In which John continues the Nerdfighter Book Club’s discussion of Katherine Boo’s Behind the Beautiful Forevers. Are there unambiguous victories? How should we approach our understanding of and relationship with charities domestic and international? I look forward to reading all of your thoughts in comments when I get back.
Perk Update: John Green Writing Sneak Peak
If you donated for the John Green Writing Sneak Peak, you should find it winding its way into your email inbox very soon! Thanks again for donating to the Project for Awesome 2013 and for your patience in the delivery of this perk.
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In which John discusses his forthcoming trip with Bill Gates (yes, that Bill Gates), his health anxiety, the worldwide threat of mosquito-borne illnesses, health anxiety, Behind the Beautiful Forevers, the tyranny of Hollywood in re haircut frequency, and the arrival of pre-roll advertising on the vlogbrothers channel.
Q:"It's a metaphor" I have no doubt that you completely understand and stand by this statement that the act of putting an unlit cigarette in Augustus Waters' mouth is in fact a metaphor. But for some folks, we don't see it asa metaphor, we see it as situational irony, or a simple statement. Please explain how it is a metaphor.
Well, a character in a novel saying that something is a metaphor is not the same thing as the author of the novel saying that it’s a metaphor. Gus’s intellectual grasp often exceeds his reach (he calls a monologue a soliloquy, and misuses quite a few of the bigger words in his vocabulary). But I do think the cigarette is a metaphor, albeit a different one for us than it is for him.
Gus’s idea is that the cigarette is a metaphor for illness, and he keeps it unlit and in his mouth as an expression of his power over illness. “You put the killing thing between your teeth but you don’t give it the power to do its killing.” Gus’s thinking here is that HE has the power. This is why he tends to use the cigarette when he’s feeling nervous or powerless. (He’s also using the most famous commercially available carcinogen to make this statement, so obviously there’s a connection there in his mind: Humans can prevent cancer by not smoking; cancer is something we can have power over; your job is not to give cancer the power to kill you; etc.)
But of course Gus is wrong about all of this, or at least almost all of it. You may have SOME control over whether you die of cancer (you can choose not to smoke), but in most cases humans don’t have control over illness. “You don’t give it the power to do its killing” imagines more agency over illness than we actually have, because in the end much of the fault is in the stars, not in ourselves. So to us, the unlit cigarette is a metaphor for our false perception of control, and our urgent need to feel in control. It’s no coincidence, then, that when Gus’s life is spiraling out of control and he finds himself powerless before fate, he tries (and fails) to buy cigarettes.
the fault in our realtors
This is the John Green who owns johngreen.com. For many years, I wanted (desperately) to be the first person to come up when you searched “John Green” on google*, and John Green the Realtor was in my way. Plus, I narrowly missed the window to own johngreen.com, and I always resented John Green the Realtor.
(But really it was my fault: I told Hank in the late 90s that I didn’t want my own domain name because it was a waste of money and that I’d rather him build me a web site for my college “comedy writing” using a subdomain of his web site about Mars Exploration. “People don’t type URLs,” I told him. “They click them. So it doesn’t matter what your web site is called.” Other brilliant Internet predictions from me include, “Lonelygirl15 is definitely real,” “There will never be an Internet audience for widescreen video,” “MySpace is cooler than Facebook,” and “I don’t understand what a tumblr even is; it’s like a blog, but I already have a blog; why would I need a new blog?”)
Anyway, I know that some people on tumblr feel like I apologize too much, but I’d like to take this opportunity to apologize to John Green the Realtor, who has done a great job with johngreen.com and seems by all accounts to be an excellent choice for your real estate needs in Southwestern Tennessee and northern Mississippi.
* I am deeply embarrassed of this ambition, but anyway this was in the days before google personalized search, when there was but one Internet for all of us.
In which John Green returns to teaching World History! This week, we’ll be talking about the idea of civilization, some of the traditional hallmarks of so-called civilization, and why some people would choose to live outside the civilization model. It turns out, not everyone who lives outside of what we traditionally think of as a “civilized” social order is necessarily a barbarian! To defuse any tension you may be feeling, I’ll just tell you now, the Mongols are back. You’ll learn about Zomia, swidden agriculture, and even a little about anarchy!
Q:I'm so gutted that looking for Alaska wont be made into a film! Why is that not happening?
It may! I don’t own the film rights to Looking for Alaska (Paramount bought the rights in 2005 and will own them forever), so it’s not my decision whether to make a film—or what kind of film to make.
In general, authors have very little say about such things. I didn’t do anything to make the TFIOS movie happen (or to make it good); I just got lucky. It’s not my movie. It’s Josh’s movie. There’s nothing I can do to force Paramount to make Looking for Alaska. And if they make it I’ll have very little control over whether it ends up being good.
Then again, one could argue—as movie studios have been arguing for decades—that movies don’t necessarily get better when authors have a lot of creative input, because authors may not know much about movies or how to make them good. I certainly don’t!
A beautiful, brilliant video from Vi Hart about infinity, and whether some infinities really are bigger than others.
The last minute or so of this video is absolutely beautiful, and makes a point that I had never considered before.
Let us now pause to be grateful that we live in a world that contains a Vi Hart.
Vote for which team you want Hank and John to root for!
The FIFA World Cup kicks off tomorrow with Brazil vs. Croatia! Follow the link above to vote for the teams you want me to throw my support behind in the upcoming matches. $1 = 1 vote.
(100% of donations will be granted by the Foundation to Decrease Worldsuck to the Sarcoma Fund of America.)
New vlogbrothers video! Our Old Friend Complexity: I talk about the role of luck in Katherine Boo’s Behind the Beautiful Forevers.
A Note on Yesterday’s Posts
I am on vacation so did not see the reaction to some of my posts yesterday, or I would have responded sooner. As a heads up, I am going to return to vacation momentarily and won’t be back until Friday.
But I want to apologize for an earlier tumblr post in which I captioned Hazel and Gus’s movie kiss in Amsterdam by saying something like, “When was the last time the girl kissed the boy in a romance?”
I thought it would be contextually clear that I was referring to romantic movies, not to books. There have been many (many many many many) books for teens in which the girl kisses the boy. But there have also been many movies in which the girl kisses the boy, so I was dead wrong regardless.
I was trying to congratulate the filmmakers on making a smart choice to have Hazel kiss Gus (and it is a choice, since in the book it’s not clear who, for lack of a better term, makes the move). I was not in any way trying to credit myself with having had the girl kiss the boy, especially since I didn’t in TFIOS—at least not unambiguously so.
All that noted, it was an incorrect thing to say, and I apologize. In my exuberance for the film, I said something that was both flatly wrong and offensive, and I appreciate being called out on it, and I’m sorry.
I’ve also been told that lots of people felt that it was unfair of me to tweet that it took guts for Fox to release a small, female-led movie in the summer, and to make a movie about people living with disabilities. I want to be clear that I don’t think there was anything REVOLUTIONARY about Fox’s choices here: after all, TFIOS came out two weeks after Maleficent, which was also a gutsy release date imho, and certainly TFIOS isn’t the first movie to feature characters with disabilities prominently.
But I strongly believe it was smart and gutsy of Elizabeth Gabler to make TFIOS, and then to release it in June. I don’t want to generalize unfairly, but many studio heads feel that summer should be all about action movies and superheroes. (For the record, I thought it was bananas to release the movie in June against a Tom Cruise film.) But Elizabeth believed there would be an audience for it, and she was right, and it was a brilliant call, and I’m grateful to her.
In general, I do want to clarify one more thing: When I talk about the movie, I am not talking about myself, because I did not make the movie, write the screenplay, cast the movie etc. I had nothing to do with any facet of the actual process of making and marketing the movie (except agreeing to, like, be interviewed and stuff), so I do not deserve any credit for the quality or success of the film. All that credit should go to the people at Fox, the filmmakers, and cast and crew.
The Reviews for The Fault in Our Stars Are Flooding In
…and they are by and large amazing.
"The Fault in Our Stars is nearly flawless. The movie is well-written, well-acted, acerbic, funny and wisely observed. Fans of the book will be glad to hear it is faithful to Green’s tale." -USA Today
"A wise, warm, funny and touching romantic drama. The Fault in Our Stars achieves that rare feat of eliciting as many cheers as tears.” -Washington Post
"After having the privilege of witnessing Shailene Woodley’s transcendent, pure and authentic performance in “The Fault in Our Stars,” I believe there are now only four slots available in the category of Best Performance by An Actress in a Lead role. She’s that memorable." -Chicago Sun-Times
"One hell of a love story. Very faithful to John Green’s novel." -Cleveland Plain Dealer
"The film sets out to make you weep — not just sniffle or choke up a little, but sob until your nose runs and your face turns blotchy. It succeeds." -New York Times
"Those looking for any fault in these stars — or the proud, full-of-life characters they portray — will have to look elsewhere." -New York Daily News
"Funny and touching and brimming with youthful life, filled with a brightness and a piquancy that’s well channeled through Woodley and guided smartly by Boone." -Vanity Fair
"A solid success - a film that not only manages the transition from page to screen nicely, but also navigates with skill that hugely tricky line between the touching and the trite, the moving and the maudlin." -Philadelphia Inquirer
“The integrity of Green’s sad but life-affirming tale is preserved and protected in a beautiful film version from director Josh Boone, starring a perfectly cast Shailene Woodley and Ansel Elgort as the ill-fated couple.” -San Jose Mercury News
"As a girl who discovers, in death, the meaning of life, [Shailene Woodley] is a rapture to behold. The camera loves her, and so will you." -New York Observer
"Fault in Our Stars fans shouldn’t worry. The film gets it right." -St. Paul Pioneer Press
"Most movies with this target audience are maudlin and manipulative, but Boone’s film never feels like it’s trying too hard to win our tears—or our laughter." -The Playlist
"Shailene Woodley’s Fault in Our Stars is a generational classic." -Forbes
See the movie first: http://www.thefaultinourstarsmovie.com
Send in your questions on Twitter and tag them #tfios!