The Plague of Allegiant

The Divergent Series: Allegiant is a part of trilogy book-turned-movie series. This movie is a continuance of the first two movies where the plot is about people divided into five groups also called “factions”. It’s a science fiction adventure film directed by Robert Schwentke Typical science-fiction films typically include the following elements; people with extrasensory perception, time travel, gadgets with futuristic elements such as spacecraft, robots, cyborgs, interstellar space travel or other technologies.

science-fiction

For the movie, the plot is based in the city of Chicago, where the city is divided into factions. Each faction is organized by a set of characteristics and each person in the faction possesses said characteristics. The five factions are Dauntless: The Brave, Erudite: The Intelligent, Candor: The Honest, Amity: The Peaceful, Abegnation: The Selfless. These factions were designed to create a sense of law and order. The leading female character Tris and her male co-star Four are both Divergent meaning they both transcend all the factions. This is dangerous because the city’s peacefulness is based on citizens obeying the rules of the factions that they belong to. In the movie Allegiant Tris gets a message that there is life and a world beyond the closed walls of Chicago. She and a team of her friends leave Chicago to go on a mission to save their troubled city.

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Once Tris go beyond the walls they realize that the world has been destroyed and there are no signs of life until the are rescued by a group people that have been anticipating her arrival, theses people belong to The Bureau of Genetic Welfare. She learns that she is considered genetically pure and begins to help The Bureau with their mission to make everybody else pure so that she can save her city. She later learns that her city has long been apart of an experiment conducted by The Bureau and that children were being stolen from their families in order to genetically modify them. Tris and Four discover this and return to Chicago to end the war in their city.

The movie strays away from the typical damsel-in-distress storyline as Tris is doing most of the saving and her co-star/romantic partner is portrayed as her sidekick. Although the writer does a good job of portraying women in the film, there are problematic depictions of Black people throughout the movie.  There are very few people of color represented in the film as the majority of the cast is white, when there are characters of colors portrayed, it is in a stereotypical fashion. For example, the leader of Amity, Johanna is a African-American woman. Although she is in a leadership role she still fulfills the mammy stereotype. Karen Hollinger explains that “the mammy figure reduces Black women to figures of reproduction and motherhood…”(p.195). Furthermore, women who portray the mammy stereotype are typically dark skin, overweight, old or middle-aged, and desexualized. Johanna fits each of these characteristics but it’s especially troubling to me that her character’s wardrobe sends a very strong message of unattractiveness unlike her female counterparts.  The other female characters are shown in revealing and form fitting clothes whereas Johanna is portrayed in  long, loose-fitted clothing that do not show her body shape or femininity at all.

Johanna isn’t the only problematic representation, Max an African-American man and former leader of Dauntless, represents stereotypes about Black men. Max is dominating in nature, he is a solider and in the previous movies he dominated the other citizens under the order of the city’s leader. His voice is deep, he’s tall, and strong and stature, and is typically speaks in an aggressive manner. Hollinger asserts that “Black men are envisioned in the White male unconscious” There is evidence of this in the movie. The Black man represents excessive sexuality, … and hypermasculinity” (p.194).

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During the movie Max is executed (shot in the head) in front of the citizens, a mostly white crowd. This also serves to satisfy the the White male gaze.

I went to see the movie at the Mall of America theatre. I went with one other person and we paid $14 each for our tickets. When I walked in the woman directed me to the theatre where my movie was playing and she pointed to the concession stand. She said we could buy food to kill some time because were were early for our movie. When I walked in the theatre there were a bunch of families mostly with teenagers. There were also quite a few young couples in the theatre.

I was actually very excited to watch the film. I typically don’t see movies in the theatre because I feel like it’s a waste of time but I was very interested in the Divergent series because I watched the other DVD’s at home/ I’d say I definitely reacted differently at the theatre than I would’ve had I watched the movie at home. I’m typically very vocal and loud with my reactions when I watch a movie. While at the theatre I was much more quiet during the movie. Although, I did gasp really loud when Christina got electrocuted by the fence when they were trying to climb over the wall. Everybody including myself gasped loudly when Chrstina got shot down while trying to climb the wall with Tris and the others, it was sad.

My reaction to the film was that of excitement and interest. I love the series although I was a bit disappointed in the representations of Black people in the film, but I chose an oppositional gaze and still enjoyed the movie. I rejected the notion that certain Black women exist only to be mother-like figures to white women. This is reminiscent of how bell hooks explains the oppositional gaze She states that “critical Black female spectatorship emerges as a site of resistance only when individual black women actively resist the imposition of dominant ways of knowing and looking. (pg. 128). I still enjoyed the film and would recommend others to watch it as well.

Hooks, Bell. (1992) “Black Looks: Race and Representation” 115-131

Hollinger, Karen. (2012) “Feminist Film Studies and Race” 190-204

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