As a child born in the early 1980s, I consider myself an older millennial and quite lucky. I know what it’s like to play outside all day or use my imagination to play games and the value of an up-to-date encyclopedia. I also had positively strong female role models, which include my grandmother, mother, Xena: Warrior Princess, and Buffy: The Vampire Slayer. These women showed me that a woman can be strong, independent, and still have a man for priceless things in life like love.
However, I have feared for the next generation: the Instagram Generation. It seemed that these girls didn’t have any strong female role models to look up to when it comes to literature and cinema. Sure Twilight’s Bella and Fifty Shades of Grey’s Anastasia are popular, but are they strong enough to stand up to the villain on their own?
In the latest installment of the Divergent franchise, Insurgent, Tris (played by Shailene Woodley) and Four (Theo James) are on the run from Jeanine (Kate Winslet), leader of the intelligent Erudite faction and a ruthless sect of Dauntless soldiers, led by Max (Mekhi Phifer) and Eric (Jai Courtney). Tris and Four are looking for allies in the other factions (the brave Dauntless, the peaceful Amity, and the
honest Candor) so that they can declare war against Jeanine. Meanwhile, our hero and heroine are both wrestling with their past. Their journey culminates into a revelatory experience that shakes the foundation of their society.
Insurgent is based on the second book of best-selling author Veronia Roth’s young adult series Divergent. The simplistic script for Insurgent was adapted by Brian Duffield, Akiva Goldsman and Mark Bomback, with Robert Schwentke directing.
We Need a Heroine
With the recent phenomenon that is great young adult fiction centered on a strong female presence, the literary industry and its authors have birthed Hunger Games’ Katniss Everdeen and Divergent’s Tris Prior (and counting). While it would be unfair to compare these two heroines and their respective stories, there are some parallels.
Both women are strong, save the day, and live in a dystopian world. But, Katniss (love the character to pieces) gets a lot of outside help. Shes always comes into a situation after everything has been set up for her. She never boldly initiates a fight or even is brave enough to go into the lion’s den like Tris.
Tris is strong, deadly, and selfless. Those qualities make her someone to root for. She also admits that she’s not perfect, blasting the myth that as women we have to be everything to everyone, except ourselves. It also helps that Tris is surrounded by strong women: her mother Natalie (the 1990s epitome of a super heroine, Ashley Judd), her Dauntless friend Christina (Zoe Kravitz), Amity leader Johanna (Octavia Spencer), Dauntless ally Tori (Maggie Q), and even Four’s mother and leader of the Factionless Evelyn (Naomi Watts). As Aretha Franklin put it: “Sisters are doin’ it for themselves”.
Likewise, to analyze a heroine and her peers you have to analyze her villainous match: Jeanine. Jeanine is a formidable and masterful adversary: intelligent, always a step ahead, and doesn’t flinch from a fight. From a writer’s standpoint, she’s an awesome antihero. And, Winslet is crazy good at being the villain.
It’s been a decade coming, but Generation Instagram finally has two strong heroines for role models. I hope this trend never fades in the literary and film worlds and continues to open doors for more heroines like Tris and Katniss. Or else, (shudder) we’ll be left watching yet another great actress play a one-note “girlfriend”.