Divergent (Divergent, #1) Divergent discussion


264 views
Why do Divergent and Hunger Games get praise for strong female protagonists when...

Comments Showing 1-26 of 26 (26 new)    post a comment »
dateDown arrow    newest »

message 1: by Ben (new) - rated it 3 stars

Ben Washington In both cases the female protagonists display almost all of the same 'she's a girl' tropes that have been used for centuries.

Poor decision making.
Impulsive actions with no regard for long-term consequences.
Emotional turmoil.
The underlying 'requirement' of a boyfriend (or at the very least an underlying 'requirement' of a romantic subplot).
And (at least in Divergent) the 'must be rescued by her man'.

Don't get me wrong, I really like the character of Katniss... Tris, not so much; but that's neither here nor there.

Is "they can kick ass" really the same as "they're a strong female character."? I don't think it is.

What are your thoughts?


Unbroken Silence I would agree. Authors are so terrified of their female character being criticised for not being strong that they feel obliged to make them fighters (although I have to admit I love kick-ass heroines) forgetting that strength can be emotional as well.

I feel Katniss was better written and "stronger" than Tris, but both were highly emotional. This worked better in Katniss's case... Until the end of Mockingjay, that is.

This trope is at least better than the "look at the strong female character" one, where they create a beautiful, kick-ass, clever, perfect character, as though to be "strong" you must be flawless.


Adrienne So basically if she is emotional then she is weak?

It would be less human and not much of a story if there wasn't emotional turmoil or if all the decisions were always the right ones .....

We are also discussing books that portray teenagers during times of war..... What teen is not impulsive?

I haven't read all of the divergent series yet... But no man saves Katniss.... She is the hero in her story....

Men and women are different.... Being emotional does not make a woman any less strong....

I think we could stand to read a YA series without a romantic subplot though.... I agree on that point....


message 4: by Ben (new) - rated it 3 stars

Ben Washington Adrienne wrote: "So basically if she is emotional then she is weak?

It would be less human and not much of a story if there wasn't emotional turmoil or if all the decisions were always the right ones .....

We ar..."


Spoiler alert; you'll see... there are moments in books one and two where she is saved. Even in book 1 (view spoiler)

As far as emotions go, it's not 'having emotions'; it's 'emotional turmoil'. It's like a rollercoaster with Tris.

I just don't believe that being able to kick ass makes any character strong. Male or female. And unfortunately (at least in the case of Tris, and to a lesser degree Katniss) it appears to be the only qualifier.


Ilana i think that there's something to be said about having a strong lead who isn't strong to begin with - at least not overtly. if you think about both characters - remember that they are only teenagers and therefore are going to have some level of emotional overload, immaturity (for lack of a better word) and a bit of 'coming into their own'.

i think that both are strong in the sense that they were just going with the flow up until the point that the story begins - they never questioned things before because it wasn't necessary. and the only time that they didn't follow rules was when it was for survival.

i think that girls need to have someone like these characters to look up to - to know that you don't have to be amazing to begin with to be able to make an impact and to become something 'more'. i think that's really the point - no?


Adrienne Ilana wrote: "i think that there's something to be said about having a strong lead who isn't strong to begin with - at least not overtly. if you think about both characters - remember that they are only teenage..."

Yes exactly


message 7: by Ben (new) - rated it 3 stars

Ben Washington I see where you're coming from but I still don't think that Tris (having read the series) ever develops into a strong character.


message 8: by Adrienne (last edited Nov 04, 2014 12:06PM) (new) - rated it 5 stars

Adrienne Well i definitely like book one better than book two....

I still want to find out what happens though....


Hannah baity I think that most of the reason people have their "strong" female characters spend a lot of time being saved by men is lazy writing. One of the easiest subplots is romance.


message 10: by Nila (new) - rated it 5 stars

Nila Hannah wrote: "I think that most of the reason people have their "strong" female characters spend a lot of time being saved by men is lazy writing. One of the easiest subplots is romance."

Agreed.


message 11: by Katherine (last edited Nov 05, 2014 08:19PM) (new) - rated it 3 stars

Katherine Strong female character = well written female character. She needs to be dimensional.
I'm growing tired of the label of "strong" females in general. It's too vague and ambiguous, and leads to questions like this one -- "is a female really strong if she has emotional turmoil and doesn't make all the right decisions?" (By the way, why isn't anyone examining guys this way?)
If authors have any kind of duty or obligation in writing fiction (which they really don't) it's to depict all different kinds of people.
So then you have these girls who are leading revolutions, making ground breaking choices and being freakishly brave, improving the world, yet...they aren't "strong" because they can be impulsive, or have romantic feelings.

See, I have never seen Harry Potter criticized for having girlfriends while Lord Voldemort exists ("doesn't he know he's supposed to be saving the world?! Not kissing people??") or being incredibly impulsive ("charging off to the ministry like that and getting Sirius killed?! He's so stupid and weak!") And... don't even get me started on the "emotional turmoil."
Girls are held to an extremely different standard than guys.


Adrienne Katherine wrote: "Strong female character = well written female character. She needs to be dimensional.
I'm growing tired of the label of "strong" females in general. It's too vague and ambiguous, and leads to ques..."


That's a very good point....


Scarlett Ben wrote: "In both cases the female protagonists display almost all of the same 'she's a girl' tropes that have been used for centuries.

Poor decision making.
Impulsive actions with no regard for long-term ..."

I totally agree with you and an example I feel would fit this description is Rose Hathaway from Vampire Academy. Even though she has a boyfriend and exhibits emotional turmoil, she always puts her best friend, Lissa Dragomir, first because its both her responsibility and she cares about her. I think what Rose does for Lissa and always stays strong at the same time is amazing.


Sic Transit Gloria You know, Extra Credits did an excellent YouTube video on this subject (although Extra Credits is devoted to making video games, it's still amazingly relevant).

Here's the thing: We all know strong characters. "Strong" is easy to make. The hard part is where "female" comes in. How do you make a female character without sound sexist or write horribly? The book "Boneshaker" had one answer. It featured a "strong female role", yes. However, this woman was no love-struck teenager. This woman was a middle-aged mother, desperate to escape the legacy of her infamous husband and rescue her only son. She fit exactly into the role of "strong female character".

I hope that made sense.


message 15: by Veronica (last edited Nov 07, 2014 02:09AM) (new) - rated it 5 stars

Veronica I agree that strength is not physical alone.it all depends on the author, content and genre of the books. Its normal for a girl to be kick ass in a fantasy novel and she can kill off bad guys. In dystopian, the girl can break rules that trap her and question anything that is detrimental to the interests of her people. There are YA contemporary romances that battles with every day issues and more realistic story models. I think a book has to have relevant character. To me katniss was emotionally and physically strong. She had lost her father. She had to take care of her family and she hardened herself so that she can take out the vulnerability in her life. Both the love interests were there so a small romance can be there. She did not love either of them.
I really love kick ass heroines. I don't like it when the girl waits for the guy to take control of the situation,while she can sit back and think how amazing he is.
The best strong female leads are rose, Sydney and evie from vampire academy, blood lines and diviners respectively. They can kick ass, perform cool scientific experiments and be totally inquisitive. They care for others and put them first. Their life does not center around a guy all the time. They are smart.
A teenager being a poor decision maker is something we can chalk up to lack of exposure and assistance. But when an adult does that, which happens in all romance adult books, is pathetic.
I agree that a mother saving her son qualifies for strength.


Veronica Katherine wrote: "Strong female character = well written female character. She needs to be dimensional.
I'm growing tired of the label of "strong" females in general. It's too vague and ambiguous, and leads to ques..."


Although I think Harry was too emotional, I could not tell if it is a guy trait. Only another boy can answer it.
The reason why girls and boys are subjected to different rules is that they are different. For a man to throw punches is physically possible but a woman takes twice as much as strength to pull that off. So when a female lead can kick ass, it is intriguing. And people wanna read such character.


Shiah I still think they're strong even with the flaws. It's a good thing when a character has flaws as well. If a character was super perfect everyone would hate them. You don't want a character that has every good thing anyone could want. If a character is flawed the reader can connect to them more. I can be very impulsive and make terrible choices at times and I like it when characters I read about are flawed. To me it makes them more natural and makes them seem like a real person.


message 18: by Ben (new) - rated it 3 stars

Ben Washington Katherine wrote: "Strong female character = well written female character. She needs to be dimensional.
I'm growing tired of the label of "strong" females in general. It's too vague and ambiguous, and leads to ques..."


Why don't they examine men this way? Because there isn't an issue with there being strong male characters. Since males have dominated the lead-character role since almost forever; there is no relevant use for 'strong male characters.' Men haven't been oppressed and forced into unfair gender roles.

Strong, to me; has nothing to do with 'leading a revolution' but with the character not showing overwhelming signs of weakness. And again, I don't feel that Tris (with her brash impulsive demeanor and tendency to make things worse than they already were (go beyond book one for examples of this) and put her friends and loved ones at risk) qualifies as a strong female character.

George RR Martin write strong female characters very well. When asked how he is able to do so his response was something along the lines of "I tend to look at females as people."

However, in most works of fiction we are given female characters who probably would not be able to stand on their own if not for the male supporting cast behind them. And that irritates me as it is a horrible representation of women.


Kristen Ben wrote: "In both cases the female protagonists display almost all of the same 'she's a..."

I don't think the requirement for a strong protagonist is that they need to be perfect or lack emotion. I think the main characteristic is that they act and do what is needed when alot of other people would curl in a ball, cry, and otherwise give up.

But to address your list:

"Poor decision making"
This is a subjective opinion. We have no idea how things would have progressed differently if they'd chosen differently. Also, strong people are still people. They are imperfect and make stupid decisions sometimes. It's realistic because screwing up is a part of life. What matters is that you learn from your mistakes.

"Impulsive actions with no regard for long-term consequences."
Given the situation and the fact that they are both teens who didn't expect to live that long, this is understandable. In war and/or combat, you have to make snap decisions to survive.

"Emotional turmoil."
Again, completely understandable given the situation and characters. If you have no emotion, you're not human. And if you don't have conflict when you have to fight or kill someone for any reason, you have some serious problems.

"The underlying 'requirement' of a boyfriend (or at the very least an underlying 'requirement' of a romantic subplot).
And (at least in Divergent) the 'must be rescued by her man'."

I wouldn't say this was true of Katniss. A relationship wasn't even close to being on her radar until the end of the series. Peeta and Gale were the only ones pushing for that.
Emotions, particularly love are part of being human. I think it's almost more realistic to have a love interest in this type of setting. The more tumultuous things are in your life, the more you appreciate the people around you. And the more likely you are to form a long-lasting relationship. If you think you might die, you allow yourself to live while you have the time.


Also, being that this is aimed at female protagonists, apply it to male protagonists. Mostly, you'll find the same shortcomings. The requirement for strength is not perfection.

I do feel that they were stronger characters. Role models? Maybe...Maybe not. Personally, Tris isn't my favorite. She seemed to give up more than anything else, but I think my opinion of her is colored by the craptastic 3rd book....
But I do think Katniss is a strong character because she did what had to be done when, most of the time, it was the last thing she wanted to be doing.


Katherine Ben wrote: "Katherine wrote: "Strong female character = well written female character. She needs to be dimensional.
I'm growing tired of the label of "strong" females in general. It's too vague and ambiguous,..."


What I meant by "why isn't anyone examining guys this way" is that guys are never under scrutiny the way girls are. I didn't say anything about needing more strong male characters.

I agree that females always need to be thought of as people, and not treated like damsels in distress, and this is often not the case. It's just that there's a sexist double standard going on. I think that picking apart females (particularly Katniss? I don't see how she fits here) in this way is adding to the problem more than anything. Not every character is going to be the same stoic/brusque leader. We need to see a whole range of people showing strength in their own ways.


Katherine Veronica wrote: "Katherine wrote: "Strong female character = well written female character. She needs to be dimensional.
I'm growing tired of the label of "strong" females in general. It's too vague and ambiguous,..."


Right, boys and girls are different. However, girls can be extremely different from one another, as can guys. To simply say "guys are stronger than girls" is generalizing, because this isn't always the case. Definitely there are far less women kicking ass in stories than men, but I don't think the focus of this discussion is on physical strength.


Somerandom Well let's see.

"Poor decision making."

Well, yeah, they're teenagers. What teenager, hell what person, doesn't make poor decisions?

"Impulsive actions with no regard for long-term consequences."

You are aware of how a teenage brain works, aren't you? The area which controls impulse is immature and develops during one's teenage years, leading to.....*gasp* impulsive actions made by teenagers.
-_-

"Emotional turmoil."

Have you ever been a teenager? Of course there's emotional turmoil, it's a little thing we call "hormones." You know? That whole puberty thing?

"The underlying 'requirement' of a boyfriend (or at the very least an underlying 'requirement' of a romantic subplot)."

Yeah, that's pretty annoying. Can't argue with that one lol.

"And (at least in Divergent) the 'must be rescued by her man'."

Why does needing help in a dangerous scenario always equal weakness? I mean, if it happens all the time, then yeah that's pretty shitty. But if it occurs once in a while for a legitimate reason (ie inexperience like Tris' or just getting in way over your head once in a while) then that just shows a person being human. Tris, at least in book one haven't read the others, is an inexperienced 16 year old. She also comes from a faction that is largely demure and for a lack of a better word "weak." She needs time to grow and develop as a human and a fighter. So it makes sense that in the beginning she might need some protection.
And don't forget once she does start to get the hang of things, Four literally says to her "destroy them" meaning he sees her as a capable fighter.
A female doesn't always have to be the ultimate fighter, sometimes they are allowed to make a mistake or need assistance. That doesn't mean they are weak, that means they are human and are imperfect.


Somerandom Bianca (aka Leah) wrote: "Somerandom wrote: "Well let's see.

"Poor decision making."

Well, yeah, they're teenagers. What teenager, hell what person, doesn't make poor decisions?

"Impulsive actions with no regard for long..."


LOL! Well I was the same as a teenager. Always always in trouble. We can be Divergent together!


Somerandom Haha! We could be twins!!!
I always got kicked out of class! In year 12 I narrowly avoided suspension because the Year Co Ordinator was actually a pretty laid back guy who refused to suspend anyone lol


Thorbjorn Ben wrote: "Is "they can kick ass" really the same as "they're a strong female character."? I don't think it is.

What are your thoughts? "


My answer to this would be no. What i think is really the most important thing to define a strong female character is that she can raise even if she falls repeatedly that however many time life kicks her she raises up once again and continues fighting.

Strength/"The ability to kick but" is just a way to pack some more action into the story. I don't really care if she takes bad choices or if gets help from her friends to get up again or if she cries or is unstable what really matters is if she can stand up again and continue fighting. Weaker (physically) female characters actually makes for some really interesting strong female characters as it just is that bit more impressing every time they get up again :)


message 26: by Lu (new) - rated it 4 stars

Lu I actually think they're pretty good female leads. Both of them.
If it was someone else, let's be honest, the books would've been half the size.
Consider if Tris never had any emotional response and was JUST a logical thinker. Cut out all the emotions. All that's left is a string of events. A documentary. And the character is just BOUND to become a Mary Sue at that point, the greatest sin in writing.
On top of it being impractical to want a character completely clear of mind, you said this was a feminine thing. While I agree that in most novels, males are portrayed as clear-thinking badasses, those novels are rarely in the YA genre. Most are males and females, both with emotion. However, it is usually more socially acceptable for females to be emotional than males, which is why they're more popular (compare Looking for Alaska to The Fault in Our Stars; you'll find the latter with the female lead more popular).
I believe being a "strong female lead" isn't about being independent and emotionally devoid. In fact, I think it's the opposite. To have a character rich in thought and contemplation makes the character as interesting as the plot. To make them completely independent also risks losing the value of side characters, which you also don't want to do. Both of them are necessary to drive the plot. There are some times in both series where the quality fell weak, but the general gist of it made it a fundamentally good novel with strong female leads. They had personality and they had points that made them interesting, which is my personal criteria for writing a strong female lead. They may not be cookie-cutter baddasses all the time, but if they were, let's be honest, we'd all drop the book after the first chapter.


back to top