Wednesday, July 29, 2015

Why Does(n’t) Everybody Hate John Green?

The following invective is based loosely on an unpublished letter to the prestigious Beatissima Garbage. It’s also the last invective the Author plans on writing for some time because they’re really quite taxing to prepare and it seems like every other post on these Files is an invective of some public idiot whose moral squalor should be abundantly clear to anybody with a brain.

There was a new movie in town this last weekend that you may have heard of if not for a news story about some guy shooting some people at a showing of the new Amy Schumer comedy.  The shooting in question should never have happened, firstly because private citizens have no business owning guns unless they’re part of The Militia and secondly because the theater had an explicit policy forbidding guns on its premises, but somehow the gunman managed to bring a gun into the theater and use it on people who didn’t have guns while racist white killer cops rushed to stop the violence.  The media saw an opportunity to bring up old, emotional attacks on gun rights while simultaneously pimping Amy Schumer for yet another week, and so Paper Towns was condemned, as all of its author’s works, to smolder in the fires of neglect and obscurity and effective censorship due to… lack of free support from American press and schools.

And that’s a real shame, because according to John Green, it would seem like the whole world has it out to suppress and mock and ban his manifold artistic masterpieces, which he claims at the same time have spoken deeply to millions of readers.  From Looking Alaska to The Fault In Our Stars to his latest movie starring a lesbian supermodel and some dreamy Nice Guy, Green has faced staggering adversity and bumps in the road to becoming a multi-millionaire YA writer, teenage idol, and internet celebrity, so much so that the incessant barrage of hate and ignorance has forced him to rethink his activities on social media and officially declare he’s neither a pornographer nor a pedophile.  He’s such a poor guy, okay?  Okay? Okay?  Okay?  Okay???

Where do I even start to document the torrent of cyberbullying and misdirected parental fury that’s been levied towards the downtrodden rebel visionary Mr. Green?  I could look at the incredulous reaction of Depew High School parents in 2008 to the news that Green’s Looking For Alaska would be “taught” to 11th graders in the government school’s English curriculum.  Certain of these religious fascists objected to the explicit descriptions of oral sex and foul language contained in Green’s novel, particularly in light of the school’s (probably 100% symbolic) prohibition on students using obscenities. I too would sympathize with these parents, not because I think 16-year-olds shouldn’t read about sex or swear words under any circumstances, but because I think there’s something incredibly depressing about a taxpayer-funded, supposedly educational institution willfully, knowingly presenting twaddle to teenagers as great literature.*  I agree with their petition even more in light of the petty hissy fit Green subsequently threw on his Youtube channel (more on that later), excoriating the parents for trying to tell other kids what they can read (for school credit), which, in point of fact, no one was trying to do.  By Green’s purely libertarian, freedom-minded reasoning, the very state of being on the mandatory reading list at one time not only grants him an entitlement to stay on and consequently profit from that reading list for the rest of his career, but also irrevocably establishes his work as an incontrovertible, great American novel that all kids must be exposed to for their literary benefit.

I could look at John Green’s snippy, melodramatic swipe at the Riverside school district for deciding to remove The Fault In Our Stars from middle-school libraries.

People who don’t listen to Rush Limbaugh or Donald Trump often believe that Rush and Trump are arrogant and dismissive of their rivals in the business, but many of these same people would adore and lean on the word of a man who unironically boasted that teens would never learn of death or grieving without entering the golden gateway of knowledge that is his weepy fiction aimed at fragile teenagers.  Green essentially laid claim to charting thematic territory that’s never been covered in three thousand years of literature, and no one batted an eye at his arrogance.  Does he know that the school which judiciously removed his bestseller (unavoidable in bookstores and public libraries everywhere) carries scads of other, eminently better books also dealing with death, including The Giver, Bridge to Terabithia, and Tuck Everlasting?

Does John Green even care to read any books not written by John Green, and is that why he holds such an inflated view of his own importance to the social, moral, and mental development of teenagers?  Green has repeatedly derided overprotective parents for “condescending to teens” and wrongly assuming they lack the means of reading critically, but how much more condescending is it to suggest that young adults should only read books tailor-written for their age group and can’t extend their search for truth into works that were actually written for grown-ups by grown-ups who didn’t bother with leading fan clubs or forming shallow connections with their readers?  Are high-schoolers so stupid that they can only be pressured to think about the world through government schools prodding them to read John Green, Twilight, Divergent, and so on?  Have their mental faculties deteriorated so much that the only literature they can handle is such that one could compress the entire book into a cutesy Buzzfeed listical of “19 profound John Green quotes that will inspire you”?
Some John Green profundities.  Left & right drawings by Christina Luna for Buzzfeed.

To be fair, Green’s not the only one to blame for this debacle; he’s just a symptom of a larger failure on the part of educators to focus on the truly excellent in favor of popular material (cough Kendrick cough) that “engages” reluctant readers and doesn’t require much thoughtful commentary from the teacher.  The state of public education notwithstanding, though, the only one condescending to teenagers is John Green, who says he doesn’t foresee himself writing any adult-oriented novels because they wouldn’t be as “useful” as the YA garbage he’s cranking out.*  So too does Green condescend to taxpayers by pretending that access to his products is a vital societal need that must be subsidized under some made-up “right to read”. How many copies of Fault does the author deem the library must purchase in order to avert his accusations of censoring beloved material?  If half the school’s students want to read his novel and the library only has enough copies to accommodate a quarter of the body, are administrators suppressing Green’s ‘ideas’ by forcing children to go to another public library or – heaven forbid – fork over $10 at a bookseller for their own paperback copy?  Does the school have a compelling obligation to make any book available for anybody at any time, let alone a book as prevalent and ingrained in contemporary pop culture as A Fault In Our Stars? Wouldn’t the school’s funds be better spent acquiring texts that have been reviewed and studied for longer than two years and have outlasted transient, media-manufactured hype?

Instead of dedicating his intellect – given that he possesses one – to penning genuinely worthy art, John Green wastes countless hours tweeting, instagramming, and building a vapid, intelligence-numbing social media empire on such high-brow creative outlets as Youtube and Tumblr.  If you don’t know what Tumblr is, you can watch the amusing illustrated video below, but it’s essentially a blogging-Facebook hybrid with hastag functionality optimized for emotionally distraught social justice warriors who are too lazy to make a real blog, a la The Author’s Files.

One could argue that Green’s rigid attachment to every one of these networks is highly unusual, even childish behavior when practiced by a 37-year-old married author.  In fact, some anonymous and completely irrelevant person did argue just that about a month ago, using the very online outlet embraced by Green to ridicule him for his systematic takeover of the internet.  Quoth the eloquent tumblrer:

Nothing in this little rant was factually incorrect or unjustified, as John Green has in fact made a business of pandering to teenage girls and has cultivated a following that is undeniably similar to, if not indicative of a cult.  Green’s army of self-professed nerdfighters, united under the banner of nerdfighteria, have their own hip vocabulary (decreasing worldsuck), study their own holy texts, celebrate their own (probably well-intentioned) holiday, think they’re “made entirely out of awesome”, and revere their leaders John and Hank, who made a gimmick of addressing Youtube video-logs (think Avatar) to each other so as to give people the impression that they knew the brothers on a personal level.  The extent to which Green goes to convince girls that he’s their friend and fellow nerd-in-fighting can definitely be seen as creepy or unfitting of a grown-up father, and he shows no signs of relenting from that habit in the future.

Instead of acting like an adult and facing up to the reality that the internet will always facilitate rude and negative comments about celebrities (especially ones who are vastly overexposed), John Green immediately set out to prove the tumblr writer’s point, taking to the internet to complain about how painful and difficult it is being a multi-millionaire author who gets bullied and misportrayed by hate-filled meanies on the web.

But John Green was never accused of sexual abuse or pedophilia, i.e. attraction to prepubescent kids, who clearly aren’t the audience for Green’s books or video series.  In most areas of the world and many American states, the kind of girls Green sucks up to are fair game legally, but that doesn’t mean his obsession with pleasing them is healthy or right, which is all the internet person was trying to say through an obviously sarcastic, hyperbolic post.  We don’t arrest people for being creepy, but being creepy has never been a really honorable character trait.  Still, Green’s too pathetic and insecure to suffer a joke at his expense, so he resorts to inventing straw man allegations which makes him look like much more of a victim than he really is.  He goes on to sermonize about the “complicated dopamine rush” that fuels his detractors and squeeze some false humility into his defense (“my various shortcomings, which are legion”) before vaguely pouting about how the bully has made him unable to continue blogging in the same way he has been for the last four years.

“I just need some distance for my well-being,” he closes.  One does not get any more pitiful than this. Green has essentially embodied America’s 21st-century entitlement state, loudly and impishly tattle-telling on anyone who hurts his delicate nerdfeels.  Whether he’s appealing to the defenders of Free Speech or to the defenders of Humanizing, Social Justice Language – that is, Not Free Speech – depends only on whoever’s pissing him off on any given day.
This is an official poster tagline.

Do I think that Mr. Green is unintelligent, nay, an imbecilic jackass?  Maybe.  He once compared capitalism to a pizza, says that protecting religious liberty means women will no longer be able to buy cars, and smugly perpetuates the delusion that Islam is a religious of peace… because Muslims sects spend so much time fighting each other and no one interprets the Koran quite the same way.  But in so far as John Green’s goal in life is to make money and feel like he’s filling an important role in people’s lives, he’s very good at manipulating young skulls full of mush into loving him.  He gives shout-outs to his “hardcore badass feminist mom”, consistently speaks the language of his fans, comically rubs his forehead like a cartoon character whenever he gets upset, says sex before marriage is cool, and even uses one of his characters to lecture to progressive, conscious readers on why they should never call anybody a faggot (far be it from me to speculate why he hates that word particularly, even though I just did).

Green does an excellent job overall of appearing to stand for everything that nerdfighteria stands for while actually standing for nothing.  He calls himself a Christian to mollify Christian readers, except when being a Christian means standing by convictions that Millennials find “discriminatory”.  He considers himself a capitalist, except when being a capitalist means opposing the minimum wage, nationalized health care, or carbon taxes to reduce nonexistent Global Warming.  He peppers his teens’ dialogue with the word “retarded” out of realism, until someone tells him that is ugly and wrong, at which point he has a radical change of heart and apologizes for his “dehumanizing language”.  I don’t think Harper Lee ever apologized for using the n-word in To Kill A Mockingbird because it hurt the feelings of some bozo who doesn’t understand the concept of a book.  Harper Lee, ironically, had more balls as an author than misunderstood pajama boy John Green ever had.  The latter’s greatest condescension to his readership is giving them exactly what they want to hear and nothing else, then having the gall to label himself a martyr for the status quo.

Ever the philosopher, John Green can be credited for at least one profundity.  “Some infinities are bigger than other infinities,” quips Hazel Whatever in A Fault In Our Stars.  If John Green’s infatuation with his uselessness counts as an infinity, then that must make him the biggest infinity of them all.

*Here’s an interesting piece on the dilemma of grown adults gobbling up books written for kids.

Stuff I missed the first time through
* John Green saying that his made-up cancer-stricken lovebirds parallel Anne Frank because she too “just died of illness like most people.”

* John Green ‘accidentally’ appropriating a 13-year-old Tumblr user’s adorable, deep quote, passing it off as a line from Paper Towns, and selling a crapton of merchandise based on the words to gullible nerd fighters.

* John Green denouncing the philosophy of Objectivism as “repugnant” and extolling his noncommercial, “idea-sharing, consciousness-expanding, storytelling business” as a ”persistent and direct opposition to the ideas put forth in Atlas Shrugged.  “We must strike down the insidious lie that a book is the creation of an individual soul laboring in isolation.  We must strike it down because it threatens the overall quality and breadth of American literature… so f*** Ayn Rand and f*** any company that profits from peddling the lie of mere individualism.  We built this together and we're going to keep building it together.”

No, John Green.  &#^! you and your You Didn’t Build That mentality.


  1. Did John Green play The Last of Us a lot? I would think after twenty hours of trekking around a post-apocalyptic hellhole with nothing but "OK" would put anyone off the word, but I suppose not.
    "John Green, swear to me you will never write a book ever again."
    "I swear."

  2. Harper Lee. I like her. And TKAM. Who's John Green???

  3. This is terrible, there are so many awful people in the world on which to dole out hate and for some reason john green gets this much of it? He's not nearly as problematic as people want him to be, like please stop thinking it's cool to get all extreme-sjw on men who aren't perfect but try their best to be self aware. There's not many men who even get this far on their journey to not being dickwads, ok?

    1. On the contrary, of all the hate that's doled out daily, John Green receives far too slim a share. In the year of the Donald Trump and the Black Lies Matter rioter, I'm sure that Johnny Boy is actually disappointed by the paucity of hate he's been receiving from the public, as he no longer has a semblance of a license to lament his own victimization by a slanderous and unrelenting pack of haters.

      Thanks for reading, I think.

  4. "Ever the philosopher, John Green can be credited for at least one profundity. 'Some infinities are bigger than other infinities,'"...

    He didn't even come up with that. I'm guessing he probably spent a late night on Wikipedia reading about infinity and because most of his fan base can't even be bothered with that much reading, he will unfortunately be credited by them as being "deep." Kudos on the curmudgeonly take down of one of the world's most popular pillocks.

  5. This. Is. Wonderful.

    John Green as a person, I don't mind at all. No real opinion for or against. Seems intelligent and friendly.

    As an author? SWEET JESUS NO. He's terrible.

  6. "Does the school have a compelling obligation to make any book available for anybody at any time, let alone a book as prevalent and ingrained in contemporary pop culture as A Fault In Our Stars? Wouldn’t the school’s funds be better spent acquiring texts that have been reviewed and studied for longer than two years and have outlasted transient, media-manufactured hype?"

    I might just as well have confessed that my own
    writing skills are standouts for their inferiority,
    but I definitely could not have put this any
    better myself. I personally endured reading
    Looking for Alaska, and have seen movies of Paper
    Towns and The Fault in our Stars--they seem to me
    to exemplify the literary brain-food equivalent
    of the drive-through dinner-in-a-bag restaurant.
    I want to read what pleases my literary palate
    better than John Green. I sympathize with the
    complaint that he is riding on the popularity of
    a fad, with his being an idolized writer whom many
    people want to inflate to icon status, but--for
    me? No, no, no. At the same time, this is not even
    the worst aspect of it for me. It is for me like
    some skyscraper tucked away in some corner of the
    downtown of a huge metropolis that has hideous
    architecture, but which hides in a circle of
    taller buildings; I do not have to fight traffic
    and navigate crowded crosswalks just to
    masochistically get a look at it if I do not have
    to--unlike the students in the schools, who
    ironically are like the office workers in nearby
    buildings who always have it in their field of
    view, looming over their cubicles. There have
    been myriads of readers who have loved Douglas
    Adams' The Hitchhiker's guide to the Galaxy, but
    what I've heard of that book has never impelled
    me to find it and read it. (I think, though,
    that I would prefer even that book to another from
    John Green). At least it sprouted up from the
    pulp-fiction underground and stands on its own
    so-called merits, instead of finding an audience
    of millions of Internet groupies seemingly
    appearing out of nowhere in order to tell me how
    good they think it is.

  7. Oh my gosh, you put into words everything I was feeling. This is so true. I'll be darned if not the best thing I've read in a while

  8. It should be obvious: the fact that I myself happen to dislike some book does not carry with it the cast-in-concrete verdict that the book under review is automatically bad and should simply be buried without further mention. Many, possibly even most, people like some books that are certifiably trash; my own trash reading consists of the low-end pulp genre fiction from an earlier era without the "doubleplus ungoodthink" mentality I find in and about recent fiction. (This mentality seems to me much more evident "about" than actually "in" recent fiction, but, unfortunately it is _in_ it, too). How could Margaret Mitchell even write _Gone With The Wind_ today? How many years before I have to remove a floor board and seal that old book in a freezer bag to hide it from the Language Police? Even edging away from the Jim Crow scene, there still are (for now) books available from earlier eras that deal with "refs unpersons" though no one dare write one now. Well then--we all are the losers on that account. I thank the kind anonymous commenter for the praise--at least that person gave up some time to actually _read_ what I wrote. True to form, John Green has disappointed me yet again, though hardly in the way I would have expected. I hesitate to mention this, since it definitely is "damning with faint praise," but I found, with the help of a movie, a John Green book that I could actually re-read, if placed in that extremity: _Paper Towns_. This is a dubious distinction, since I would make a point to search the stacks (if need be, all of them) for something better. How sad that he has broken his perfect record of "un-rereadability." I hope that I have angered neither the kind commenter nor the author of this forum by my cribbings from George Orwell, but his jargon terms manage to put into shorthand for me what would merely sound like whining if I would write it.

  9. Oy vey this post has not aged well. The comparisons of John Green to political instigators like Trump and Limbaugh, the insufferable whining about popular literature, the fraudulent claims about how John is incapable of posting educational internet content. If the last five years have proven anything that the author would've neglected to consider when they wrote this, its that public figures like John Green are not the problem. What a happy time it was when taste was the thing we had to complain about. Perhaps the ironic thing that stands out to me is the needless debasing of publishing sites like Tumblr and Youtube as low brow creative outlets when the author's beloved Google blog site contains a warning from themselves sheepishly warning of frequent malfunctions on an already less-than-captivating blog.

    1. What a peculiar comment. Your comment includes vague allusions to an unspecified woe (or series of them) that occurred within the last 5 years.I would have liked it if your comment included more clarity on that, because it reads as addendum to some non-existent anthology of human irritants and insults, and is an incomplete thought. The insults towards the blogposter are rather petty, but that's rather ordinary.

      The most interesting part to discuss is John Green's skills as an educator. I have had the displeasure to actually watch the majority of his crash course history videos, and while they might act as a half-decent introduction to history, they are incredibly biased towards his particular worldview, and I ambivalent as to whether complete ignorance of history would be worse than an distorted understanding of history which uses his history videos as a foundation.

      I won't comment on his skill or merit as an author, because I can't speak to that, but I have watched the adaptation of his book "Looking for Alaska", and I wonder if his book was frustrating to read as the adaptation was to watch. The continual subversion of expectations leaves behind no satisfaction, which makes it thoroughly unenjoyable, though perhaps that was the goal all along.

  10. If you hate hearing opinionated know-it-alls complaining about the
    "cancel culture," then make some attempt to stop BEING the
    "cancel culture." The attitude of "If you don't agree completely with
    me, your ideas are worthless and from here on out I will not deign to
    give you the time of day" is itself not worth the time of day from
    ourselves. To say that I strongly dislike John Green books would be
    a huge understatement, but I have read more than one of them, and
    have seen two of them (yes, there is overlap) as movie adaptations.
    I am in no way trying to put on airs as a self-proclaimed expert,
    but, considering briefly the huge amount of failures to communicate
    across political rifts (John Green seems particularly unhelpful here),
    I can only say with great disappointment, "What kind of stuff are
    we defending?" A site and author with whom I have little in common

    has bravely stated something that, in this one special case, definitely needs saying. I loathe the term "echo chamber" as used in
    current political and literary discussions even though I know that
    those I am (mostly) inside are also echo chambers. Literary fiction
    should be for breaking out of these echo chambers, not reinforcing
    them; the attitude of "I don't have to listen to you" not only
    reinforces them, it comes close to hermetically sealing them.


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