Call it “The Hunger Games” 2.0.
This past weekend, “Divergent” opened with a respectable $55 million at the box office. It’s hardly “Twilight” money, but it’s a satisfying spring debut for a franchise hopeful that’s following in the wake of “The Hunger Games,” which is also about a feisty young woman leading a rebellion in a post apocalyptic society. (I plan on seeing “Divergent” this weekend though I’m in it mostly for Brando-esque co-star Theo James – he of the sculpted cheekbones and the sullen, sultry way with a self-contained character, Mr. Pamuk in “Downton Abbey” and the title character in CBS’ short-lived “Golden Boy.”)
The success of “The Hunger Games,” which cemented humorous everywoman Jennifer Lawrence as a star, has led toy companies to develop a whole line of weaponry – guns and bows and arrows in pink, no less – for girls who want to emulate Lawrence’s Katniss or Shailene Woodley’s Tris in “Divergent.” I have no problem with this or with stories featuring gutsy, independent-minded young women, having once been a gutsy, independent-minded young woman myself, one who identified deeply with the warrior women of ancient myths, particularly the Greek goddess Pallas Athena.
Last weekend at the Hudson Valley Gateway Experience in Cortlandt Manor, N.Y., I had the pleasure of meeting Claribel Ortega, whose new teen witch novella “The Skinwalker’s Apprentice” could very well follow in the path that “The Hunger Games” and “Divergent” are treading.
But I have to wonder if all of this isn’t window-dressing. Katniss, Tris, Ortega’s Emerald Kipp: In reality, they might be making .77 cents on every dollar a man earns – still, a half-century after the most recent wave of feminism. And they’d be lucky if their companies’ insurance covered their birth control.
Nevertheless, they’d be better off than their sisters in the developing world, who often face gang rape, mutilation and death merely for seizing control of their own destinies. Why? Because their independence threatens the lazy, greedy order of the medieval, agrarian patriarchy into which they were born.
In reviewing “Divergent,” The New York Times’ film critic Manohla Dargis called it a dumb movie that she hoped would strike a blow in the studios’ executive suites, helping to liberate women’s pictures from niche marketing.
Here’s hoping, too, that the aim of this new generation of warrior women is even more far-reaching.