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Divergent: Actor Theo James talks about the story’s mass appeal with young people

theoBy Richard Crouse – Metro Canada

The new young adult movie Divergent declares, “The future belongs to those who know where they belong.”

In the film a Big Brother style government has divided the post-apocalyptic Chicago into five factions: the altruistic Abnegation sect, the peace loving Amity, the “I cannot tell a lie” Candor group, the militaristic arm Dauntless and the smarty-pants Erudites.

In the middle of this muddle is Four, played by Theo James, a Dauntless warrior with a sensitive side. He’s a mentor of sorts and love interest to Tris (Shailene Woodley), a sixteen year old who has recently pledged to Dauntless. During her grueling training Four helps her disguise the fact that she is “divergent,” a person who cannot be pigeonholed into just one designation.

James, the English-born star, beat out half of young Hollywood for the role, which was made popular in the wildly successful Divergent series of books. Sales of over five million copies puts the novels into Hunger Games territory, but why are they so popular with teens?

“I think there are two things to summarize it,” says James, a philosophy graduate from the University of Nottingham. “One, on a generalist level, it’s a good story to be able to be involved in in the same way as some others in the genre are. The faction system is a good thing for young people to grab hold of because they can question themselves. They can say, ‘Which one would I be in?’ There are cliques in high school, and it has those kinds of ramifications.

“There are other high school parallels; it’s a big assembly hall, there is a kind of teacher, there is a kind of ceremony which is almost like graduating from high school.

“Then there is the college era, being in Dauntless and then choosing what kind of job you’re going to go into. It has those fun things to be able to latch on to.

“On top of that there is the fantasy level of being in a world which is relatable because it is Chicago. You can see these landmarks, so it makes sense, but then it is the future so there is something more fantastic about it. As a result of that, there is also a deeper world you can step into.

“Then, you wonder about the generation now. Growing up they are constantly hearing the conversation about depleting resources and all these kind of environmental things. Not to say that everyone is partaking in it, but you can’t get away from it so they’re hearing, ‘Oh, the population is massive. China is two billion; we’re not going to have enough resources by this time. Look at India.’ As a result they are questioning the future and are questioning how they will be in the future and how they’re kids will be, so maybe it is kind of a relatable fantasy.”

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