Australian Council on Children and the Media

Divergent

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Not recommended under 15 due to themes and violence.

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This topic contains:

  • overall comments and recommendations
  • details of classification and consumer advice lines for Divergent
  • a review of Divergent completed by the Australian Council on Children and the Media (ACCM) on 15 April 2014.

Overall comments and recommendations

Children under 15 Not recommended due to themes and violence
Children 15 and over OK for this age group

About the movie

This section contains details about the movie, including its classification by the Australian Government Classification Board and the associated consumer advice lines.

Name of movie: Divergent
Classification: M
Consumer advice lines: Science fiction themes and violence
Length 139 minutes

ACCM review

This review of the movie contains the following information:

A synopsis of the story

Divergent is a science fiction action film set in the dystopian Chicago of a future time. Society has been divided into five factions based on personality testing run by the government: Abnegation (selfless), Amity (peaceful), Candor (truthful), Erudite (intelligent) and Dauntless (brave). The film follows the story of Beatrice Prior (Shailene Woodley), a girl with a family heritage from Abnegation. After undergoing the personality testing, it is discovered that she does not fall clearly within any of the five categories – she is a ‘Divergent’, and is told that she will be hunted and killed if anyone discovers this. At the Choosing Ceremony, Beatrice elects to go against her family heritage and be a part of the Dauntless faction.
 

Changing her name to ‘Tris’, she struggles initially, but soon becomes one of the most fearless members of the faction. She quickly gains the respect of her instructor, Tobias (Theo James), and the two later develop a more intimate relationship. During the training, initiates are put through a range of physical tests in addition to psychological ones. When the psychological testing reveals that Tris is unlike the other initiates, Tobias encourages her to practice in an effort to conceal her powers as a Divergent.

However, when the Erudites drug the Dauntless soldiers and it is only Tobias and Tris who remain unaffected, the two are forced to abandon the secrecy which had protected them, standing up against a powerful faction and its leader Jeanine (Kate Winslet).

Themesinfo

Children and adolescents may react adversely at different ages to themes of crime, suicide, drug and alcohol dependence, death, serious illness, family breakdown, death or separation from a parent, animal distress or cruelty to animals, children as victims, natural disasters and racism. Occasionally reviews may also signal themes that some parents may simply wish to know about.

Family loyalty versus patriotic duty; betrayal and trust; identity; totalitarian states

Use of violenceinfo

Research shows that children are at risk of learning that violence is an acceptable means of conflict resolution when violence is glamourised, performed by an attractive hero, successful, has few real life consequences, is set in a comic context and / or is mostly perpetrated by male characters with female victims, or by one race against another.

Repeated exposure to violent content can reinforce the message that violence is an acceptable means of conflict resolution. Repeated exposure also increases the risks that children will become desensitised to the use of violence in real life or develop an exaggerated view about the prevalence and likelihood of violence in their own world.

There is considerable violence in the film, including hand to hand fighting with knives and gun fights. Examples include:

  • The initiates often fight each other when they are training. They are given weapons that simulate the sensation of being shot with a gun, and are required to shoot each other.
  • Tris is grabbed by three masked men when she returns to Dauntless one night. They hold her while she struggles, and try to throw her off the side of a cliff. She is saved by Tobias.
  • One of the other initiates kills himself because of guilt. He was likely to be cut from Dauntless, and tried to kill Tris in order to boost his position on the leader board. We see his body being pulled up after he has hung himself. 
  • When Abnegation is under attack from the Dauntless soldiers (under the influence of mind control), many Abnegation citizens are shot and killed. Dead bodies can be seen on the floor, with blood on them.
  • Tris is shot in the final battle with the Dauntless soldiers. Her mother and father are also both shot and killed.
  • Tris is forced to kill one of the initiates she trained with, as he is under the influence of mind control and is trying to shoot her.
  • When Tris is facing her fears within the simulations, Tobias aggressively tries to have sex with her. He pushes her down on the bed, but she kicks him in the groin and punches him in the face to throw him off.
  • Tris throws a knife through Jeanine’s hand, pinning her to a board.

Material that may scare or disturb children

Under fiveinfo

Children under five are most likely to be frightened by scary visual images, such as monsters, physical transformations.

Most of the film would be scary for this age group.

Aged five to eightinfo

Children aged five to eight will also be frightened by scary visual images and will also be disturbed by depictions of the death of a parent, a child abandoned or separated from parents, children or animals being hurt or threatened and / or natural disasters.

In addition to the above-mentioned violent scenes , there are some scenes in this movie that could scare or disturb children aged under five to eight, including the following:

  • Tris loses both of her parents during the final battle – her mother and father are both shot trying to save and protect her. When her mother dies, Tris is very distressed and breaks down. By the time her father dies, she has taken on more of a soldier mentality and just continues with the mission and what needs to be done. 

Aged eight to thirteeninfo

Children aged eight to thirteen are most likely to be frightened by realistic threats and dangers, violence or threat of violence and / or stories in which children are hurt or threatened.

Children in this age group may also be disturbed by the scenes involving the death of Tris’ parents and also:

  • It is implied that Tobias was physically abused by his father when he was younger. During Tobias’ induced nightmares, we see his father standing before him holding a belt and talking about it being in the best interests of Tobias.

Over thirteeninfo

Children over the age of thirteen are most likely to be frightened by realistic physical harm or threats, molestation or sexual assault and / or threats from aliens or the occult.

Younger children in this age group may also be disturbed by the above-mentioned scenes.

Product placement

None of concern

Sexual references

None of concern

Nudity and sexual activity

There is some partial nudity and sexual activity in the film, including:

  • After joining Dauntless, Tris is required to get changed in a room with both men and women – she takes off her shirt and is seen in her bra and pants.
  • Tobias removes his shirt in order to show Tris his tattoo.
  • When Tris is facing her fears within the simulations, Tobias aggressively tries to have sex with her. He pushes her down on the bed, but she kicks him in the groin and punches him in the face to throw him off.
  • Passionate kissing

Use of substances

There is some use of substances in the film, including:

  • In order to be tested psychologically, the initiates are injected with a serum that induces nightmares. They then hallucinate their worst fears.
  • All members of Dauntless are injected with a serum that turns them into ‘mindless drones’ by making them more susceptible to suggestion – they are then used as weapons against the other factors.

Coarse language

There is some use of coarse language in the film, including the terms:

  • ‘bitch’, ‘asshole’ and exclamations involving ‘God’

In a nutshell

Divergent is a science fiction action fantasy that centres on the concept of identity, and how individuals build their own unique identities against the pre-existing influences of family, relationships and their responsibilities to society. It is the first screen adaptation of author Veronica Roth's best-selling dystopian trilogy which many teens and some tweens may have read. The film begins with Tris having very little idea as to who she is as a person, and what she is capable of. The trials she goes through during the training within Dauntless enable her to discover that she is far braver and stronger than she could have ever imagined. The main message is that it is possible to achieve anything with enough determination and strength of character.

The film features frequent violence, is tense and scary and has themes that younger children may find difficult to understand. It is therefore not recommended for under 15s.

Values in this movie that parents may wish to reinforce with older children include:

  • Respecting your family and standing by them, even in instances where they elect to make different choices.
  • Pushing yourself to be more than you – and others – think you capable of being.
  • Taking risks is crucial in regards to personal development and being able to live a full life without fear.

 This movie could also give parents the opportunity to discuss:

  • The nature and dangers of totalitarian states, and the importance of not having centralised power in the hands of individuals who may abuse it.
  • The treatment of minority groups within a society that is fearful of them.
  • The issue of individual compliance versus independence.

 

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