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Brave Nehru World: Is the Future Collarless?

Photo of Sam Adams By Sam Adams | Criticwire March 24, 2014 at 2:35PM

Want to whip up a futuristic dystopia on the double? Start by cutting your shirts off at the neck.
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Shailene Woodley and Theo James, but no collars, in "Divergent"
Shailene Woodley and Theo James, but no collars, in "Divergent"

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. 

Divergent

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.

Divergent

The same goes for Kate Winslet's Erudite ice queen. 

Divergent

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.

Divergent

It's not just "Divergent," either. The even more militarized future of "Ender's Game" takes a similarly dim view of excess neckwear:

Ender's Game

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.

Her

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.


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