Yes, this is a Divergent reference. See, I had seen the first film last year and decided to pick up the novel last night at Walmart (it was on sale for $8!!) before venturing out on a Cheap Tuesday to see the second film in the franchise.
It’s pretty good, very simplistic writing for someone my age, but it’s entertaining and it keeps the story going (there’s nothing wrong with this; hell, it’s the types of teen fiction I want to write one day… It’s just not my taste).
But one line totally caught my attention and made me flinch.
Page 115 of my copy, Tris thinks to herself, “I could not be attracted to Al – I could not be attracted to anyone that fragile.”
I beg your fucking pardon.
It’s this sick and twisted ideology being reinforced once again that women need to love the big, strong men. Triss is supposed to be a goddamn heroine and yet she still wants someone (Four AKA Tobias) who is stronger than her and who is the literal goddamn image of a hero or a prince charming or any other stereotype women have grown up believing they need.
Let me tell you right now I’ve never really been attracted to men that look like that. Ask any of my friends and they’ll tell you that Magic Mike did nothing for me except regret watching it. I never fantasized about Prince Eric or Tarzan or any of the other Disney princes sweeping me off my feet. Muscle and strength are fine to have, whether you’re male or female, but I’ve personally never been attracted to these traits.
While other girls in my grade six classroom fantasized about actors who flash their abs on the cover of every magazine, I was crushing on young Leonardo DiCaprio, back when he was lanky and adorable and had a “baby face”. Because that’s just what I’m physically attracted to. Sorry.
It’s not just Divergent that had me questioning this ideology that women need to be soft and small and men need to be big and strong. Disney movies all do this. Most adventure movies do this. Even if the girl is depicted as strong in the film, she then has basically no personality (Guardians of the Galaxy anyone???)
You know what I want to see? I want to see a movie where the main character is promiscuous and cheeky and awkward and yet a total badass, like Captain Kirk, only female. Because I’ve yet to see a single movie where the female can be promiscuous and have that shown in a flattering light. (No seriously, if you can think of one, let me know).
But this “boys need strength” thing isn’t just damaging to girls – in fact, I’d argue that it’s far more harmful to boys. Think of the little boys knowing they need to grow up looking like Prince Eric or Aladdin or whatever. Granted, little girls grow up thinking it’s totally healthy to have a head larger than your waist (ARIEL) but that’s another argument.
Guys grow up thinking it’s not okay to be weak. In this novel, when Al is crying at night after being forced to beat his friends to unconsciousness day after day, after having to leave his friends and family behind forever, after the stress of knowing he could die at any second, after having the pressure to either succeed or die/ be factionless. AND TRISS IS DISGUSTED BY HIS “WEAKNESS”.
No Tris, I’m disgusted by your lack of humanity. No wonder you were a shitty Abnigation you selfish fuck. I get that you’re competing against him, but crying isn’t a sign of weakness. The goddamn fact Al got up day after day and continued to fight for as long as he did should tell you something. Don’t be a dick, Tris.
But no, Tris likes Four. Because he’s strong. And handsome. And big. And she’s a petit little mouse, as is often reiterated by the author (ex. “Everyone thinks I can’t do so and so because I’m so small and weak”).
Four, to me, has very little emotion or personality. Al does. It makes me sick to my stomach that Tris has chosen to give Four her affection purely because she thinks he is stronger than Al.
(NOTE: I get that Al is supposed to be a big guy in the book, but he’s still shown as “weak”… I don’t find ANYTHING wrong with someone who cries when they are in Al’s position. It’s normal to show sorrow and regret in the form of crying.)
So while some girls will continue to pine over men like Channing Tatum or Chris Hemsworth, it leaves me wondering whether or not they would still do the same if society told them they shouldn’t like men for their large muscles.