The Fault in Our Stars…and Our Society

tumblr_n7dybr4abR1sfevmio1_1280Guest reviewer Anna Catherine Hilton writes:

On June 6th 2014, the movie The Fault in Our Stars opened to large crowds in theaters across the country. John Green, author of the book of the same name, also wrote the screenplay for the film. To the delight of many people who read and enjoyed the book, his screenplay stuck closely to its storyline, but focused slightly more on the love story. I loved this movie because of my interest in a career in healthcare and because the central idea is about two teens, Hazel (Shailene Woodley) and Gus (Ansel Elgort), who are facing typical teenage challenges as well as significant long term battles with cancer.

Cancer affects every level of our society and fills people with fear and confusion. Green explores a topic that is tragic, uncomfortable and painful to millions of people. Through the characters and their beautiful love story, he manages to portray cancer in a way that can bring tears and laughter. Although it is much more than a movie about cancer, this entertaining but heartbreaking story is relevant in our culture today because the disease affects many people in all walks of life. This movie has the potential to educate and increase empathy in the audience and can change the way society views and responds to people and families suffering with cancer.

Cancer is a painful disease that takes a tremendous physical toll on the victim’s body. In this movie, each audience member is exposed to the significant amount of daily physical pain that cancer patients endure. Hazel, the main character, is diagnosed with thyroid cancer that has spread to her lungs and causes her to need constant oxygen support. The other main character, Gus, is diagnosed with osteosarcoma, which took half of his leg. Hazel has the constant struggle of just trying to breathe, even with an oxygen tank, and walking the stairs is a significant hurdle. Gus has a hard time walking around with his prosthetic leg. Small, typically thoughtless tasks become huge challenges, and through the scenes in this movie, the audience experiences the physical agony that cancer creates.

FAULT IN OUR STARS 1The Fault in our Stars movie also highlights the emotional toll that cancer takes on its victims over time. Many people in society do not think about or want to talk about feelings and emotions. Not only does cancer physically take your body, but emotionally it can tear a person apart. Hazel feels like an abnormal freak and has to bring an oxygen tank with her everywhere she goes in order to simply take a breath. The stares and constant glances from people around her wear her down emotionally and mentally. By understanding Hazel’s perspective and connecting with her, I wanted to protect her from those harmful stares. Our society should learn that instead of staring, each person should simply smile and try to brighten the person’s day. When someone is battling cancer, their whole world has been turned upside down, and the last thing they need is cruel stares from strangers. The movie brings the audience to a whole new level of understanding and empathy for how isolated, depressed, or ridiculed patients may feel.

Cancer not only consumes the life of the victim, but also takes over the lives of all the near and dear people to the person battling cancer. Hazel’s family gave up finances, time, endless stress, and worry for her during her cancer treatment. Just like Hazel, they experience fear, worry and much pain because they love and care about her. The movie clearly depicts Hazel’s mom and her incredible devotion of time and energy to provide everything for Hazel.  When a family member is diagnosed with cancer, it is really like the whole family is diagnosed because of all the life changes they experience in their attempt to conquer the tragic disease of cancer.  Before watching The Fault in Our Stars, I was aware that cancer took a huge toll on the victim,  but through the characters of Hazel and Gus, this movie really portrayed how the daily battle of cancer chips away at the strength of the patient and family.  Sacrifice after sacrifice is made by all the loving family that surround Hazel and Gus.  At a time in life when kids are usually pushing their parents away, Hazel and Gus need their families for daily survival.

FAULT IN OUR STARS 2One of my favorite aspects of this movie is the love story that develops between Hazel and Gus. Many humorous scenes occur in the support group for cancer patients where Hazel and Gus meet. Having the relationship between Hazel and Gus makes the movie relatable to the target audience of teens and young adults. Almost all people can relate to wanting to be loved and searching for a special relationship in life. For me, watching this movie really changed my perspective on cancer patients. Even though I cannot relate to having cancer and facing a terminal diagnosis, I can relate to trying to fit in and be accepted and loved like every normal healthy teen. Hazel and Gus want to just have fun, laugh and make special memories that they will never forget. Doesn’t every teen want this? It’s so easy to let a patient become defined by their diagnosis, but The Fault in Our Stars showed me how to think in a different way about all people, especially young people who have cancer. No one should be defined by what disease, problem, or life circumstance they have. Instead, all people should be treated with care and respect and like any other normal peer, because that is all they want. Throughout the movie, Hazel and Gus try to stay as normal as possible while their lives were being taken over by cancer. They went out and had fun as long as they could.

In our society, perception of others is essential to the relationships we form. If we all had a glimpse into the physical and emotional struggles of the people around us, then we as a society could develop more empathy and understanding for all people, especially those who are suffering. At some point in life, it is likely that every person will be close to someone diagnosed with cancer. This movie realistically captures the emotional and physical pain caused by cancer and makes it relatable to teens and young adults. I learned that teenage cancer patients are just regular teenagers who want to have fun, experience love, and be accepted. By watching this powerful and tragic movie, we all can understand their situation better and realize that they need support and love struggling through life’s ups and downs, just like all people.

Anna Catherine is a high school senior in Virginia. She has a passion for love stories and all things medical.