July 21, 2014

I Hated The Fault in Our Stars:
The reasons, as I am fully aware, may make you call me a stupid, angry feminist

I really hated The Fault in Our Stars. I know, this makes me a horrible, heartless, soulless, cold, awful person, but I did. I know, most people will point and say, "That's a feminist overreacting, Silly Feminist™," but I can't help it. I hated this movie.

It was yet another unrealistic portrayal of relationships for young women--teens and tweens--to soak in.

Warning: If you continue, there will be major plot spoilers. So if you don't want to spoil it before you see or read it, don't continue--but please bookmark this and let me know what you think later. I'll be waiting.
Alright, let's get a few clarifications out of the way first. I have not read the book of this title. Normally, I require myself to read the book before I go to the movie, but this time, my stepdaughter read it and wanted to see it for her birthday, so I made an exception.

Another clarification: I understand that both of these kids have cancer. I understand that, for some reason, people want to be soft on the movie because of that, and that I am Evil Manifest™ for pointing out the glaring objectification of the female character because of that.

Another, final clarification: I understand that Augustus "Gus" Waters is the emphasis because Hazel Grace Lancaster is the one telling the story. I get it.

Okay, on to why I hated this movie. I can sum it up in one scene: They are at a fancy, romantic Amsterdam restaurant, enjoying their first glasses of champagne, when the server asks whether they want menus, or if they will just take the chef's special. Hazel starts to speak up, when, wait, no, there goes Gus, ordering for them both.

And that's the tone of the entire relationship. From the very beginning, it's all about what Gus wants. He determines the tone, gives Hazel no options, and generally railroads her.

When you combine that with the fact that, prior to Gus, she's in a depressed state, it's little more than Twilight, repackaged, with cancer.

Relationships are not some magical cure-all, and yet, that's how they are packaged, again, in this movie. Again girls are sold short--she's not strong enough to overcome her circumstances, she needs this happy-go-lucky guy to shake her out of her shell. And it's driving me nuts. I have daughters that watch this--please, can we once, give them a female protagonist, who even in a relationship, doesn't lose herself?

I know, just from considering the mechanics of it myself over the past few days, that such a feat would be difficult to write. But I would love to read it, if someone was willing to make the effort. I'd love to watch it. I'd love to take my kids to see it. I'd love it, because it contradicted this steady stream of influence that says, "Having a man is the most important thing, and you must do what he says if you want to get and keep him." Because, honey, that's not the way that life works, and it's most certainly not the way that relationship work.

There are some things that I can excuse simply by nature of perspective. I linked a great poem in my Jennifer Michael Hecht piece a few weeks back called "When They Die We Change Our Minds About Them", and it's true: We look at the dead differently. Of course she's going to remember him more fondly--he was important to her, and now she's gone.

I don't want to understate the importance of partners, either. I think, for people that want a partner, it's an incredibly life-changing experience to be in love. But teenagers are being sold this idea that you'll meet your partner, fall in love, and be happy--and that's not how life works. It's not. Your partner's not there to complete you, or to fix something about you, or to show you a whole new world. Those are all things they can do, but the primary binding part of a relationship should be two whole people coming together.

I could go on and on about other parts of the film--for instance, Gus never compliments Hazel to her face on anything but her looks, and the only other compliment is one about her brains that he sends to SOMEONE ELSE--but I won't.

I'm not really against the movie, but I wish that it had been done differently. I wish that it had been a Hazel Grace who didn't need a boy to wake her up and show her that life was waiting to be lived, or that figured out how to get to Amsterdam herself, without needing a boy to fix it for her. Relationships aren't meant to fix things. Partners don't fix things. Love doesn't fix things.

I am desperately wishing for a female character for whom life is the adventure, and if someone wants to tagalong, great. If not, she'll give them hell, all by herself.

That's what I want my girls to see.

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