Orange County and Mayor Teresa Jacobs are celebrating a proclamation naming today, July 24th, as “John Green Day” to recognize Green’s latest book-turned-movie Paper Towns. Orange County’s proclamation aims to “extend best wishes for a spectacular movie premier, but also to encourage residents to watch Paper Towns and read the book to experience Mr. Green’s literary wonder that has captured the hearts and imaginations of fans from across the globe.”
It is true that John Green’s book and film adaptation was inspired by Green’s childhood memories growing up in Orlando. But local officials like Mayor Jacobs may have been missing a key point made in the story.
In one of the most important quotes from the story, the two main characters look out over the City of Orlando from inside the SunTrust building. In this telling scene, Margo tells Quentin:
“Here’s what’s not beautiful about it: from here, you can’t see the rust or the cracked paint or whatever, but you can tell what the place really is. You can see how fake it all is. It’s not even hard enough to be made out of plastic. It’s a paper town.
I mean, look at it, look at all those culs-de-sac, those streets that turn in on themselves, all the houses that were built to fall apart. All those paper people living in their paper houses, burning the future to stay warm. All the paper kids drinking beer some bum bought for them at the paper convenience store. Everyone demented with the mania of owning things. All the things paper-thin and paper-frail. And all the people, too. I’ve lived here for eighteen years and I have never once in my life come across anyone who cares about anything that matters.“
Margo’s character, a self-described “paper girl,” eventually leaves Orlando due to her unhappiness with the “falsity” of her setting. This starts the coming of age story as Quentin and his friends go on an adventure to search for her.
Orange County Mayor Jacobs was right in pointing out in her proclamation that John Green’s book and film adaptation of Paper Towns is inspired by his childhood memories in Orlando. But being a “paper town” is not a good thing, and it is not something that should make Orlando proud.
In fact, the massive over-development approved by local elected officials over the years, the lack of community established in the rush to build baby build, the cutting of corners at the residents’ expense and the “paper-thin and paper-frail” distractions and people around Orlando seem to be what inspired most of this story.
Mayor Jacobs, and of course leaders like Orlando Mayor Buddy Dyer and various City and County Commissioners, all share a role in the “paper town” that inspired John Green to write: “You can see how fake it all is. It’s not even hard enough to be made out of plastic. It’s a paper town.”
Paper Towns the movie premieres today and Mayor Jacobs wants residents to see it and read the book. Maybe residents should learn the story and then ask questions about what kind of community we are building and what kind of community we really want (hint, not a “Paper Town”). The movie is being released by 20th Century Fox and it is based on the New York Times bestseller book by the same name. Of course, Green also wrote Fault in Our Stars, which became a blockbuster film.
People understand proclamations like this are made all the time by politicians, usually those looking to make a little media splash and jump on a bandwagon. These proclamations do not really mean anything, nor do they carry any actual importance.
But perhaps the most telling statement from John Green’s current story, and likely from his own childhood in Orange County and Orlando, remains the words uttered by Margo in the story: “I’ve lived here for eighteen years and I have never once in my life come across anyone who cares about anything that matters.”
Then again, maybe Mayor Jacobs and other local Orlando officials are trying to focus on another quote from Green’s “Paper Towns” story:
“Oh well, oh well. I still hope for the best.”