Saturday, July 25, 2015

Divergent & Mulan

I've been meaning to do this post for so long--I think I just had to contain myself because I was doing a lot of Divergent-related posts back in March, and I thought it was getting to be a bit much. After all, I try to make this blog be about multiple subjects at once, and so if I focus too long on one thing, I always end up feeling like I need to give it a rest. But now that Divergent has had a rest, I am returning with my old post idea.

Though I saw Mulan in theaters when it came out, I didn't see it again until just a couple of years ago. I remembered the basic concept, but that's all--so I was surprised to see how much I enjoyed it. Overall, it's a pretty good movie. And then when I was watching and reading Divergent this spring and every thought and every story seemed to bring me back to Tris and Co., I found myself thinking back to Mulan again and, wham, it was like the two stories were mirrors of each other.

They're both stories of young women who exit from a relatively secluded, more subdued lifestyle (at least, a life where they're taught to be subdued, though neither is particularly good at it) to enter into military training, where they at first struggle greatly but manage to do well through strength of will and perseverance. Oh, yes, and along the way, they make friends with their fellow trainees and fall in love with their trainer and then they all save people in some kind of battle at the end. Yeah, pretty simple and similar.

Tris is Mulan. The Abnegation faction is the domestic life that Mulan was raised to believe was her only path: both settings tried (unsuccessfully) to subdue certain traits in these characters and to tell them that only through subduing these traits could they have success in their lives--when in reality it was these very traits (different, perhaps, from the demeanors of the other people around them) that were their strengths. The initiate training at Dauntless is the army training Mulan goes through in preparation for the war: both characters start out low in this because they have no experience in anything similar, yet they prove themselves in the end because they decide to succeed. Instead of Christina, Will, and the rest, Mulan has Yao, Ling, and Chien-Po; a core group of friends is necessary to both characters.

And then we have Four and Shang, in charge of training and both good at what they do. Both Tris and Mulan make enough of an impression on them for love to quickly follow working-together-relationship they started with. Interestingly, both young women have something to hide: Tris her Divergence and Mulan the fact that she is a woman. Two dangerous secrets that Four and Shang accept without trying to make Tris and Mulan suffer for them: Four doesn't tell anyone Tris's secret and Shang spares Mulan from the death penalty after she is found out.

Bottom line: figure out what your strengths and weaknesses are and promote the former while working on the latter, and don't forget to surround yourself with other people who can recognize your good traits, too (and whose good traits you recognize in return). Discovery of personal identity and strength leads to unified strength. Divergent and Mulan, you both have a great theme.


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