This post is about the film Divergent. Spoilers ahead!

Ok, so in our world we have drugs which alter moods and effect hormone levels. We have various medications that try to reconfigure brain chemistry in order to minimize and reduce things like depression and anxiety.

The funny thing about these drugs is that in a small percentage of the population they have the opposite effect. They increase depression, anxiety, and mood swings. The reasons for this are not well known although such cases are well documented . In all such divergent cases the patient has an even more extreme reaction the more of the drug that they receive.

Are you still with me? Good then here is my problem with the film Divergent.

In the future(don’t you just love it when sci-fi starts like that?) we have invented really powerful mind altering drugs. We can induce very specific hallucinations and we can even shut out the brain’s higher cognitive processes while leaving the brain’s motor functions intact. Basically we have a mind control drug which is good to use on our soldiers.

Now forget about the factions for a minute, the fact that society is split into 5 different classes based on some perceived psychological trait. If anyone can join any faction (when they hit adulthood) then there is no real biological or neurological difference between the members of the various factions. This is also clear when we see that the mind control drug works well on Dauntless faction and Erudite faction.

Yet the Divergents are immune/resistant to both the hallucinogenic and mind control drugs. This is shown time and time again through our main character Tris.

Now we also discover that our main male character Four is also a divergent. He has to be otherwise there is no way for him to resist the mind control drug. Yet when he is captured and they give him a stronger dose of the drug he gives in to its power. This is a major turning point in the film.


But this should not actually be able to happen.

If four is a divergent, as he surely must be, then a higher dose of the mind control drug should have the effect of increasing his resistance rather than breaking it down. He should react the same way as people in our world react when they are unaffected by small doses of an antidepressant. They get more of the drug and it starts to have the opposite effect on them. Four should be increasingly paranoid and isolationist, trusting no one in anything, fighting even the most mundane suggestions, but he does not do any of this, at least not in the film.

Further proof can be seen in how Tris is completely unaffected by the drug. She does not resist it, rather it does nothing to her at all. It does seem to raise her levels of paranoia , recklessness, and emotional isolation( nary a tear to be shed for the death of both her parents, well relatively few tears considering the people shooting at you situation). But on the whole this increase could be attributed to the increased anxiety of being in a tense and life threatening situation. Either way she does not have to overwhelm the drug through willpower she just seems to have no susceptibility to it.

Now I am reminded by people who know these things that not everyone has the same reactions to mind altering drugs. Some people do not have any real response to even a very high dose of an anti-depressant, whereas some people only need a very low dose to help them deal with their depression.

This of course raises a ton of other problems about the fact that when the entire Dauntless faction is given the mind control drug all of the soldiers have the exact same reaction. This drug was put into the field without any substantial clinical trials on humans, of which we know, so here is what should have happened.

  • 10% die just as soon as they take the drug because serious mind and brain altering drugs can have serious side effects.
  • 40% react more or less the way that the researchers predicted they would (they are smart people after all and that is a very good success rate for an untested extremely dangerous drug)
  • 35% of people have a minor reaction, so partial mind-control but not full and this creates all manner of psychological problems and chaos and disorder reign throughout the ranks since there is no strict military hierarchy to the gang of warrior daredevils that is Dauntless
  • 15% of people have such varied reactions as to defy any system of classification other than this arbitrarily defined category of miscellaneous (also Divergents have to go somewhere so you put them here in miscellaneous)

Why? Because it does not matter how smart you are. Different human bodies have slightly different chemistry and a drug that has been untested on humans is going to have extremely unpredictable results.

But this is not my greatest problem with the film, just a point of contention.