John Green has had a big weekend. The film adaptation of his beloved book The Fault in Our Stars opened at No. 1, raking in more than $48 million at the box office. We’re as guilty as anyone else of getting swept up in the film’s charms, and we’re glad it has praiseworthy feminist cred with a smart, funny, and strong female protagonist. So we’ll cut him some slack.
But we think he might be just a little drunk on success at the moment. Yesterday, an ebullient Green reblogged a Tumblr GIF of TFIOS‘ epic romance, Hazel and Gus, and their lovely on-screen kiss:
GIF via fishingboatproceeds
To this touching moment, Green appended the following eager comment:
I just want to point out one thing here: When was the last time the girl kissed the boy in a teen romance? Ever? Has it happened ever? I seriously think it might not have happened ever.
Really, John? Really? This just happened, like, five minutes ago:
It’s not like this girls-kissing-first thing is anything new. Lauren Bacall’s famous go-getter from To Have and To Have Not is one of the most famous on-screen kisses in history, and it’s 70 years old:
GIF by Aja Romano
In fact, moviedom is pretty much strewn with iconic kisses initiated by the girl:
Critics already have an unfortunate tendency to allow the works of John Green to overshadow those of other Young Adult authors, a hot topic of discussion in the YA world known as the “John Green Effect.” The weekend success of the TFIOS movie comes at a time when many were ready to write off the recent boom in YA adaptations as a dead trend, despite the success of The Hunger Games and Divergent at the box office in the last six months.
So while TFIOS‘s win at the box office may certainly mean good things for YA, it’s important not to let it overshadow other film adaptations of other YA novels. And it’s important that we don’t let anyone erase the agency women in teen romance and other on-screen love stories have enjoyed over the years.
Obviously this roster isn’t perfect. To quote a friend after looking at all these GIFs, “I’m so happy I can finally go to the movies and see a straight white girl kiss a straight white boy.” But it’s simply trying to make the point that John Green did not invent the wheel.
It’s been done before, and it’s been done better:
Update: John Green posted a note to his blog that acknowledges he misspoke about the Hazel/Gus kiss’s place in movie history. The author apologizes for being wrong, clarifies a few of his statements, and reminds his readers “I do not deserve any credit for the quality or success of the film.”
In my exuberance for the film, I said something that was both flatly wrong and offensive, and I appreciate being called out on it, and I’m sorry.
Aja Romano is a geek culture reporter and fandom expert. Their reporting at the Daily Dot covered everything from Harry Potter and anime to Tumblr and Gamergate. Romano joined Vox as a staff reporter in 2016.