Popular Posts

Wednesday, April 9, 2014

REVIEW:Reading DIVERGENT Through Zizek and Lacan

First scene between Tris and Four
Beatrice is wrapped in the net as she comes to rest after her jump. She has an expression of happiness on her face for the first time that we see. She has faced a fear of plummeting seven stories down and is in a state of euphoria. This is what we see and what Four sees but we do not see Four seeing; only imagine his seeing. He pulls the net to allow her to sit up and he grabs and lifts her out.

Roth's account of this scene is fragmented between the action, what goes through Beatrice's mind about the name change, the dialogue between Lauren and Four and the snippets of conversation between Four and Beatrice/Tris. 

Beatrice/Tris is the first female Abnegation transfer so she is a surprise. The fact that she is first jumper is also a surprise. The screenwriting team has edited Roth's account. 

Our first look here at Four reveals his open and rather surprised face. He has witnessed a gift from the sky, from the Heavens miraculously appearing in the net. Like a Silkie from the deep. 

Four: What,you were pushed?(quietly)
Beatrice: No. (all breathlessly happy)Thank you. (as he helps her down)
Four: What's your name?
Beatrice: B......stuttering
Four: Is it a hard one? 
Beatrice: nodding yes embarrassed
Four: You can pick a new one. Make it good. You only get to  pick once.(emphasis on choosing with no reversal)
Beatrice: stuttering saying Tris. My name is Tris.
Four: First jumper - Tris! Welcome to Dauntless.

So quick. The contained surprise that the first jumper is a girl, from Abnegation, who appears elated rather than frightened by her ordeal so far. Four is open faced, nice, assertive and non-threatening, non-aggressive. 

The presentation of the ideal masculine social construction of gender is performed. Four has a beautiful face, intelligent and sensitive and sexy. But he is matter-of-fact all business here, gently and firmly. No provocation, just a short intimate moment.

People say that the first minutes of any encounter encompass the whole relationship in miniature. - ALEX by Pierre Lemaitre (p. 339)

There is quite a bit of subtext in this short and vivid scene:

1. He underestimates her sort of by alluding to the fact he thinks she was pushed.
2. He offers her a way to change her name with the limiting factor that it is a one shot choice with no return.
3. He intuits her dissatisfaction with Beatrice and suggests it is possible for her to change her name, become a different person, become Other.
4. His welcome is warm and accepting. This is unlike Eric's immediate dislike of her when she volunteers to be first.
5. Through Lacan, Tris rhymes with Chris, short for Christina her first friend. 

Here is Four's account of that first meeting with Beatrice/Tris in Allegiant:

When her body first hit the net, all I registered was a gray blur. I pulled her across it and her hand was small, but warm, and then she stood before me, short and thin and plain and in all ways unremarkable--except that she had jumped first. The Stiff had jumped first.

Even I didn't jump first.
Her eyes were so stern, so insistent.
Beautiful. (Allegiant p. 491)

All this in 9 short sentences and the images. Now that is a screenplay folks.
Four introduces himself to the group as their instructor and says: My name is Four.

Christina: Like the number four.
Four: Exactly like the number four.
Christina: Were one, two and three taken? 
Four: What is your name?
Christina: Christina.
Four: (stepping closer to her face, half smiling)
Four: Well Christina, the first lesson you will learn from me, if you want to survive here, keep your mouth shut. Do you understand?
Christina: (nodding yes) 
Four: Good. (stepping back from her)

All this is said firmly, assertively, non-threatening in a way that projects that he means what he says.

Later at dinner in the cafeteria Tris sits next to him because Christina has maneuvered herself away from him. They are with the transfers from other factions, the ones Four will work with.

Tris: Were you a transfer or Dauntless born?
Four: Are you kidding?(softly)
Tris: No, (smiling and flustered)
Four: (coldly) What makes you think you can talk to me?
Tris: (abashed now and slightly smiling in embarrassment) Must be because, you're so approachable.
Four: (muttering quietly) Careful.

His very un-approachableness signals approach, reading through Lacan. "Don't come near me" signals the opposite as a "floating sign" which Tris has accurately picked up.

There is more as he takes her through her fear simulations. He is puzzled by how fast she gets through them and her inability to say how she does it so well. After the water drowning sequence:

Four: How did you do that?
Tris: What?
Four: How did you break the glass?
Tris: I don't know. I just did it.
Four: (sitting down beside her) What were your test results?Your aptitude test.
Tris:  Abnegation (flustered)
Four: (continuing to look at her) I don't think so.
Tris: What?
Four:I think you're lying to me.
Tris: Why would I lie to you? 

Here is where it gets unusual. He does not accuse her, try to trap her in her lie, argue with her or threaten her. He avoids the Dominating Discourse and does not allow it to frame his thinking or his reply to her.

Four: I'm going to ask you one more time. What were your test results?
Tris: (still softly) Abnegation. 

Four gets up,  and says, "Time to go." Tris stands up and starts to walk out. (He says what he means and he means what he says.Consistent.) 

Four: Tris! Just so you know. (as she exits out the door) Dauntless never break the glass like that. 

Ancient Asian wisdom: To be sincere in the land of the insincere is dangerous.

Now we think that he has guessed the truth, that she is Divergent and no one has said a thing out loud. It is a fine, nuanced scene by both actors, subtly performed. A scene for adults I would say or for teens who are observant. The screenplay and the director have a respect for their audience that we don't often see so simply presented.( This is what makes the Divergent screenplay superior to all the others in these YA franchises. The screenplay transcends the plot.Unfortunately this screenplay team will not do Insurgent nor Allegiant nor will Neil Burger be back as director. So do not expect the same quality in the future.

Four is still puzzled. The next thing he will do on this subject is to invite her to go through his own fearscape partnering with him. 

If someone lies to you that means the truth is too dangerous for them to say. They feel threatened by you. They don't trust you. This is the meaning of the lie. This is what Four understands and by taking her into his own fearscape he offers his trust to her as a gift.
Tris: In my fear landscape? Four: No in mine. We're going to go in together.
Tris: Have you ever done this before?
Four: No.
Tris: You're going to let me see into your head? (astonished)
Four: (nonchalantly)Why wouldn't I?
Tris: I don't know. You've never told me anything about yourself and now you're going to just let me in your mind?!!!
Four: Are you afraid of that?
Tris: Aren't you?!!!
Four: No.

This is his gift of trust to her.

These early scenes establish the character of Four. This is communicated to us linguistically by unambiguous language. Assertive but not aggressive. Not especially emotionally rendered either, very matter of fact, nonchalant. He so far has been consistent. I have left out the exchanges taking place during physical training, but they are factual and low key also. 

This is a different kind of man and intimate conversation women want but have difficulty engaging in because of the man and their own preconceptions. In this setting we have a master(teacher)/student relationship that is very often emotionally and erotically charged.

Reading through Calchi-Novati: LINK

Who We Might Be

Performing the Potentialities of Otherness and Selfhood: Stephenie Meyer’s Twilight Saga
Gabriella Calchi Novati

In Our Vampires, Ourselves, Nina Auerbach argues that vampires ‘can be everything we are, while at the same time, they are fearful reminders of the infinite things we are not’.

 Disagreeing with her reading, I will show that the Cullen family of vampires in the Twilight Saga tells us not who we are, but rather who we might be. Drawing primarily from the writings ofJacques Lacan and Slavoj Žižek, this paper aims to analyse the performance of otherness and selfhood in the Twilight Saga and the upshot of such a performance. 

In using this paper by Calchi-Novati in reading the performance of Four in Divergent, is to show a man, not as most men are, but as men might be.

Four is a Zizekian "sign from the future" that we must make space for in the words of Calvino:

Calvino:“seek and learn to recognize who and what, in the midst of the inferno, are not inferno, then make them endure, give them space.”

Of course Roth has begun to castrate Four in Divergent, increased  in Insurgent and finishing the job in Allegiant. Roth slops around in the psychological interpretive swamp until there's not much left of him. By the time she has finished Four is diminished and ground down into gray mediocrity. 

There are so many ways to be brave in this world. Sometimes bravery involves laying down your life for something bigger than yourself, or for someone else. Sometimes it involves giving up everything you have ever known, or everyone you have ever loved, for the sake of something greater.

But sometimes it doesn't.

Sometimes it is nothing more than gritting your teeth through pain, and the work of everyday, the slow walk toward a better life.

That is the sort of bravery I must have now. (Allegiant p. 509)


And then the Epilogue which is pretty bad also. Hopefully the movie will not follow the book literally. But with Scummit Summit's template of "directors for hire," after the first film, rather than a director like Burger who is an artist, I think we can expect the worst. 

No comments: