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The Divergent–Fault in Our Stars Fake Incest Problem

Photo: PatrickMcMullan.com

First, some explanation, in case you have not finished your assigned YA reading and/or just happen to be a grown adult: Shailene Woodley is the star of not one but two adaptations of major YA best sellers currently in the works; the first is Divergent, the Hunger Games-y trilogy written by Veronica Roth, and the other is The Fault in Our Stars, a weepy (but funny!) cancer story by John Green. Since these are big-deal movies, the Tumblr set has been busy fretting over the rest of the casting choices, and last weekend they finally got a big one: Augustus Waters, the male lead and love interest in The Fault in Our Stars, will be played by 19-year-old Ansel Elgort. As it turns out, Elgort also has a role in Divergent, which seems like reasonable teen synergy until you find out that he plays Woodley’s brother. Now The Fault in Our Stars is a cancer story about Shailene Woodley making out with her onscreen relative.

We understand that these are made-up characters in a made-up movie and nothing untoward is actually happening, but still: This is a strange decision. Of all the possible teen actors (and there are so many, according to the fan blogs), why would you choose the one guy who is already playing your lead actress’s brother in another high-profile YA franchise? It is hard enough to forget an actor’s résumé under normal circumstances; now we have to bring fake incest into this?

It might be different if they played love interests first, like, say, Emma Thompson and Hugh Grant (Sense and Sensibility before Love Actually). Somehow it is less jarring when the sexual energy is being removed from the equation; it also helps if you have a solid chunk of time — eight years, in Thompson and Grant’s case — to forget the other screen relationship ever happened. But Divergent will only have a few months’ lead on Fault, which means we’ll have to meet Woodley and Elgort as brother-sister, then watch them fall in love, and then accept them as siblings again in the Divergent sequels. It makes all four (five, probably) movies ickier, for no obvious reason other than “we liked this guy, too.”

Okay, icky is a bit immature. It’s fiction, after all, and we’re sure that Ansel Elgort can hang a cigarette from his mouth with real panache. If Shailene Woodley is cool with it — “I’m so excited. He blew it out of the water” was the official reaction — then maybe we should be, too. It could even be funny: “I keep joking with Ansel about it,” she told EW. “I’m like, ‘In a few months, buddy, you’re going to be my lover.’”

Actually, no, the “lover” part is still gross.

The Divergent–Fault in Our Stars Incest Problem