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Tuesday, April 8, 2014

Divergent Review of Divergent:Foucault;Baudrillard;Lacan

An ordinary girl until she became the First Jumper.
The First Jumper.

 The first image we see of her after she lands in the net is of a happy, relieved, delighted young girl wrapped in her Abnegation robes lying innocently erotic, erotically innocent in the net. 


ONDINE
Like a Silkie or a mermaid from the deepWe are not given the cliched shot of Four looking at her, their eyes locked, but we can imagine Four sees her for the first time just as we see her for the first time. Silkies are women from the sea caught in the nets of fishermen as are mermaids. They can be captured and kept but if they find their pelts they will return to the sea. This Silkie in Divergent appears to have dropped from the skies, the Heavens as a gift, lying there in the net as she does. 

Reading through Lacan, Beatrice means "Bringer of Joy, Blesses, Dante's guide through Paradise, his lifetime muse." Tris is an off homonym with the French tres meaning very, excessively so, the diminutive for Beatrice. 

But the net is also a metaphor of the Foucauldian Grid, the mesh of the net of power/knowledge, The Matrix. It carries with it a Dominating Discourse of language and action just as Abnegation does.
Image of Foucault straddling the chasm

What is concealed immediately is her jump over the chasm, the abyss. Where Foucault stops at the edge of the abyss (where one resists) - as Baudrillard writes in Forget Foucault! - The soon to be Tris hurtles across it.

This is the metaphor for the EVENT!Beatrice becoming OTHER!

As Four addresses her and grabs her out of the net, the screenplay begins its wonderful editing process of Roth’s book defining Four’s character precisely and creating the new masculine ideal: Edward Cullen, dreamed by Stephenie Meyer into existence has now morphed into Four played by Theo James opposite Shailene Woodley's Tris.

Most of the reviews compare and contrast Divergent with the other YA franchises by Scummit/Summit with female leads. Then the interpretive critique begins. Everything sinks into that “swampland of psychological interpretation” Foucault — and Sontag — have demolished. Instead of pitting them as rivals against each other, I suggest reading each one through the other to deepen the meaning of each against the resonances of the others.

Each has a love story, but many books have this theme. What is unique about these three is what is revealed/concealed in them. We have the love story following Tristan/Iseult and Twilight’s Courtly Love, the Hunger Games romance and Divergent’s master/student relation. We also have the menacing presence of: 

surveillance; 

confinement; 

totalitarianism, 

Simulated Reality and 

Virtual Reality, 

all subsumed under the label of Dystopian Worlds, all of which are invisible.

Behind the story of young adult first love, finding identity, love and the coming of age rituals - We have no Vision Quest as Twilight, Katniss, Divergent does - into adulthood (This is the reality of the movies and the books.)

 — we have the Zizekian/Lacanian REAL — the invisible REAL — 

and a YA anxious, dreading preoccupation with a future of disaster, where only love can save us, or so they think. A world of totalitarian control unvisioned and unimagined by even Orwell or Huxley, where lies are truth and truth has only the credibility of speculation. An unimaginable horror as Simulated Reality steals our real world in homeopathic doses. The Borges map becomes the territory.
No crime-no victim-no criminal-no crime scene-invisible


In Twilight Bella is caught in the Foucauldian Grid of normality as described in Foucault’s Lectures in Abnormal at the College de France in 1974-75. It is invisible. She is confined in Forks. Simulated Reality occurs as the Cullens perform as humans at school, slowing their movements, during the boredom of classrooms repeating what they have already known for decades. Virtual Reality is what Bella embraces as she turns into a vampire: the acute auditory and visual perception that reads like an LSD trip or Huxley’s Doors of Perception. She desires this and wills it and will live it forever.Like being high an d knowing you are never going to come down.
The Hunger Games divides the people into districts in which they are confined and cannot leave. Panem the capitol is Simulated Reality and the Games themselves are Virtual Reality; meaning there is no escape as Simulated Reality has become total. Katniss will shoot her arrow into the invisible covering, short circuit it with lightning, with Jove’s thunderbolts, and “Welcome to the Desert of the Real” says Morpheus to Neo.

In Divergent there are five factions into which those that have been chosen and accepted live in confinement, more obvious than our own. And each has its Dominating Discourse of language and action. Simulated Reality is a bit more complex and occurs in simulations deliberately projected into people’s minds via serums and transmitters. But there is a strange twist to them. In the aptitude tests and the fear simulations the subject is as if in a dream.

In Journey to Ixtlan — as I remember — Don Juan is lecturing Castaneda on “Controlled Dreaming.” When you are in a dream and become aware that you are in a dream, knowing you are in a dream. This is Tris’s experience in Divergent. She knows she is in a simulation and manipulates it. This is what Don Juan is suggesting Castaneda learn to do in his apprenticeship to the Yaqui Indian. The process is:
  1. Become aware that you are in a dream.
  2. Bring your hands up in front of your face.
  3. Look from your hands to the dreamscape and back again, repeating constantly.
As you do the dream will move to a different level, or as in Divergent, Tris changes the simulation as it changes in response to what she chooses to do. Just as your dream changes in response to your shifting perception going back and forth. If you stare too long at your hands their image becomes hallucinatory and you will go somewhere else without knowing anymore. The idea is to continue this practice and attain mastery over it.
In my case my spiritual quest was not so serious. After I began to be able to get my hands up — very heavy and clumsy at first — I began playing with it.
“If I am in a dream, then I could fly right now.” So I would fly higher and higher. At first it was very hard to get off the ground. Then if I were in a dangerous dream and “woke up in it” I would say to myself, “I can become invisible and they won’t see me.” And I dreamed that. Very freeing and exhilarating.
This is what Tris as a Divergent can do that the others cannot. She possesses the ability to think like the Dauntless, the Erudite and Abnegation where she was from. More flexibility which Don Juan is always forcing Castaneda into to break the conditioned frames his language and academic culture have imprisoned him.
I have much more to say about Divergent but my point here is that in our own classical Hegelian dialectical Dominating Discourse X is always rated against Y. One movie against another. This is Tabloid thinking. One book of the same genre against another. One person against another. The dichotomy of our language, our thinking, our writing, our behavior forces us into this frame.
Hey, you can just walk out of it if you want. It’s only a simulation. That’s all a Discourse is.

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