Author John Green has recently received a lot of media attention due to the wild success of his Young Adult novel The Fault in Our Stars and its movie adaptation. Unfortunately, this attention, while mostly positive, has led to some livid responses, some of which venture past the realm of healthy criticism into the realm of verbal attacks. While I certainly do not have the answer to all of these people’s concerns, I would like to address some of them. I’m going to present the “charges” people make against him, then give my commentary.
- “Why is John Green more popular than the actors? He’s just an author!”
Yes, during the Demand Our Stars tour leading up to the release of the movie, John Green drew a larger audience at the tour stops than the cast did. The majority of those people, however, were not there to see him because he’s an author. They came to see him because they are Nerdfighters (more on that in a moment).
- “People say John Green is the savior of YA lit, but he’s not! He’s just riding the coat-tails of the truly great authors like J.K. Rowling!”
I have several responses to this one.
1. Never, ever, ever has John claimed to be anything of the sort of the savior of YA lit. In fact, he will be the first one to argue that YA lit doesn’t even need saving. He has no control over what people write about him; he literally cannot stop someone from writing things like “John Green is the savior of YA lit” even if he 100% disagrees with it. It is illogical to punish and verbally abuse him for things that other people said. It would be similar to your significant other posting on Facebook that you are the best boyfriend/girlfriend ever, and then for some random person to send you hate mail deriding you for claiming your superiority over the rest of the world. You never claimed to be the best boyfriend/girlfriend ever; someone wrote that on their own. Doesn’t make sense, does it? Neither does it make sense to ream John Green for some columnist somewhere saying he’s the savior of YA lit.
2. Never, ever, ever, has John claimed to be a better writer than anyone else, especially J.K. Rowling. In fact, he makes a point of stating that most of his success is due to luck. His response to the success of his books has always been shock, humility, and gratitude.
- “John Green is the king of an empire of mindless teenaged girls who believe everything he tells them.”
Again, several responses.
1. The “empire” you’re referring to has a name: Nerdfighteria.
2. Nerdfighteria is not about worshiping John Green. Nerdfighteria was created when Hank Green and his brother John decided to launch a massive, year-long project: Textless communication. They were not allowed to communicate with each other via text messages, email, instant messenger, Facebook posts, but only by things like voice calls and YouTube videos. During this year they slowly started gaining followers on YouTube, where they vlogged about topics silly and serious, little and large. Their videos tended to focus on practical ways of making the world a better place, such as thinking about people complexly and donating to charity. Their audience exploded during this year when Hank released an original song about how excited he was for the final Harry Potter book to come out. Since then they have continued to vlog and discuss real issues and build community with other like-minded people around the globe. Nerdfighteria is about finding practical ways to make the world a better place, even if that is something as small as responding kindly to haters in the comments section of the internet.
3. John Green is not the “leader” of Nerdfighteria. Yes, a lot of Nerdfighters really like John and his books, but not all of them. Many Nerdfighters found Nerdfighteria through Hank, myself included. In fact, I was in the community quite a while before I even learned that John was an author. Nerdfighteria works because of both Hank and John. Without both of them, it doesn’t work.
4. Nerdfighteria is not made up of teenaged girls. Yes, there are a lot of teenaged girls in Nerdfighteria, but according to the 2014 Nerdfighteria Census the gender ratio is about 60:40. Also, there are Nerdfighters of literally every age.
5. Nerdfighters are not mindless drones. The average Nerdfighter reads more than 35 books a year (see the census above), and it is a generally accepted fact that people who read a lot tend to be more intelligent and less gullible than those who do not.
- “John Green is a misogynist!”
Um, no. There is absolutely zero proof of this. The only “proof” anyone has ever presented to me of this is information taken completely out of context. John Green is as pro-women and anti-misogyny as it is possible to be.
- “John Green thinks he has to give his stamp of approval on other YA authors in order for them to do well.”
Again, false. Yes, John gives his viewers book recommendations. Lots of people give book recommendations, though. Book recommendations have always been a fundamental part of Nerdfighteria, not just from John and Hank, but from other Nerdfighters as well. Sharing books with other people is part of what makes reading so fun. It is only natural that when someone reads a good book, s/he wants to share that book with as many people as possible. When John tells his viewers about a book, it’s not because he’s trying to be all high and mighty and give official endorsements of certain authors. It’s because he truly thinks it’s a good book that people will like.
Is John Green perfect? No, no one is perfect. But it bothers me when people lash out at others without even really understanding who they’re lashing out against. Want to criticize John? Spend a few weeks watching YouTube videos and reading all of his books. Then give it a try.