Okay. Just hear me out.
I read the book (and cried). I also watched the movie (where, again, I cried, though I must admit that I was slightly distracted by the girl sitting next to me who actually sobbed throughout the whole movie). The Fault In Our Stars is, by all accounts, an excellent piece of culture to consume if you’re trying to get some catharsis, replacing old standbys like A Walk To Remember and My Sister’s Keeper in the “emotional pornography to watch at sleepovers” canon. But lately, I’ve had a sneaking suspicion that the universal collective heaving sob induced by hearing the word “okay” is distracting us all from the real issue of The Fault In Our Stars–that Gus is actually pretty terrible. Here’s why:
1. That Cigarette Metaphor
This is, like, reason 1-1,000 for me, personally. You know the quote–“It’s a metaphor, see: You put the killing thing right between your teeth, but you don’t give it the power to do its killing.” Sorry, my eyes just FELL OUT OF MY HEAD because of how hard I was rolling them. Not only is this some immature, pretentious, wannabe-Holden Caulfield BS, it’s not even a real metaphor, technically. You know what you do with boys who insist on speaking in metaphors but don’t even know how to do so? BREAK UP WITH THEM.
2. Gus Is A Manic Pixie Dream Boy
Much like how Jim Halpert’s crushability goes down the drain once you realize that he isn’t real, so too does Gus’ when you realize that he suffers from classic Manic Pixie Dream Boy Syndrome. Gus is basically the facsimile of every errant fantasy that has gone through any girl’s mind–he’s quirky, super-devoted, spontaneous, always talking about metaphors, etc. Matt Patches writes at Vulture, “he’s everything everyone wants in their lives, and he’s a fallacious notion of what we can actually have in our lives.” The problem with this? Besides being highly unrealistic, all of his qualities are also his flaws, but they are made to look like unquestionable facets of desirability.
3. Gus Doesn’t Understand The Word “No”
Say someone is offering you, I don’t know, a piece of cake after you’ve already had three pieces. You like cake, but you’re pretty full, so you say no. Most people would say, “Yeah, I get that.” But say someone is all, “No, nothing. You love cake. You have to eat this cake. If you don’t, you’re missing out on the best experience of your life. Also, this cake is a metaphor.” That person is Gus. There are so, so many instances of when Hazel says “No thanks,” to something, but Gus is like, “No means nothing to me, buddy.” Like when he asks her out, she says no, and he actually says, “Your trying to keep your distance from me in no way lessens my affection for you.” BYE.
4. Gus’ Pickup Lines…Need Work
On that line, why does nobody ever talk about how Gus’ true passion, apparently, is (terrible) pickup artistry? We forget this a lot, I’m pretty positive, because he’s played by Ansel “Ansolo” Elgort, regulation hottie, but how do his words hold up when they aren’t coming from Anel Elgort’s (metaphorical) cigarette holder? Not so great. Like, when they first meet, Gus won’t stop staring at Hazel. When she’s like, “Uh, why are you inflicting your male gaze upon me,” (paraphrasing by me) he says, “Because you’re beautiful. I enjoy looking at beautiful people, and I decided a while ago not to deny myself the simpler pleasures of existence.” Try-hard? Check. Pretentious? Check. Creepy? Check. Do less, Gus.
5. Just Call Hazel By Her First Name, Jerk
Gus insists on calling Hazel “Hazel Grace,” which seems cute until you realize it sound like how your mom says your name when she’s mad at you for using up too much of the family plan’s cell phone data, or when you keep putting broccoli in your mouth at the dinner table and calling it a metaphor.
6. Everything About Gus Is Performative
I mean, this brings us right back to Gus’ metaphorical cigarette line, doesn’t it? Quoth John Green himself: “I think in a lot of ways Gus is one of those guys who like, the first time you meet him you’re like ‘that guy’s amazing’ and then the second time you meet him you’re like, ‘that guy only has five funny stories about himself,’ those people who are sort of very performed in their lives.”
7. Gus Doesn’t Really Seem To Care About His Dead Ex-Girlfriend
In the book, Gus has this ex-girlfriend, Caroline, who he feels pretty “meh” about. He wanted to dump her, but he couldn’t. Remember why? She had a brain tumor, and, as Gus says, “you can’t dump someone with a brain tumor.” (To be fair, the brain tumor made Caroline say mean things to Gus, but still.) Luckily, he dodges that bullet, because Caroline dies from said brain tumor, allowing Gus and his cigarette metaphor to slime on over to Hazel. He recounts this later to Hazel with an oddly blasé “over it” tone, implying that he liked her but he doesn’t really care now. Why don’t you care about your dead ex-girlfriend, Gus??
8. What Does Gus Like To Do, Anyway?
Like, actually. What does Gus like, besides Hazel and cigarette metaphors? He used to play basketball, but he hated it. He likes video games, like any other teenage boy. He likes V For Vendetta, I guess. Other than that, his personality is a blank, ambiguous sponge that allows him to soak up all of Hazel’s interests and make them his own. This is weird and borderline stalker-y behavior, people.
9. Gus Doesn’t Care About Hazel’s Health
Going along with his whole “not taking no for an answer” shtick, Gus basically peer-pressures Hazel into coming to Amsterdam with him, even though she’s really not supposed to fly (and he shouldn’t either, which we’ll get to in a second.) Like, metaphor-filled romantic getaways are great and all, but not if they are literally foisted upon you.
10. Gus Ruined Hazel’s Favorite Book
This is maybe not fair, since Gus was just trying to do a nice thing and get Hazel to meet Peter van Houten, and had no way of knowing that he would be a class-A jerk. Still, though, has he really never heard that you should never meet your heroes, because they’ll always disappoint you?
Besides, Hazel didn’t really want to meet him, but at this point in the story, it’s pretty clear that, to Gus, the word “no” sounds like the way the grown-ups talk in Peanuts cartoons. Wah-wah-wah-it’s a metaphor-wah-wah-wah.
11. Gus Lied About Being Sick
This is kinda the clincher, for me: Gus doesn’t care about his own health any more than he does about Hazel’s, and he certainly doesn’t care about informing the people he loves about it. Right after he tells Hazel that he loves her and they have sex for the first time, he drops the kicker that oh, he’s also definitely dying very, very soon. To me, this isn’t a protection, but rather a massive betrayal. It’s his sickness and he has his own agency about who he wants to tell and when he wants to tell them, of course,but considering how much he expects from Hazel, it’s not fair at all that he chose to wait until the last minute. Cute metaphors can only soften the blow to a certain extent, you know.
Am I *literally* insane? Is Gus actually the best? Hate on me in the comments below!