The postapocalyptic future of “Divergent,” which handily topped the weekend box office, is a frightening one: A world without social mobility, where you’re born into one of five factions and have one choice, which almost no one exercises, to switch teams. It’s a world without art, or culture, or anything beyond the strict fulfillment of one’s place in the established, and rigidly enforced order. And it’s a world without something else, a subtle absence, one that might seem insignificant, and yet one that transforms the way the entire society looks and feels.
I’m speaking, of course, of collars.
Here’s Shailene Woodley’s Beatrice and her brother, Caleb (Ansel Elgort) at the choosing ceremony where they pick a faction for life, clad in the colorless robes of Abnegation.
Their brown and beige outfits reflect Agnegation’s opposition to vanity, although Caleb’s product-enhanced hair prefigures the fact that he’s about to bolt for the more stylish environs of Erudite. But what really sells their lack of frippery is the collarless edges of Caleb’s frontier shirt and Beatrice’s unadorned neckline, its inessentials shorn away like the soon-to-be discarded letters of her first name. But even when Tris joins up with the wild boys and girls of Dauntless, who run through the abandoned streets of Chicago to the sound of clattering drums like a wayward Stomp troupe, their militaristic outfits still have no room for collars.
The same goes for Kate Winslet’s Erudite ice queen.
In fact, perhaps the only collared shirt in all of “Divergent” belongs to the post-Erudite Caleb, who’s evidently so distracted by the extra piece of cloth around his neck he doesn’t realize he’s accidentally joined Team Evil.
It’s not just “Divergent,” either. The even more militarized future of “Ender’s Game” takes a similarly dim view of excess neckwear:
The future of “Her” may be a generally more pleasant place, with soothing colors and computers that really want to hear how your day went, but there’s a price to be paid, and it’s paid in collars.
To be fair, Joaquin Phoenix’s character can be spotted wearing button-down collars in some scenes — perhaps the surest sign that his future hasn’t yet become a totalitarian hell-state. But watch your back, Theodore Twombly. First, they came for the belts; the collars can’t be far behind.