rape culture in Western societies rather than does away with it as Lalonde argues. Why? Well, quite frankly, because rape culture teaches young girls how not to be raped, rather than teaching young boys not to rape. While the movie may deter young boys from attempting to sexually assault young girls, if only to avoid a powerful kick to the groin, it also, simultaneously, teaches young girls that they have to do everything they can to avoid being raped, from screaming and saying “no” to hitting or kicking their assailant if and when he doesn’t listen or respect them, like the real Four does. It teaches them, which is admittedly statistically true, that they are more likely to be assaulted by someone they know than by a stranger, but it also shows that they can only applaud themselves if they actually fight off their attacker. Which leaves me wondering, what would teen girls think about themselves if, in a similar situation, they couldn’t stop their attacker(s) either because they were too afraid to say “no” or to hit them or because, despite trying as hard as possible, they couldn’t get away from them?

Despite everything I’ve written here, I am glad that Beth Lalonde could see the Divergent movie’s rape scene in a positive light. I am glad that she could “we[ep]. Openly. Vocally. Because [she] had been there, in that bedroom, with someone [she] liked, and [she] had been too afraid to hit back. Too afraid to say no.” And I hope that other young and adult-aged survivors, who have seen the Divergent movie already or who are planning to see it opening weekend or in the coming weeks, can view the attempted rape scene in a positive way because they feel healed and/or are experiencing healing. While I hope for these things, I can’t help but point out that by rewriting Veronica Roth’s novel and transforming Tris’ fear of sexual intimacy into a fear of sexual assault and rape, the Divergent movie suggests that Tris, in particular, and young women, in general, shouldn’t feel safe with the people they chose to express their sexuality, no matter whether that is limited to a kiss or extends to any other type of intimate expression. It tells them that they may not be able to trust their instincts about people over these things. It says that they should always be a little bit afraid because they are women, and therefore, they should learn to protect themselves physically. It even maintains the status quo of rape culture when it reinforces the stereotype that only women can be forced into doing something sexual that makes them uncomfortable and that only boys and men can be the aggressors of sexual assault, even when 10% of 11th grade boys surveyed by CAHM admitted to being pressured into doing something sexually that they didn’t want to do. And it means that while I enjoyed the Divergent movie overall as you can see from my Divergent movie review, I wish the filmmakers hadn’t made the choice to change the scene in Tris’ fear landscape from what Roth originally intended, even if it wouldn’t have translated well on the screen, and even if it would’ve required a voice over to show what Tris was thinking. And most importantly, it means that even though some viewers will see this rape scene and the entire movie as “important,” we still need to recognize where boundaries exist that could use a little (or a big) push.

  33 comments for “Rape Culture In The Divergent Movie: Here’s Why It Matters Part 3

  1. March 23, 2014 at 3:09 pm

    I read the Beth Lalonde article, and your article, and all I have to say is, “You go, Melissa!” Thank you for doing the research and putting into words exactly what I thought about that article and about the movie. I actually think it’s incredibly dangerous for Lalonde to say that the movie was giving the finger to rape culture – it was clear that she hadn’t done her research about what was in the book and in the movie, and that she didn’t really understand the whole simulation part of it.

    I was annoyed at that scene in the movie because it didn’t really depict Tris’ fear of intimacy at all – which makes much more sense for her as a character – and it also, as you say, seems to indicate that she needs to be aware and afraid of rape from a character that she’s already involved in. It diminished her relationship with Four and the filmmakers seemed to think it was okay to just show that and pretend it wasn’t a rape scene because Tris was strong enough to fight it off.

    Basically, I agree with you that the scene seemed to encourage rape culture, not the other way around. I hope Lalonde sees this article and recognizes that (thought, like you said, I *am* glad that she felt that it was positive and it helped her).

  2. March 23, 2014 at 3:21 pm

    Thanks so much for taking the time to comment on my article, Tiff. Everything you said means a lot to me, and I’m glad that I wasn’t alone in thinking as I did about Lalonde’s article.

    Yes, the fact that the scene diminishes her relationship with Four was one of my big concerns, too. I kept thinking, how could she feel safe with him alone in his room earlier in the movie, if her fear landscape would play out the way does in the movie.

    I can guarantee that she will see my article because I noticed that there was a way to suggest links for further reading on her post, and thus, added all three parts of there. It says that it will be private unless the author approves it, so maybe no one else reading her piece will see it, but she will.

  3. josie
    March 24, 2014 at 5:38 am

    The other disempowering aspect of the rape scene is that Tris’ solution (physically fighting him off) is a fantasy. I don’t care how much karate she took last month. That tiny girl would never be able to fend off the muscular Four off set.
    So the message we are sending women is that if you are a fantasy action figure and can fend off your attacker, you’re a success. But what about the rest of us real women who can’t devote our lives to special ops training? The implication is that we deserve what we get.

  4. Bekka
    March 24, 2014 at 7:40 am

    I haven’t seen the movie yet, and so I’m glad I ran into this article and other discussions about the rape scene before I headed to the theater. Something like this is way too triggering to just throw into an adaptation like this one – no one will be expecting it because it doesn’t happen in the book.

    I’m even more wary about the implications of this rape scene because of what does actually happen in the book. Tris’s fear is of intimacy and I feel like putting in a rape scene where that fear should be represented is conflating sex with rape and that’s just disgusting.

  5. March 24, 2014 at 10:57 am

    Thanks for commenting, Josie. You’re so right that the fantasy aspect of the scene is important, and I like what you said it implies for those who aren’t fantasy action heroes. Great to talk with others about this important issue. :)

  6. March 24, 2014 at 11:02 am

    Thanks so much for commenting, Bekka! And thanks for mentioning both of these points. I definitely was not expecting the scene to be presented in that way it was, and it certainly could be triggering for survivors. And yes! The fact that sex and rape are conflated in this way is very troubling, disgusting, you name it.

  7. Leslye PJ
    March 24, 2014 at 1:52 pm

    “the Divergent movie suggests that Tris, in particular, and young women … should always be a little bit afraid because they are women, and therefore, they should learn to protect themselves physically.”

    I’m not sure how this is a bad thing. I mean, sure, it’s bad that this is the world we live in when any guy we go out with has the potential to rape us, but with rape being so prevalent, and in light of the statistic that most women are assaulted by someone they know, how is being a little afraid something to condemn? Perhaps in a utopia women wouldn’t learn to be afraid of sexual assault, but with reminders and experiences all around us, how can we not be? I am constantly aware that given the number of women who experience sexual assault, some percentage of the men I interact with daily must be perpetrators…

  8. March 24, 2014 at 3:37 pm

    Thanks for your comment, Leslye. I appreciate that you took the time to share your thoughts, especially because they differ with mine.

    While I do see your point, my issue with instilling fear in young women about the potential to being raped (beyond the fact that the book doesn’t depict an attempted rape scene, and changing this to show rape is a BIG difference in my opinion. Her bf never tried to do anything like rape in the book. He was just respectful of her.) is not that we shouldn’t know the statistics. In fact, thorough this part of the piece and the other parts, I used statistical data for this very reason. My issue with it is that rather than teach young boys that rape is something they shouldn’t do, we teach young women through this movie and many, many other instances that they should be afraid not just of being raped, but also of knowing that the onus will be on them to prove that a crime happened at all. My issue is that there are documented cases, such as in Steubenville, where a 16-year-old girl was raped by football players and their coach knew what they did, and did nothing about it other than tried to shield them from being prosecuted. And then after that, she was subjected to being referred to as “allegedly drunk” as if she was in some way responsible for the attack and casts doubt on her, even though there was photo and video evidence of her attack.

    I understand why girls and women become afraid of being raped over time, and I understand why it make sense to learn how to protect oneself. That said, when we don’t teach boys that it isn’t okay to take advantage of someone, when we imply that they’re just “good old boys” or “doing what is expected of boys and men” it’s a problem. The ‘Divergent’ novel shows that boys you know may hurt you, such as some of Tris’ fellow initiates who feel her up (not in the movie), but it showed also that there were boys/men that Tris could trust, too, and I don’t think that the movie was as strong in this respect.

    Overall, though, I just think it’s important that we discuss scenes like this and we consider why they are there, what they mean, and why that matters. Rape may be a choice committed by individuals, and not because they see it in our culture, but because they consciously decide that it’s their right to take what they want and to disrespect anyone to do it. And when our culture conflates desire and sex with rape as, I think, the movie does, it’s important that we talk about it for what it is.

  9. Leslye PJ
    March 24, 2014 at 3:50 pm

    Thanks. I absolutely agree that we should spend much more effort teaching boys not to rape, and not only that, not to be an accessory and just sit around filming their friends assaulting others.

    It’s been a while since I read the book, but I left the theatre wondering why they didn’t include the *actual* assault Tris endured when the boys felt her up in the middle of the night. I do agree it’s very problematic to conflate the actions of the guy she was scared of and who caused her harm (Peter) and her love interest.

  10. March 24, 2014 at 4:26 pm

    You’re welcome, and thank you for these follow-up comments. I absolutely agree with everything you’re saying here. The fact that a boy who isn’t participating, but thinks it would be good fun to photograph or film their friends assaulting and/or raping someone else is just all kinds of wrong. He is condoning the behavior, and let’s face it – possibly encouraging others that it’s a good idea to participate in the assault. Even worse is when adults who they look up to protect them and say, “oh, look at these poor boys whose lives are ruined,” when they should be concerned about the person who was attacked.

    As for the *actual* assault she endured from Peter, I wondered that too. I’ve read several other articles about the movie, and some people said that by leaving it out the guys were bad, but not monsters, and they also mentioned how, in general, Peter’s character wasn’t as much of a jerk/villain throughout since also his assault on Edward (where Peter stabbed him in the eye) was removed from the movie and he teased more than tormented. I also read an interview with Neil Burger, the director, who said that they filmed the *actual* assault from Peter, but thought it was more powerful if they just attempted to throw her over the water. (Not really I understand why that was, but whatever.) He also said that they filmed the scene where Peter stabbed Edward in the eye, but had to delete it for timing and then said “that’s a good idea” when the interviewer suggested that they could add that scene to the DVD extras, but who knows if they will.

  11. Sarah
    March 24, 2014 at 5:10 pm

    I haven’t seen the movie, but to me in the book it didn’t read as rape, it read as fear of losing her virginity. I thought it was a nice change of pace in that it made sex a bigger deal than most media currently does, but I didn’t read it at all as rape. I thought it was a big contrast for Tris to take modesty and her virginity as being serious things even while living in a faction that likes to drink and do things that are generally considered to be daring. I enjoyed that modesty and sex were viewed as important to Tris, and that the fear of losing her virginity and having that first sexual experience was addressed. In no way did I think her fear was of being sexually assaulted or raped tho.

    EDIT: I guess the movie changes this seen to a rape one? That’s a huge statement and a rude one as well. It’s almost as if to say, fear of having a consensual sexual experience can’t exist, so she must actually be afraid of rape. It’s taking something that it should be okay to be nervous about and trivializing it as well as perpetuating rape culture and making four into a bad guy. ugh. I’m no longer as excited to see the movie :/

  12. March 24, 2014 at 6:21 pm

    Thanks for your comment, Sarah. I completely agree with you – the book didn’t read as rape and beyond that they never even get on the bed. There is a mention of leaning against the bedpost as Tris kisses him, but nothing like what happens in the movie.

    And I agree that it does trivialize the fear of consensual sex, perpetuate rape culture, and make it look like Tris is afraid Four could become a bad guy. At the same time, when it’s really Four in a scene – not him as Tris sees him in the simulation – he is exactly as respectful as we’d expect him to be from reading the books.

  13. Jay Jason
    March 25, 2014 at 4:45 am

    This movie is filled with feminist propaganda. Not only the rape scene but other things as well. Its disgusting. Feminism is brainwashing women. Long live MGTOW!

  14. March 25, 2014 at 10:04 am

    I’m not sure what you mean by feminist propaganda, nor how an attempted rape scene in which the young woman doesn’t get raped is “disgusting.” In the scene, her simulated boyfriend didn’t listen when she said, “no,” as he touched her, didn’t stop, and in fact, pinned her down, so only her legs and knees were free to fight being attacked.

    While I don’t think the scene should’ve played out the way it did because the scene wasn’t an attempted rape in the book, I don’t see what’s wrong with the scene other than that rape is disgusting.

  15. March 25, 2014 at 10:13 am

    Some guys understand that rape is wrong, some guys don’t…clearly…since they choose to rape. I don’t think what Leslye said is “idiotic,” and you haven’t proven anything by saying that it is. And calling someone a “feminazi” to further your case really does nothing for it. How is stating that teaching boys that rape is wrong in anyway like what the Nazi’s did during the Holocaust?

    For the record, I also think that we need to realize that men can be pressured into doing something sexual that they don’t want to do as well, even by women, and I also think that women can say sexist things about men, but that doesn’t that boys don’t need to learn not to rape rather than always teaching girls what they should/shouldn’t do because it might “give the wrong impression” to a guy.

  16. Jamie87
    April 11, 2014 at 4:18 pm

    I do think that Lalonde does have some valid points and that it is important for young girls to see someone they can look up to fighting back. But it is also correct to say that this was a major miss by the screenwriters and director to decide to change this scene in this way when it wasn’t necessary. If they wanted to show Tris’ fear of being attacked, they could have used the fear of people coming to kill her — and she says that it is just like when Peter, Drew, and Al tried to throw her over the edge.
    I don’t think they necessarily needed this scene when they could have developed Peter’s character more to show that Peter was evil. It is an important piece for the remaining novels (and I would assume movies) that Tris openly cannot trust Peter because he has tormented not only her, but the other initiates throughout their initiation process. It was so disappointing for me to not have that well developed “Peter” arc because I didn’t find myself hating him at the end of the movie as much as I loathed him at the end of reading Divergent. There was enough acts of aggression on Tris’ part in dealing with Peter (in the novel, there were more but there were aspects of it in the movie) that changing Tris’ fear to being raped was unnecessary. Time constraints or not, it felt like a huge miss to not develop Peter to be as truly evil as he is in the novels, especially when adding in a scene that didn’t happen in the novels.

  17. April 12, 2014 at 5:07 am

    Thanks for commenting, Jamie. I agree with you that it’s important for a girl to see others fighting back, though I think they could have done this, at least to some degree, in the scene with Peter, Drew, and Al attacking her. She might not have been able to take on 3 guys, but she could have fought back or said something when he was taunting her.

    I also agree with you that not only was it a major miss on behalf of the screenplay to add this scene, but also to alter Peter’s character in such a way that he doesn’t seem like a monster. I guess they’re banking on the fact that he attacked her as one reason that she wouldn’t trust him in the remaining books, but I think the stuff that happens between her and Peter in book 2 take on less significance because he isn’t as awful in the Divergent movie.

  18. Patty
    April 17, 2014 at 3:21 am

    Thanks for posting this – whilst the original post raised some important points and I’m glad they were able to take comfort in Tris’ fear landscape, it fundamentally changes the power dynamics of four/tris for the worse, I think. The fact that sexual assault is one of her greatest fears in the movie and that Four represented that underlines that regardless of Tris’ consent, Four is fully capable of forcing her to do something she doesn’t want, whereas I think in the book the relationship is depicted as more healthy, with mutual respect and equal agency within it, which I think is somewhat undermined by the inclusion of that scene in the movie.

    On top of that, whilst Tris was able to fight back, not all victims can. I’m a little worried that by including Tris as an exceptional example in such a way that for any survivors who couldn’t resist, it actually reinforces rape culture in some ways and may internalize some victim blaming, for example with victims feeling like they SHOULD have done more to resist their own assaults, even when they couldn’t due to safety or drugging or any other number of factors.

    I also agree with Bekka about conflating sex with rape, and I’m disappointed that there wasn’t a trigger warning for anything like a rape scene in the movie, considering that it wasn’t present in the book. It felt like throwing rape victims under the bus to make for more interesting viewing at a very superficial level.

  19. April 17, 2014 at 4:14 am

    Thanks for commenting, Patty! I’m glad you appreciated what I wrote. I know what you mean about being glad that the original writer could see something positive in the scene, I agree with you that it changes the relationship between Four and Tris from one of mutual respect and agency to something that seems very unhealthy.

    I also think you make some great points about how the scene could cause some survivors to internalize victim blaming if they, for whatever reason, were unable to fight back. I’m sure that some teens and women would freeze up in a similar situation, even if they weren’t drugged, because we aren’t taught to be aggressive to a certain extent. Plus, it’s not always safe to use force as you mentioned. I would also argue that there is a big difference between Tris at that stage in her training and most teen girls. She’s trained over several weeks on how to hit, kick, and punch, among other types of defensive and offensive strategies, which makes kicking out at Four reflexive. I remember that the first time I took a martial arts class – and this was aikido mind you, which rarely involves directly hitting someone, just simulated, choreographed attacks and control reversals – I was really uncomfortable with defending myself. It was only after going week after week that I felt comfortable with the techniques.

    And yes, the scene conflates sex with rape, which is really unfortunate. Even worse, I read the director being quoted as saying, “It’s not about rape,” it’s “about control” after there was so much controversy about the scene. All I can say to that is that once someone puts their “artistic” creation out there in any form, they lose full control over the meaning of it. He may have intended one thing, but moviegoers, in this case, have the right to interpret it in the way that speaks to them. I know that after I saw it on opening weekend, some people were tweeting a trigger warning, but I agree with you that it would’ve been nice if that had been done on a larger scale and/or through an official channel to make survivors more comfortable or help them decide to not see it if need be.

  20. anonAtheistNo42
    April 20, 2014 at 1:12 pm

    I have to disagree with your analysis on two accounts.

    When we look at these greatest fears that are shown in the simulations like the fear of heights, claustrophobia or the fear of being attacked by a flock of ravens we see that these are irrational fears. These irrational fears are instantiated in situations that are real dangers that would not or hardly ever happen in real life. And Tris is not just sexually assaulted by some stranger but by Four someone who made it clear that he would not do anything that she does not want. So what the scene says is that this fear of her is irrational because that would never happen in reality.

    Concerning the applause: It is true that this actually happens in the simulation but it is not her subconscious applauding her it is meant to be realistic. Tris does not go “Oh the applause and the well done by Four that would never happen in reality thus I must still be in a simulation”. No she thinks: great that’s the way I would expect them to react in reality so the simulation must be over. And then she is asked to shot her family she would not hesitate if she was sure she still was in a simulation.

  21. April 20, 2014 at 6:56 pm

    Thanks for your comment. I disagree that all the fears shown in fear landscapes are irrational. Four was claustrophobic because his father locked him in the closet in his room when he was a child as a punishment, and he saw his father hitting him with a belt because, again, this actually happened to him as a child. Even if he has no real reason to be afraid of heights and Tris has no real reason to be afraid of ravens pecking her to death, there is a very real and legitimate reason for some of the fears shown according to the book and the character’s backstories. My main concern with Four being one shown attempting to rape her is that the book showed a sexual assault on Tris, but from the hands of her fellow initiates, and I think that putting Four in that position instead, diminishes the trust the two of them had in the book and the movie otherwise.

    As for the reason that she hesitates to shoot her family, the book is very clear in showing that she hesitates in shooting them because she loves them. In fact, in the book, she doesn’t shoot them. Instead, she turns the gun on herself and shoots herself rather than anyone in her family. I think, from what you’ve said, it’s clear that you haven’t read the novel.

  22. anonAtheistNo42
    April 21, 2014 at 7:02 am

    Thanks for your reply. I should have said it right away, that I have not read the novel so I watched the movie without any background knowledge. Your reply has made it even more clear that the problem is that a lot of people have read the books before watching the movie and thus take the framing of the book as valid for the movie. Which you can’t do in places where the movie either implicitly or explicitly deviates from the book frame. And yes childhood trauma is a legitimate source of your greatest fears but that does not make these irrational fears any more rational.

  23. April 21, 2014 at 7:20 am

    The only part where the movie substantially deviated from the book was the rape scene itself, since in the book she was afraid of intimacy, not rape, so I’m not sure how your argument makes any sense. (And of course, you would know that if you had read the book or if you read it now after having seen the movie.)

  24. Brooke Bowen
    April 28, 2014 at 8:35 pm

    I disagree, I don’t think it was handled incorrectly at all. Tris is in a relationship with four, she trusts him and in the book after the fear simulation (where he does forcefully advance on her) she is at first scared but then when she’s with him she realises it is just an irrational fear. Of course she’s nervous about having sex with him but she’s never scared about him raping her. The same as she doesn’t walk around constantly afraid of being attacked by crows. It’s not about the crows or about four. It’s about fear and moving past it.
    In the movie, when tris first sees four she forgets she’s in the sim, the same as she does in the book. When he starts making advances she realises it’s not him, it’s just the sim, recoups and kicks him.
    When you deal with just the basics though, there’s a girl being advanced on by a guy and she takes none of it and stand up for herself. She doesn’t play the victim she fights back. And I do think that’s a positive message to send out for anyone. 99% of people aren’t going to dissect the whole scene. They see a strong female character sticking up for herself. Which is inspiring.

  25. April 29, 2014 at 9:48 am

    Thanks for your comment, Brooke. I agree that seeing a girl stand up for herself in this situation is something we don’t regularly see, but I have to disagree. A lot of girls and women have been through a situation like this in real life, and a scene like this, especially one that the readers didn’t anticipate, can be triggering. Even the language that you used, saying that “she doesn’t play the victim,” implies something negative about any girls and women who weren’t able to fight off their attackers. Just so you understand, it’s not playing the victim if a girl or woman is unable to fight back, no matter what the reason for it.

  26. Brooke Bowen
    April 29, 2014 at 3:25 pm

    Thanks for replying. No that’s not what I meant at all, it wasn’t the right line to use and if it cause offence I apologise.
    However how can you be triggered by a rape scene that doesn’t even happen when there was a massive possibility that the peter/touching scene could have been in the movie. I’m glad they took it out, it was horrible to read in the book, it would have been worse to watch in the movie.
    I get what your saying but I think if someone pushing someone onto a bed is triggering for you, you should pick the movies you watch more wisely.

  27. April 30, 2014 at 6:07 pm

    I never said that I was personally triggered by the attempted rape scene, but the article of the original post on Medium.com said that she was triggered and was crying, even though she ultimately thought the scene was positive. I’ve also spoken to a lot of people via Twitter and Facebook, who found the scene to be triggering. What I’m trying to say is that you can’t say what will be triggering to someone else, only yourself, and much of what you say here, even as to whether one should choose the movies that they watch more wisely, sounds really judgemental and just another form of victim blaming.

  28. Momof3grls
    September 30, 2014 at 3:27 pm

    I just watched Divergent with my 13, almost 14 yr. old daughter last weekend. I have never read the books nor had I heard of them before the movie came out. I think your article makes a lot of good counter arguments to the opposing one for sure. I would however, like to comment from my pov. The pov of a woman, mother, wife, daughter, & decent human being. I thought the movie was good, entertaining and that it was nice to see a strong, bright, young girl saying she wanted to take things slowly. Here is this girl who is in a room alone with this older very attractive man & she is saying “lets go slow” & he is basic. saying “ok, no prob” & meaning it. That to me was a very refreshing scene in this movie. As for the scene where she is facing her most terrible fears I think your both making too much out of it. I didn’t take Four being the one to assault her as deeply as many I guess. I didn’t see it as her fear was of him, as much as I took it that she was fearful of being assaulted sexually, period. I assumed her mind, under the influence of this “serum” would just pick the closest(non-relative), most impt. male fig. to her to make the most impact in a situation such as that. I asked my daughter what she took out of that scene and she said basically the same thing. I also asked her if that made her think Tris was, deep down, fearful of Four or that it meant she couldn’t really trust him? She, without hesitation said not at all did that even cross her mind. I think sometimes we adults try to look to deeply into situations our children are not only NOT looking that deeply into but aren’t quite capable of looking at things the same way as we adults are, for whatever reason. I think we put too much pressure, not only on our children but on ourselves. We are always looking outward to try and figure out what damage is being caused to our children by this new thing, or this new movie or song etc. etc. Sure all of these things influence and shape our children to a certain extent, but I think at times we forget that the most influence in any persons life comes from their direct caregivers. Instead of looking at all of these “outside factors” as to what is shaping our children, we need to look within ourselves. Fact is our kids our exposed to things they shouldn’t have to be, we as adults are exposed to things we shouldn’t have to be for that matter. Caregivers whomever they might be, parents, grandparents, foster parents, aunts, uncles, pastors, etc. etc. need to focus on the child right in front of them & learning what this wonderful young person needs in order to have the best chance at a successful life. Instead of trying to learn from the rest of society what is good or not good for our children & cut that out, we need to look inside ourselves and at our kids. Everything starts at home. Each child is different, unique, special, but they all start out wanting the same things, to be loved, excepted, safe & heard. The diff. is they may receive those things in diff. ways. Meaning, one child might receive love through one action & another child might need something completely diff. to feel loved loved or maybe they just need a whole bunch more of that same thing, if that makes any sense. Sorry I am typing this quickly before my water boils for spaghetti, lol. Anyway my point is, find a way to give them those things, with boundaries of course, and regardless of what society throws at them they should be just fine. Then again what the heck do I know :)

  29. October 1, 2014 at 9:26 am

    Thanks for sharing your comment and perspective. I appreciate it. I don’t have children myself, nor are there any children in my care, so there certainly wasn’t a teen who I could ask their opinion on it. I also agree with you that it’s nice that Four respected Tris’ desire to go slowly, it certainly is a breath of fresh air. That said, I still really would’ve preferred Tris’ fear to reflect the message in the book – about being nervous about the sexual part of a relationship with an older guy – than a scene in which she has to fight him off because he isn’t respecting her wishes to go slowly.

  30. Momof3grls
    October 1, 2014 at 5:50 pm

    Hi Melissa, I should have made my feelings clear on what I think about studios taking an amazing novel and turning it into something less than palatable. I guess I didn’t comment on the fact that the entire premise of that scene was changed because I have not read the books. However, I can have an opinion and do ;). I agree with you 100%. I am confused as to why they even changed it honestly. I am not sure what the diff. in scenes did for the story they told?? Anyway, I appreciate your response and think people like you is what makes America the greatest Country in the world. The fact that we get to have these debates is just a true gift, is it not. I know we are only discussing fiction, but it’s not the topic that is impt. here, it is the idea behind the topic. The fact we are allowed to have opinions about anything we want without fear of serious repercussions is a true blessing. Have a wonderful week Melissa :)

  31. October 3, 2014 at 3:41 pm

    I think that they either didn’t think it would be believable to adults that Tris was scared of intimacy (and I know they hoped that adults would view the movie, too) or that they thought it would be harder to depict that on the big screen. That said, it wouldn’t have been the first time that they used a voice over for Tris, so I think they could’ve made it work in the movie if they wanted to do so.

  32. EmilyP
    October 16, 2014 at 5:43 pm

    Okay, first I’d like to state that I have read the books, and I have watched the movie, and that I agree with a lot that was said here in your article.

    Not only does that scene have the potential to have a damaging influence on its audience in all the ways you mentioned, and by contributing to rape culture, but it is also just frustratingly unnecessary on the level of a book-to-movie adaptation.

    It’s also irritating due to the fact that there WAS a sexual assault scene in the book (one which the author herself admits she regrets given the way she handled it). Regardless of the fact that the lack of consequences was problematic in the book, the scene with Peter’s attack made sense–it was about asserting a kind of authority, about humiliating her, putting her down. Fine. It fits with the motivations of the scene, and also with real life motives. If anything, the writers and director of the movie could have built on that to create a more successful arc of it, where Roth fell short. Having Four attack her in the movie, however, during a simulation that is being monitored with an audience, and which leads into a type of ‘plot twist’ by subverting our expectations that the simulation is now over, just makes the scene seem like pure shock-factor. (I mean, really, having government officials and your boyfriend witness your inner mind grappling with the idea of him raping you is a bit like that dream where you stand naked in front of your peers and teachers).

    I get all of these issues. I see them, I understand them, I agree with them. But.
    As a writer, this is a genuine question I’m asking of readers and viewers on here–
    How should these scenes be handled? It seems pretty lose/lose from this angle, and yet I know and feel strongly that this is an issue that NEEDS to be presented and addressed, even if it’s not done the way everyone expects or wants.

    Some people on here are arguing that a strong female character fights back and wins, others argue that on one hand that’s a ‘fantasy’ outcome (which is an argument I find unfair to women in general, but that’s for another discussion). And others claim that regardless of whether it is possible or not for a woman to fight her attacker, it’s alienating to victims who haven’t fought, or who have fought and lost. So what then? As a writer, do you have to go through with the attack? Have her saved? And if so, saved by who? A man? An on-looker?

    I guess in my own opinion, a woman fighting back is not a bad thing to see, if only because it will encourage women to try. I took a 3 day self-defence seminar that was geared entirely on training your instinct to fight like hell. Push, shove, wiggle, bite, scratch. Even those who have taken a handful of self defence courses will likely freeze in the moment. A heel of the palm to the nose is a good tip, but not practical in that moment when your brain shuts down and you can’t even work up a scream.

    One of the three hired attackers was my history teacher, and let me tell you it was weird and uncomfortable. But I’m the type of person that freezes up when someone chases me in a game of tag, let alone down a dark, desolate street, or in a metro station, or wherever else — so that kind of opportunity to break that habit was amazing. If my writing could have even a fraction of that kind of eye opening influence on a reader, then isn’t that a good thing? (Of course, I’m aware of why someone WOULDN’T fight an attacker, I could list dozens of reasons, and I wouldn’t want to offend or upset those who have been through that–but is it really wrong to show a situation that is different from their own personal experience?)

    I think the ideal in this debate would be to have an on-looker step in. Takes the pressure and expectation off of the victims to defend themselves (in a situation where doing so could be even more detrimental and dangerous), but also doesn’t excuse the actions of the attacker. Not to mention it opens the eyes to readers, society, the larger audience, that, “No. That it wrong. We should not allow that; we should stop that.”

    Sorry, I’m just kind of brainstorming all this, and using your article as a forum for it, I guess. I’ve been in far too many writing workshops where people have shied away from the topic in fear of being *that* student that made another classmate walk out crying. (I’ve seen it happen). Thanks for the thoughts you’ve inspired. I realize a lot of this doesn’t pertain to Divergent (the movie or the book) in particular, but I thought it made a good vehicle for the larger discussion in general.


  33. October 16, 2014 at 6:24 pm

    Thanks for your comment, Emily. Even if it goes beyond the scope of the article I wrote, I agree with you that it can be a discussion that reflects larger concerns about rape scenes and rape culture in general.

    I certainly wouldn’t th myself an expert on how we should treat rape scenes or what would be a better alternative. I do agree with you, however, that if the people behind the movie had perhaps expanded upon the treatment of the sexual assault that does happen in the book it might’ve worked. (At least in my opinion.) As a reader of the books, I expected to see that scene, and you’re correct that the motivations of it would’ve made sense whereas the motivations for the actual scene and its audience aren’t obvious. I tried to make suggestions in my article as to why they would’ve made those changes, but I was mostly just grasping at straws and trying to give voice to the other side of the argument, even though I disagreed with it.

    While I can see why some viewers felt the “woman fighting back” could be problematic for survivors, I agree with you that there is an aspect of the scene the way it is shown that could be a positive example for some people. It is probably one of the first times that I’ve ever seen a woman fight off a sexual attacker like that in a movie. Of course, I think that it would have been better if the attacker she was fighting off wasn’t Four. (If it was Peter as in the original scene for example.) Maybe Tris could’ve fought off or attempted to fight off him, while Four came up and helped as he does in the book.

    When you brought up the self defence course that you took, it reminded me of my own years taking a martial art called aikido. Unlike typical self defence or most martial arts courses, it is noncompetitive and uses simulated attacks that the practitioners defend themselves using various arm locks and other means of lowering the “attackers” centre of gravity or unbalancing them. Despite the fact that I never was expected to hit anyone while in the “attacker” position, I found the first class a bit uncomfortable because I felt so ill equipped to defend myself in anyway. Of course, this changed the more I practiced. I’m not sure whether I’d freeze up if I were in a situation now or not as I no longer practice aikido (do to injury), but I’m sure that it was the first time I felt like I could actually feel comfortable trying to defend myself.

    As for writing, I think that you’ll never satisfy everyone – no matter which way you decide to go with hard scenes – if you present them in your stories or novels. I’ve seen some books that never give an moment by moment account of the actual assault, that focus more on the after effects of it with brief glimpses of the assault scattered throughout the novel. I’ve also seen some that show the assault and then show another attempt that the survivor thwarts, such as in Laurie Halse Anderson’s Speak. In books where either of these elements are successful and not offensive (in my opinion), the character really has to grapple with the consequences of what happened to them. While I think that in the book Divergent, it seems like Tris barely thinks about or is affect by what happened to her, other than feeling guilt because of what happens to Al afterward (and that wasn’t the sexual assault). It doesn’t mean that if the author uses the assault in an effective way that someone who has been sexually assaulted won’t be triggered by it, but if the reader is able to see the character trying to get through it or process it, then it makes sense to me. When that happens, it’s not an assault or an attempted assault that is only there to put the character in the position of a victim and then to forget about it. Does that make sense?

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