So I saw “The Fault in Our Stars” at 9PM on June 5th, along with a theater full of screaming teenage girls. I’m not blogging about the film itself. As an adaptation, the film was wonderful. As a film, it was also wonderful. I really have no desire to talk about the quality of the film – I almost feel that it would be unnecessary to do so, cause, well, it’s TFIOS.
But I still need to talk about the experience because I had a strange, uncomfortable feeling seeing the film at a “midnight” release with a theater full of screaming teenage girls. Of course I was going to go to the release. I wanted to see “The Night Before Our Stars,” but unfortunately that didn’t work out, so I settled for the 9PM, which was the next best thing. But this was the first time I actually felt extremely out of place at a “midnight” release. It must have been partly because of my age. I am now a college graduate and have student taught young adults the age of those in the theater, and am about to teach more of those same young adults for an indefinite amount of years to come. But this wasn’t the only reason I felt uncomfortable.
It was the screaming.
Let’s think back. What was the last midnight release I attended? “Catching Fire.” Teenage girls, check. Screaming, check. But no discomfort. It makes sense that people would scream for “Catching Fire.” It’s a sequel. It’s a fantasy. It’s an action movie. It’s got Liam Hemsworth. I’d scream for Liam Hemsworth.
At the TFIOS release, it was the theater full of screaming teenage girls with decorated tissue boxes, prepared and aware of what was to come, that disturbed me. The theater was going crazy at every checkpoint leading up to the actual film. The previews-before-the-previews ended. Cheers. The real previews ended. Cheers. The film title appeared. Cheers. I’m sure this was a similar experience in theaters across the country. And it weirded me out.
This is a film about one of the most real and heart-wrenching things in the world: young people having cancer. And there are teenage girls screaming like it’s The British Invasion or something. Did this make anyone else feel uncomfortable??
I gave this a fair bit of thought afterward because it was seriously troubling me. But it wasn’t until I sat down to write about it did I realize that I was missing the whole point. I know the whole point of the book/film is that it’s not about young people having cancer. Well, it is, but it’s not. It’s about (like many other YA novels) how young people are way wiser than they are given credit for. It’s about love. It’s about sacrifice. It’s about living; it’s not about dying. And that’s why the young people cheer. They cheer for heroes that understand them, whether that be a malnourished girl fighting literal and metaphorical evils in an arena, or a girl who has trouble making friends and fighting against the illness inside her.
I may not have cheered, and I still won’t literally cheer. Maybe that’s because I’m older now and my younger self would have cheered. Or maybe it’s because I really can’t see beyond the heartbreak enough to cheer literally for the movie. But I’m cheering now, metaphorically. For John Green, and for Hazel, and for Esther, and for everyone whose lives are affected by cancer and still keep on keeping on. Cheers.