Whether we see it or not, many modern day films contain classical Greek myth within them. Whether they are based on a myth, exemplify roles that hold certain characteristics of Greek gods or goddesses, or just have other subtle associations, classical mythology is there. We can make this association between Greek mythology and modern day cinema in the 2014 movie Divergent, which is part of a series of films. Divergent showcases a female heroine named Tris as she finds herself in a futuristic, post-apocalyptic world that turns out to be a dystopia. Tris lives in a world where everything and everyone is neatly organized into certain roles and positions. People are divided based on their virtues in one of four factions: Abnegation (the selfless), Amity (the peaceful), Candor (the honest), Dauntless (the brave), and Erudite (the intellectual). However, for Tris, neatly fitting in one of these roles is not possible.
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Tris is divergent, which means she does not fit into any of the categories as nicely as society wants her to. Her society would look at her as she is unworthy or unprivileged and would basically throw her out like all the other “factionless” people. However, although Tris is different and doesn’t fit in, her “disadvantage” is more of an advantage. Although she doesn’t know it yet, she is much stronger, braver, and skilled than she thinks she is. Because of Tris’ initial bravery as she chooses the faction of Dauntless, even though she was born into Abnegation, we can already see her displaying characteristics of Athena. Athena is the goddess of war, strategy, and strength. Tris’ entrance into Dauntless can be compared to the birth of Athena. As we know Athena was born out of Zeus’ head. Zeus swallowed Metis (strategy) because of a child prophecy that would threaten his ruling. He starts getting horrible headaches so, he calls Hephaestus. To help Zeus with his headaches, Hephaestus splits his head open with a giant hammer. Athena jumps out wearing all her armor, ready to face anything that comes her way. Alike, Tris is ready to face the world she now is truly a part of.
As she enters Dauntless to begin training, she comes across the brutal leader and trainer named Eric. Eric makes it clear that Dauntless is a place for only those who can handle anything throw at them. It is not a place where mistakes are made, because even one can cost a person their position in the faction, throwing them out with the factionless. Eric upholds the high expectations of Dauntless and he doesn’t play around. He is serious, ruthless and downright emotionless. Here, we can see a strong connection to Ares, the god of war. Ares is not like Athena. Although they both are the god and goddess of war, Ares is associated with brutal and savage war. He is not associated with strategy as Athena is, and he is nothing but raw strength and power. Just like Ares, Eric only knows brutality and force. His only approach to teaching and training new members of the faction is to push them to their breaking points. He doesn’t demonstrate any sense of strategy because he doesn’t know how to approach people with emotion and be empathetic. He only has one approach and it is to be downright savage and unconcerned with people’s feelings.
Tris Prior shows her true heroine strengths as she tries to bring back peace and save the people of Abnegation. She uses her Divergent abilities to truly rise above. However, she doesn’t do it alone. By her side is Four, a Dauntless who appears dangerous at first, but protects Tris as he too is a divergent. Four’s apparent dark and seemingly dangerous character which then turns out to be quite caring and compassionate, can compare with Hades. Being the god of the underworld doesn’t seem to leave a good impression on people however, Hades’ personality doesn’t really match his position in Greek mythology. Hades turns out to have a soft side, as seen in the myth of Persephone. Similarly, Four has a soft spot too…for Tris, that is. Together Tris and Four help restore peace in their nation.
The characters show their godly personalities most vividly in the climax of the movie. By this point, Erudites are trying to take over rule of the factions by dominating over Abnegation. By the order of Erudite, Abnegations are to be executed by the soldiers /warriors; Dauntless. A mind-controlling serum is released and everyone except Divergents are affected. Tris tries to blend in so her secret will remain and in the process, she sees Four, who reveals himself to be a Divergent as well. As Dauntless moves to attack Abnegation, Tris and Four look for Tris’ parents. However, Eric realizes that Four is not under control of the serum so he captures the two of them. As Four is locked away, Tris is saved by her mother who gets killed in the process. Somehow, Tris finds her way into Erudite’s control center where all the hostility originated from. There, she finds Four who is under a mind control serum designed to work for Divergents and he proceeds to attack her. Just as Athena uses her wisdom and crafts, Tris uses her knowledge of Four’s fears she had learned while in the dream-simulator with him, to bring him back to reality.
Together they enter the central control room where they find the leader of Erudite, Jeanine. If Tris and Four don’t quickly figure out how to stop her, she will have the entire faction of Abnegation executed by the mind-controlled army of Dauntless. Together with their impeccable strength and unbelievable bravery, Tris and Four stop Jeanine and free the Dauntless of the mind control. Although the nation is very far from the concept of peace, a way to a revolution has been paved by the brave Divergent, Tris Prior.
As we more closely observe the character of Four, we can see certain personality traits that can be connected to the myth of Hades and Persephone. Even in the dystopian world of their time, Four and Tris seem to have found an authentic love and partnership. Four is very protective of Tris, even in the very beginning of their connection, and Tris shows the same protectiveness. Four is very loving and compassionate towards Tris, this being evident while he comforts her as she has lost both her mother and father in a short period of time. This sparks a connection to the myth of Hades and Persephone. As we know, in the myth, Persephone is abducted by Hades because of her insane beauty. Although Persephone is not into it at first, as she has just gotten abducted by some older dude, Hades begins to grow on her. Hades wants Persephone all to himself and that’s why he takes her to the underworld with him, just as Four shows an evident protectiveness over Tris and makes sure neither Eric nor anyone else can do her harm. Hades provides anything and everything for Persephone (perhaps to make up for the abduction), he not only wants her for her beauty but he truly cares for her as a companion. Persephone is Hades’ queen, as Tris is Four’s partner in a really messed-up world.
Another aspect we can compare Greek myth and modern film is in the costume choices. Although it is not as evident in Divergent as it is in the other films in the series, costume choice is very important. In the 2016 film Allegiant, Tris Prior steps-up her costume-game immensely. In the new film, everyone’s outfits are much more sophisticated. Their armor shows more of a connection to classical mythology. In particular, Tris shows off some new armor and accessories. In order to fight against her new enemies, Tris uses some sort of futuristic automatic weapon that is equipped with small, circular, flying drones that can detect targets and act as a shield. If anyone shoots at her, the digital shield will protect her from the incoming fire. This costume choice sparks a connection with Athena’s aegis, which a metal shield with the head of Medusa raised on it. Athena uses this to protect her from everything that comes in her path.
Although it is not always evident to many viewers, modern day film is filled with connections to classical mythology. It can be shown in many ways including: through the use of archetypical characters, character traits and personalities, character relationships and even costume designs. Tris Prior is the modern day Athena accompanied by her partner and love interest Four, who shows characteristics of Hades. Their common enemy, Eric can demonstrate how Ares comes into play in this modern day depiction. With a mix of strength, strategy, wisdom, compassion, and most of all bravery, Tris Prior leads a revolution in a her dystopian reality.
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