Andrew O’Hehir writes in his Salon piece that “The Hunger Games,” and “Divergent” are propaganda. Then he says they are not propaganda in the usual sense of the word but rather propaganda in the service of “individualism.” Individualism, according to O’Hehir, is the central idea behind consumer capitalism and is the bogey man we are all to fear. This is rubbish.
I would suggest that going from a young woman’s view of present day society as a glorified high school drama about not fitting as is the case with “Divergent” to political agitprop is a dangerous leap and a bit of a stretch.
O’hehir goes on to say that we must accept the premise that all imagined worlds of the future must be about the present; a dubious conjecture at best. Where, he asks, are the fascist forces demanding conformity? Where is the segregation of society to be found? Where is the regimentation that we see depicted these movies? Is he serious? One just has to open one’s eyes and look around to see plenty. Look at the paramilitary swat teams that have grown up in so many cities across America. Look at the spying on citizens that goes on by the NSA, Facebook, and Google. The pressure to conform has never been greater. Society is most certainly segmented into strata and classes. From the highest to the lowest, by race and by gender. And let’s not forget about the struggles of the LBGT community. In the workplace, if you don’t conform you are out.
I would argue that the oppressive societies shown in the “Hunger Games” and “Divergent” are in fact allegorical to our present day times. They are cautionary tales to what the future may hold. The central message presented by “Divergent” is to beware of labeling or “pigeon holing” people based on personality traits or some form of arbitrary and rigid cast system that offers no upward or lateral mobility.
The place where I would agree with O’Hehir is that “Divergent,” while entertaining, was unsophisticated and simplistic. But what do you expect? It was based on the first of a series of novels written by a young woman geared for a young adult audience. I was willing to suspend my disbelief for a well- intentioned, well made, good effort that had much to offer including a strong female lead that was empowering to her and presented a good role model for other girls to follow. This, I think, is a good trend.
If you want to see real capitalist agitprop, check out Howard Roark’s speech in The Fountain Head, a movie based on the Ayn Rand novel of the same name. In this speech you can catch a glimpse the ideology of the individual versus the collective that O’Hehir is so agitated about.