Christa Lawler column: Sob stories free our emotions
By now, it is impossible to invest yourself in “The Fault in our Stars” — the book by John Green or the movie directed by Josh Boone — with any sort of optimism.
Listen. It’s not going to be OK.
Someone is going to die.
There’s no adorably dorky scientist racing the clock for a miracle cure.
There’s no scene where a church basement full of cancer-riddled teens take shots of ginseng mixed with the marrow of an endangered bird and then segue into an energetic montage set to fiddle music.
(Newly cured teens sneak into the municipal pool for chicken fights and cannon balls in the glow of the moonlight!)
No. By now, everyone knows this is about young love through the filter of terminal cancer.Protagonist Hazel Grace’s oxygen tank is always within a tube’s-length reach, even in her most, ahem, romantic of moments.Her love interest is Gus Waters, a former hoops star who lost his leg to cancer and now bears the telltale limp of a man with a prosthetic.They meet in a support group and have a good friend in common: Isaac, who is about to lose his second eyeball to the disease.Why, for the love of wet Kindle screens and snot-sticky pages, did we knowingly agree to read this book?This isn’t the first tear-letting to grab a massive audience.Everyone knows the best way to clear the toxins from your eye ducts is to chase a viewing of “The Notebook” with “Beaches.”And what kind of person doesn’t include “Ol’ Yeller,” “Bridge to Terabithia” and “Where the Red Fern Grows” on a list of personal faves.I can’t be the only reformed moody teen who once curled up in a dark corner with a flashlight and read and re-read “Love Story” until I was dehydrated.It’s emotional thrill seeking, I think, this willingness to put oneself in the position for a weep fest.No one really wants to get to know a couple of wholesome, well-read, vocab-savvy amateur philosophers only to watch them wither away in a portable hospital bed.Fiction offers the opportunity to feel extreme emotions in a safe place — one that can be powered down or slammed shut when the cry parts start to weigh too much and a nose begins to feel 7-Up-ish.We get to simulate meeting the cool teens who have cancer, then we get to simulate the extreme emotions of watching their tragedy unfold over the course of the next 300-ish pages.But we never have to actually, IRL, see a basketball court and remember how Gus Waters once was king of the paint. (You know, before he lost his leg.) We don’t have to, actually, read the tributes on Hazel’s Facebook page.“The Fault in our Stars” is the emotional equivalent of a thrill ride. It’s Six Flags for the Soul.No one really wants to engage in a 200-foot, 60 degree free fall. But for some reason it’s OK to do it while strapped to a Naugahyde bench that is still sticky from the sweat of thrill seekers past.Or maybe, we’re all just reading this because we want to know what everyone else is talking about.Either way.
Christa Lawler is the News Tribune’s arts and entertainment reporter.