Against my better judgement, I saw Paper Towns tonight. I’ve always been a little grossed out by John Green. I had a vague idea that it was because of his fascination with the Manic Pixie Dream Girl (MPDG) trope, but I’ve only read and watched the film adaptation of The Fault in Our Stars, which doesn’t really feature a MPDG. (I mean, Augustus Waters is kind of one. Manic Pixie Dream Boy.)
As I sat through Paper Towns (which I would give 2/5 stars, simply because I only give 1/5 stars to movies I walk out of), I became angrier and angrier at the inimitable figure that is John Green.
Look, the truth is that I really can’t speak to John Green and whether or not he actually fetishizes MPDGs. He has been accused of (and responded to) this countless times. I didn’t read Paper Towns. That’s key. I’m not talking about the book that is Paper Towns.
I’m talking about the fucking barf-worthy movie.
Here are my problems:
- Why does Lacey end up with that twit Ben? That literally makes no sense because Ben is literally never attractive in any way throughout the movie. The moment where he “saves” the gang on the road is played up, but honestly. I mean, really? You know who else is guilty of putting ugly guys with incredibly “hot” girls? Adam fucking Sandler. These fuckers basically just made a Happy Madison film for teen girls.
- Speaking of Lacey, what the fuck. What is this thing where thin, beautiful, wealthy white women are all, “Poor me, everybody just thinks I’m a pretty face, but I’m not, I’m smart, I’m going to Dartmouth!” Seriously? Why do we need to hear that? That might be low on my part, but I’m speaking as a fat, middle class white woman. Forgive me if I don’t understand why this needs to be a recurring trope in movies. People are people, but why the fuck can’t we see a Black woman in this position? A fat woman? Diversity is a friend of reality.
- The scene where Quentin finally finds Margot and she talks to him about why she left, Margot says something about her identity being a fantasy that she made up. This is the part that’s supposed to shatter the MPDG myth, right? Well, it doesn’t. Margot still isn’t human after this scene, which I think is what Green was going for in the book. He wanted to humanize Margot. The movie doesn’t succeed. She still seems cool and mysterious as Q gets on the bus to return to Orlando.
- I think the only way the movie could’ve redeemed itself (for me) is if, during that scene in the diner, Q just got in Margot’s face, called her out on her shit, and left.
The best part of the whole damn movie (other than the Ansel Elgort cameo [and I’m not even an Ansel fangirl]) was Margot’s mom. She’s all like, “Margot’s not missing, she’s gone. She got bored, so she left. She’ll come back when she runs out of money or people stop talking about her.” Margot’s mom, in short, is the only character who gets Margot. Margot’s mom is my hero. Q says that Margot’s mom “isn’t exactly a candidate for parent of the year,” but I’d fucking vote for her. (Although, honestly, they probably should have put Margot in counseling or something.)
Margot is the epitome of the self-centered, beautiful, wealthy white teenager.
Perhaps most of this is the movie’s fault. The book perhaps made a better point of “disproving” the MPDG myth. But I’m just a little peeved at John Green for even feeling the need to create a character that has the potential to be such an attractive, terrible character. I don’t think this is helping anyone. It’s furthering this weird myth that gross, sad men (e.g. Ben especially) deserve only the “hottest” women (e.g. Lacey/Margot).
I just needed to rant for a bit. Looking for Alaska is on my audiobook queue, so I haven’t completely given up on John Green. (Okay, maybe I kind of have and only bought it because it was $5 and at least he’s an entertaining writer.) (I definitely won’t be reading Paper Towns though, so I’ll never be able to speak definitively to it.