I went to a Spoon concert this week! Well, you’re all caught up on my life.
Tris comes out of the test-hallucination and Eric tells her that she’s completed her final evaluation, and then does something totally not suspicious:
“This [syringe] will inject you with a tracking device that will be activated only if you are reported missing. Just a precaution. […] This is a new development, courtesy of the Erudite. We have been injecting every Dauntless throughout the day”
To be fair, Tris does realize this is sketchy, but knows she’s kind of stuck and complies. [Ariel says: I also like how Eric’s reasoning is on the same level as an excuse for why you suddenly need your significant other’s password. Oh, um, this is just a precaution in case you go missing suddenly and no one can clear your internet history.] She runs into Four/Tobias, who compliments her on having only seven fears on this incredibly accurate and meaningful test of an inherently unquantifiable thing. Tris deduces that he probably didn’t see the particular fear that was Four sexually assaulting her.
“If you want some peace and quiet, you can stay with me until the banquet.”
My stomach twists.
“What is it?” he asks.
I don’t want to go back to the dormitory, and I don’t want to be afraid of him.
And lo, we’re currently fulfilling the obligatory “female character is terrified of being raped” part of the book. [Ariel says: It’s especially weird given we’re supposed to like Four and be rooting for him and Tris as a couple.]
Obviously, I should explain what I mean by this.
Have you noticed that rape scenes in art and media (literature, television, etc.) are kind of… in vogue lately? I’m NOT saying that stories in these mediums shouldn’t talk about this serious issue, but as a recent Guardian piece on why more women watch The Walking Dead than Game of Thrones observes, “it [is] difficult to deal with the ‘rape and torture’ upon which so many procedural dramas rely”. [Ariel says: Also, Daryl, in a word. I really heart Daryl. And zombies.] This isn’t the first time we’ve talked about this on this blog, even. We’ve criticized “the obligatory sexual assault scene” in Beautiful Disaster, Walking Disaster, and Crossfire (not linking to a specific post because it is the entire plot of Crossfire). Hell, Fifty Shades threw not one, but two different attempted rape scenes at Ana. The problem isn’t talking about how serious rape is, but it’s that it’s become terrifyingly trendy to Talk About How Serious Rape Is… except not really. It’s like the Godwin’s Law of “serious” stories prominently featuring women to use rape as narrative currency to turn the stakes up to 11. She’s not just a hero, she’s a FEMALE hero, and this is the worst problem a female hero can ever encounter ever. This is the sort of thing that Anita Sarkeesian talked about in the newest Feminist Frequency that’s sparked such an internet shitstorm (don’t look it up if you don’t want to ruin your day), except it’s not just background detail to make the world edgy: when it happens to every female main character in every story regardless of how much place it has* in that story, it brings that hollow attempt at edginess to the forefront to bask in its hollowness. It’s become cliched, ubiquitous, and cheap. How the fuck did rape become a trope?
[Ariel says: Here’s my contribution to this, which is an amazing video I found on The A.V. Club. “After comics writer Gail Simone coined the phrase back in 1999, “women in refrigerators” has become shorthand for female characters forced to suffer through rape, torture, and even murder just to give their male counterparts convincing motivation and/or emotional depth.”
Not applicable in all of these stories, but in Reflected in You, Eva’s sexual assault is the motivator for Gideon murdering Nathan, and in Fifty Shades Christian has to come in and save Ana both times. I would say it also inspired Travis to beat people up, but Travis does that for any reason.]
(*Although to be fair, I could see how Divergent planted the seeds for Tris’s sudden fear of sexual assault when Peter felt her up during his attempt to murder her. So maybe Divergent could ultimately have something meaningful to say about this. But at the moment, and based on the quality of the book thus far, I’m not optimistic that this theme won’t simply feel tacked on.)
Anyway, WOW, that was a rough way to have to start this post! Let’s see how long it takes to get back to something we can make jokes about.
“Sometimes I wonder,” I say, as calmly as I can, “What’s in it for you. […] So if you’re just looking for… um, you know… that…”
“What? Sex?” He scowls at me. “You know if that was all I wanted, you probably wouldn’t be the first person I would go to.”
Not yet, I see. [Ariel says: Also, why does everything Four says have to be some sort of fake out? Like, “Yeah you’re not pretty…but I like how you look.” It’s like those feminist guy memes where it’s like, “Get back in the kitchen, woman…is something I’d never say because it’s super offensive.”]
Of course I’m not the first person he would go to – not the first, not the prettiest, not desirable.
For a character whose defining characteristic is how unique she is, Tris sure is indistinguishable from every other low self-esteem female protagonist we’ve read on this blog.
Four explains that he meant that he knew Tris wasn’t “like that”. Tris explains her fear landscape, and how she isn’t afraid of Four, but of “being with” Four. Four explains that this is “all new to me, too”. These are all quotes, by the way, just in case you were under the illusion that I was avoiding writing the word “sex” for some reason. [Ariel says: I don’t think anyone would ever accuse us of shying away from writing the word sex. The amount of times this blog is categorised as porn and blocked by web providers is ridiculous. I’ve sent a lot of angry emails.]
Tris shows Four her new Abnegation symbol tattoo, and Four ups the stakes by revealing he has a tattoo of every faction.
“I think we’ve made a mistake,” he says softly. […] “I want to be brave, and selfless, and smart, and kind, and honest.”
Tris goes to the banquet and Christina is all “where have you been for the past two hours” and Tris is all 😉
Then they speculate on what jobs they’ll try to get depending on their ranking, and if they made the cut. Tris muses on becoming an ambassador to the other factions, but the others were hoping she’d have aspirations to be Dauntless’s leader-in-training, because none of them can stand the thought of Peter becoming that. Will is interested in that job too, but this would only be significant if I ever remembered who Will is.
Next, they talk about their fear simulations. In response to learning that Tris is afraid of intimacy, Christina, in the grand Bad Books, Good Times tradition of snarky best friends who are really just the worst best friends, super considerately asks, “What was that like? Did someone just… try to do it with you?”
Eric goes on stage to begin the ceremony. Tris once again observes “that he was an Erudite once”, and it is still super unclear how literally we are supposed to take this, like if Eric is Dauntless, Divergent, or an Erudite/Dauntless spy that is somehow not Divergent. If only we had a clear answer to clear things up, like if we knew if he took the cheese or the knife. [Ariel says: Matt, you pointed this out before, but if he’s just a spy that’s amazing at passing as a member of Dauntless, then even the mysterious folks in charge of factions (or in charge of sending spies into factions??) realize how fucking stupid this system is.]
Eric reveals the rankings.
Tris is first.
Because ranking teenagers in YA novels is really hot these days, the rankings literally just appear in the book as a list:
Molly and Drew (aka Peter’s interchangeable douche-lackeys) are ranked 11th and 12th, very conveniently, and are therefore cut and factionless. Will and Christina make out in celebration, and then – SURPRISE – Tris kisses Four in front of everybody! For some reason this prompts her to figure out what we all figured out chapters ago.
Tobias’s thumb brushes over the injection site in my neck, and a few things come together at once. I don’t know how I didn’t figure this out before.
Yeah. I don’t know either, Tris. Only literally everything in this book involves mind-control. Even more strangely, this revelation happens in a way that suggests the author forgot she was writing a book and thought she was writing a BuzzFeed article. [Ariel says: It seems kind of like Roth was paying numbers by the hour and wanted to get her money’s worth. Now that she’s calling Four Tobias she had some extra budget to spare.]
One: Colored serum contains transmitters.
Two: Transmitters connect the mind to a simulation program.
Three: Erudite developed the serum.
Four: Eric and Max are working with the Erudite.
“Four Ways You Won’t Believe You Can Organize A Hostile Government Takeover!”
Question: If you had to rewrite any BBGT book title as the title of a BuzzFeed article, what would you come up with? (“Fifty Shades That Should Be Grey!”)
[Ariel says: I’ll bite. “10 Tips for Making the Most of Your Cave Space”
“30 Ways to Know if Your Billionaire Stalker is Right for You.”
Shit this reads like a bad women’s magazine and not necessarily Buzzfeed. Oh well!]