With everyone abuzz over this summer’s release of “The Fault in Our Stars,” there’s no question that Augustus Waters (Ansel Elgort), the one-legged dreamboat who forms one half of the movie’s central couple, has officially become the new favorite fictional boyfriend of basically everyone on earth.
But after a new clip from the film debuted earlier this week — the one in which Augustus clenches a cigarette between his teeth while explaining, “It’s a metaphor. You put the thing that does the killing right between your teeth, but you never give it the power to kill you!” — a small but vocal contingent of people aren’t feeling the love anymore.
It’s an opinion most elegantly expressed by one tumblr user who called this moment, “the single most pretentious thing I’ve ever seen in my life.”
Of course, if that’s how you feel, and if you want to break up with your fictional boyfriend over this one regrettable moment, then hey, do what you gotta do. But after seeing the same few complaints about Augustus pop up again and again over the past several days, we’d like to make a case for keeping the love alive, by addressing the criticisms one at a time.
CRITICISM: He looks ridiculous, and furthermore, that cigarette is ruining my view of Ansel Elgort’s beautiful face.
COUNTERPOINT: Admittedly, there are other ways that Gus could’ve chosen to make his point without putting a cigarette between his teeth. Like, say, holding a metaphorically non-loaded gun to his own head! Or he could lug around a motorcycle that he straddles but never actually rides. (“You put the thing that does the killing right between your legs!”)
But one of these things is inconveniently heavy, and the other would probably get him arrested, so it makes sense that he’d go with the metaphor that fits neatly into his jeans pocket.
CRITICISM: But he’s still giving money to cigarette companies, and that’s bad!
COUNTERPOINT: Since Augustus never lights his cigarettes, he’s presumably never going to need another pack apart from the one he has, except in the unlikely event that all twenty cancer sticks get bent, broken or covered in drool from repeated metaphorical use.
The cost of a pack of cigarettes in Indiana at the time “The Fault in Our Stars” was made? $5.77, including tax. Let he who has never in his life spent $6 on something stupid cast the first stone. Having spent a whopping ten dollars on a VHS copy of “Ace Ventura 2: When Nature Calls” back in 1996, I am personally in no position to judge.
CRITICISM: It doesn’t even matter what the metaphor is; the whole thing is completely pretentious.
COUNTERPOINT: …Well, yes. Yes, it is. But being confronted with your own mortality has a way of making even the most grounded person prone to obnoxious, grandiose philosophizing, and if anyone has earned the right to be pretentiously metaphorical and precious about death, it’s probably the 17 year-old guy standing outside of a cancer support group wearing a prosthetic leg.
With that said, we’ll totally stipulate that Augustus is a bit of a pompous butthead… in this particular scene. But hey, that’s what character development is for: introducing the audience to a seemingly-irritating person, then uncovering the deep, dark, chocolatey source of secret pain behind his bad behavior.
And pssst, anyone who’s read the book already knows that Gus’s posturing is both a) intentional and b) more complicated than it seems at first.
Let’s be honest, it’s not like our favorite films aren’t already full of characters that start out as smug, selfish, arrogant twits who thinks they’re better than everyone, only to become vastly more interesting and likeable later on.
For instance, Thor was a total douche canoe when he first fell to Earth from Asgard. And now he’s an Avenger! And a pretty good boyfriend! And until we’ve seen Augustus’s story play out in its entirety on the big screen, who can say he won’t undergo the exact same sort of evolution?
Minus the “being an Avenger” thing, we mean. Although, not gonna lie, that would be pretty cool.
“The Fault In Our Stars: Age of Ultron” hits theaters never, but “The Fault In Our Stars” will be in theaters on June 6.