The 'Fault in Our Stars' Tagline: A Defense Of "One Sick Love Story"

On Wednesday morning, the first poster for the big-screen adaptation of John Green novel The Fault In Our Stars came out. It was adorable (see above), really, complete with plenty of nuzzling. It also, however, came with a tagline that triggered an almost immediate reaction. Throughout the course of the day, we've heard the more hesitant case against "One Sick Love Story" from those who felt the tagline was inappropriate or glib, but now Green has weighed in. And I have to agree with the author.

Green responded to a question inquiring about the tagline on his Tumblr Wednesday afternoon, disclosing that "I did not write the tag line. To the many of you who love it, I say, 'I did not write the tag line.' To the many of you who don’t, I say, 'I did not write the tag line.'" That said, wrote Green, he does approve of it.

For the record, I don't just agree with Green's support of the tagline because he's the author of the source material. In fact, to be weirdly hipster about it, I was fine with the tagline before that. My exact reaction cycled through three stages: 1) "Aw, nuzzling!" 2) "Wait, 'One Sick Love Story'? Really?" and 3) "Well, that's actually pretty fitting."

Those of you who've read The Fault In Our Stars can attest to the fact that this book — which has reached exceedingly lofty heights in YA literature, heights that the acrophobic Green would be terrified of were they not a metaphor — distinguishes itself through not being a book that allows the cancerous diagnoses of its leads to interfere with those characters' wit.

As Erin Strecker put it in her Entertainment Weekly questioning of the tagline, The Fault In Our Stars is no stranger to "gallows humor." It's part of why the book is so beloved: It's a book that heavily involves cancer but doesn't try to be "another cancer book."

And so, when the poster for The Fault In Our Stars movie poster came out, with two sick teenagers embracing the life they have together — and with the lead female's disability made visible through her nasal cannula, no less! — it felt right for the tagline to embrace the humor that made the book special.

Green, of course, puts it best, because, well, he's spent more time with this story than anyone:

I like the tag line. I found it dark and angry in the same way that Hazel is (at least at times) dark and angry in her humor. I mostly wanted something that said, “This is hopefully not going to be a gauzy, sentimental love story that romanticizes illness and further spreads the lie that the only reason sick people exist is so that healthy people can learn lessons.” But that’s not a very good tag line. I like the tag line because it says, literally, the sick can also have love stories. Love and joy and romance are not just things reserved for the well.

I remember making a friend of mine read The Fault In Our Stars last year, and watching her explain to her parents that it was a book about cancer. "But it's a funny book about cancer!" I interjected, and everyone turned to look at me with incredulous faces. The conversation stopped there, with no fewer than three side-eyes sent my direction.

But that's just it: It is funny. Will it emotionally gut you, like you're an extra in a horror movie and John Green's the machete-wielding murderer? Yes. Yes, it will. It will make you rail against the world that death even has the ability to take people so young.

But that shit will also make you snarfle, which, for the uninitiated, is a special kind of laughing that's kind of like ugly-crying but with snot running out of your knows for entirely different reasons.

So nuzzling's all well and good — more nuzzling, I say! But never forget that the ability of this story to make you giggle at the tragic is why so many young people are singing its praises. Image: 20th Century Fox