Boys One and Two had the cinema to themselves when they went to see this summer’s hot hit film. They were a bit surprised as the hype had them believing they’d be battling for a seat.
“You should have booked, mum,” one of them insisted as we pulled up in the deserted car park the day after the film opened.
The Fault In Our Stars has been on our radar for months since Boy One spotted something about the book in one of the strange internet places he collects most of his information. And faced with a long drive to Chester, we all listened to the audiobook, sniffing up the M6 through the sad bits.
It didn’t cross our minds that this was a book aimed at one gender or another. It was about kids with cancer and how they cope, or otherwise, and how the rest of the world copes, or otherwise. Sure there’s a boy-girl thing in it, but there is also sport, computer games, history, sarcastic humour, fantasy fiction, travel, revenge, hope, despair and some bad driving.
After listening to the book, the Boys and I found plenty to talk about: Would losing a leg be worse if you’d been good at sport? Should people treat cancer victims better than healthy people? What would you do if you knew life was sorter than you expected?
None of the topics were gender issues, and neither they should be. John Green was inspired to write the book after spending time with teenage cancer victims and he lost a friend to the disease.
Cancer doesn’t make a distinction between girls and boys, or age, race, wealth or, in fact, anything else. So surely a book about the subject should be equally indiscriminate in its aim.
After the film though, one of the Boys reported that his (boy) pals weren’t interested in the film, dismissing it was a chick flick. Then I read a few things talking about it being mainly for girls (and gays).
This makes me sad and angry (though proud of my Boys for not caring – much). If a film falls into the chick lit swamp, half the population misses out the film of a pretty good book. And that’s bad enough, but there’s something worse going on here. The message appears to be that ‘feelings’ – love, hate, fear, joy and regret – belong to girls and women, boys aren’t supposed to trouble themselves with them as they’ve got more pressing shooting, fighting, racing winning things to be getting on with. I just don’t believe that possession of a penis means your emotions are less, well, emotional than those of vagina people, instead you learn to hide and suppress them.
TFIOS is not just for girls, just as cancer and feelings aren’t. Chick flick labelling isn’t helpful, it’s a film about kids’ lives, that’s all. Encourage the boys to see it and, certainly, don’t shame them for wanting to.