The second installment in the ‘Divergent’ series is a typical Hollywood celebration of more violent solutions to critical challenges to oppressed and marginalized people.
Many young adults and teens are attracted to “dystopian thrillers.” Box office receipts bear this out. “Dystopian films are set in future societies where civilization has broken down and the legal system is a farce,” writes Joe Queenan in “TheGuardian.” “People think they are happy, but that is only because the cunning fascist overlords have induced them to trade freedom for tranquility,” he says.
And slate.com says of the ‘Divergent’ series, “Brutal, highly factionalized worlds governed by remote authoritarian entities? That’s basically high school.”
Dystopian films are full of action, special effects, a storyline that demonstrates a failed future society that is controlled by authoritarian adults who reign submission and compliance over the population. The situation is ripe for an emergent leader to organize the masses and challenge the oppressive system.
In ‘Insurgent,’ as well as ‘The Hunger Games’ films, the emergent leader is strong, skillful, agile, smart, attractive AND, a young woman. Score one for Hollywood.
In our current world where the population is growing exponentially, resources including water and fossil fuels are diminishing, two billion people live in poverty, species of plants and animals are becoming extinct, war and conflict continue and our own government is one of the top U.S. problems, real time vision of the future can look very similar to dystopia.
So where is God in these films?
‘Insurgent’ is complicated if you don’t know the background. In last year’s first episode, ‘Divergent,’ we learn of a post-apocalypse society that has found peace by ordering itself into five factions. A council of leaders from the five keeps the balance as long as each faction lives up to its strengths.
The problem is there are some people who don’t fit into one of the factions. They are called divergent. In this latest release the main character, Tris Prior (Shailene Woodley), is seen as a threat to the order of society by the head of the council (Kate Winslet). In one scene, a truth serum is injected into “Tris” and “Four” (Theo James). Following each injection they are told, “May the truth set you free”; a subtle nod to John 8:32?
Tris is arrested, tortured to get information, and dies. BUT, miraculously she comes back to life! Seeing this movie in Holy Week one can’t help but see some of the Jesus story. Just some. While Tris discovers the answer to a society that is inclusive and has no factions, sadly the only way it is achieved is through nearly constant violence, gunplay and deception.
For the globe’s young people today, these films are the stuff of dreams. They create a place where teens and young adults see their heartfelt desire to “just make a difference” as real possibility. They are a place where non-conformity, risk-taking, common cause, and relationships are center stage. Hope for the future is renewed and clearly articulated in ‘Insurgent.’ Except for the violence, score two for Hollywood.
And you know what, perhaps the dystopian films are really meant for those of us well past our “young adult years.” Perhaps they can give us insights into the hopes and dreams of the young people in our lives. Perhaps there is an opportunity for conversation with them about insurgence and risk-taking, about common cause and relationships and about the future and making a difference.
So why not find out about ‘Insurgent’ – or any other film of this genre. This is easy enough to do via the web or with help from a 14-18 year old friend or relative who can explain it all to you. Then go see the film. Have a conversation about it. Set your goal as opening common knowledge conversation and deepening the relationship.
Perhaps in the real life future, when your beloved young moviegoer is an adult he or she might hear or read John 8:32. Maybe they’ll say, “Hey, wait a minute, I heard the guy in the movie ‘Insurgent’ say that way back when I was in high school. My friend (dad, mom, aunt, uncle, grandmother, grandfather, person at church, etc.) and I had some great conversations about that film.”