Divergent had a respectable opening weekend box office — not as high as some had predicted, but high enough to justify a sequel. And everybody had to have their own take on the cultural significance of this film, from the Hillary Clinton factor to its role as capitalist propaganda.
The Hillary Factor. The Daily Beast wonders why this movie's villain, played by Kate Winslet, looks exactly like a caricature of Hillary Clinton. She "just happens to have a Middle-American accent, blonde, bobbed hair, a matronly figure, and a closet full of long, collarless pantsuits. In short, Matthews looks and acts exactly like Hillary Clinton—or at least Hillary Clinton as imagined by the conservative contingent at Comic Con." They also mention the villain of Elysium, and the character soon to be played by Julianne Moore in Hunger Games: Mockingjay.
The takeaway? Maybe this is a sign of the Hillary backlash, or maybe these strong (evil) female leaders are appearing "because we're actually becoming more comfortable with female leaders."
The Dystopia Thing. Slate wonders why teens are so fascinated with dystopias — something we've thought about before — and comes up with the notion that they're a metaphor for high school popularity contests and stuff. "YA dystopias externalize the turmoil that's already taking place in adolescent minds, hearts, and bodies. The social, interpersonal, and biological phenomena that define teenage life—competition and jealousy, anxiety about exclusion and belonging, shifting alliances, first crushes, wet dreams—are codified and, in some way, dignified by their transmutation into fiction.
The takeaway? "I can see the draw of a fantasy that recasts the rigid categories of teen social hierarchy as mechanisms of fascist social control, then stages a life-affirming rebellion against the pitiless powers that be."
They All Look Alike Writing in The Atlantic, Julianne Ross bemoans the fact that Tris Pryor, just like the heroines of Beautiful Creatures and Mortal Instruments, is really skinny. She writes, "Today's strong female protagonists are overwhelmingly described as "small," "skinny," and "slender." It seems literature only goes so far in its message of female empowerment, routinely granting its most kickass heroines classically masculine-levels of strength (physical or otherwise) only when cloaked within the trappings of a more delicate—and recognizable—femininity."
The takeaway? "Being skinny isn't a bad thing, but it becomes an issue when so many of the strongest female characters around conform to a single body type—especially one long associated with a narrow definition of what it means to be feminine."
The "Capitalist Propaganda" Thing. Writing in Salon, Andrew O'Hehir says Hunger Games and Divergent are "propaganda for the ethos of individualism, the central ideology of consumer capitalism." He goes on to say that these films glorify the individual, with a patina of feminism, as the driving force of late-stage capitalism and consumerism. Divergent, in particular, presents the idea that you, too, are special and unique, without actually having anything unique or original in its own story.
The takeaway? "When we convince ourselves that Divergent or The Hunger Games contains any sort of lesson about resisting authority or speaking truth to power, we have already accepted their central premise that personal liberty, as defined by contemporary capitalism, is a precious virtue and that it might someday be under threat from somebody, somewhere."