Friday, July 14, 2017

On John Green and Avril Lavigne

Warning: Spoilers ahead
Avril Lavigne is every early 2000’s teen girl’s idol. Her music touched the hearts and minds of chick rockers everywhere and her music helped define the early 2000’s. John Green is a very different individual. He currently wears the internet nerd king crown, due to his YA novels and his famous vlogbrothers correspondence. What could the two possible have in common?
Maybe angsty teen girls?
While listening to Avril Lavigne the other day (because she’s still fantastic), I was struck by how much her songs can apply to John Green heroines - specifically, Margo Roth Speigelman (from Paper Towns) and Alaska (from Looking for Alaska). Both of these girls are insecure, misguided, and quite angsty. One song really stood out to me - Avril Lavigne’s “What The Hell” - as the anthem for these heroines. Just check out these lyrics:
You’re on your knees, beggin ‘ Please stay with me.’/But honestly I just need to be a little crazy.” - Pudge is absolutely taken with Alaska. In Looking for Alaska, he muses,
I was gawky and she was gorgeous and I was hopelessly boring and she was endlessly fascinating. So I walked back to my room and collapsed on the bottom bunk, thinking that if people were rain, I was drizzle and she was hurricane.
Being madly in love with Alaska causes Pudge to be ridiculously (and I mean ridiculously) clingy and to want more from Alaska than she’s in a position to give. Q is in a similar position with Margo, wanting more from her than she’ll ever give him. While both these boys fawn helplessly over their love interests, Margo and Alaska are far more occupied with doing whatever they want - which consists mostly of being different, being unique, and being a bit crazy.
All my life I’ve been good, but now, ooohhhh, I’m thinking ‘What the hell?’” -After an experience they share in Paper Towns, Q and Margo have this quick conversation.
“My heart is really pounding," I said.
"That's how you know you're having fun," Margo said.
While neither Margo nor Alaska have been especially good throughout their lives, both girls share the mentality that it’s fun (and necessary) to do things outside the norm, to shock those around them. Suddenly, both girls feel the need to start doing things more exhilarating, more bizarre, and more daring than they’ve ever done before. Both Alaska and Margo drive up the stakes and start being more crazy and more desperate for attention than they were before.
All I want is to mess around and I don’t really care about if you love me, if you hate me.” - These girls both are doing all this nonsense in order to get the attention and love and to distract themselves from how much they’re hurting. But they put on this facade of not caring at all about Q and Pudge’s feelings and being too caught up in their own issues to notice. This
‘Messing around’ take precedence over their relationships with those around them.
You can save me, baby, baby.” - Both Q and Pudge try to help Alaska and Margo, going to great lengths to support their insane ideas and coping mechanisms. Q even chases Margo to a paper town, hoping that she always wanted him to save him. But in the end, Margo and Alaska don’t need to be saved by the boys they know, no matter how much the boys think they can help. Finally, Q realizes,
The fundamental mistake I had always made - and that she had, in fairness, always led me to make - was this: Margo was not a miracle. She was not an adventure. She was not a fine and precious thing. She was a girl.
And Q didn’t need to play the white knight to save that girl. She was fine on her own and the idea that she needed him to swoop in and save the day was wrong.
I love “What the Hell” - it’s a fun song and it’s great to sing along to at the top of your lungs. But looking at the lyrics in a more serious light, it embodies two characters that I don’t like or connect with that much. Why do so many of us put such a focus on living exciting, daring lives, when a quiet life can be enough? I don’t have an answer for this, but it’s something I’ll be pondering for the next little bit.

Are there any songs that remind you of book characters? Are there any book characters that remind you of songs?

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