‘Looking for Alaska’: Yet another tale of the manic pixie dream girl

by Reyna Estrada / Sports Editor

Looking for Alaska, an eight episode miniseries premiered on Hulu on Oct. 18 2019. 
Photo courtesy of IMDB.

“Looking for Alaska,” a Hulu miniseries starring Charlie Plummer and Kristine Froseth, is the perfect embodiment of a beautiful novel that does not transfer well to the screen. The series, which premiered on Hulu on Oct. 18, attempts to depict a melancholy coming-of-age tale about teenagers finding self-identity through adventure, romance and friendship. But, instead of serving as a compelling tale of youth, “Looking for Alaska” comes across as a disappointing and somewhat unrealistic narrative filled with hours of cringe-inducing dialogue. 

The series is based off of John Green’s 2005 novel of the same name, and the series was created by producer and screenwriter Josh Schwartz. “Looking for Alaska” tells the story of Miles, ‘Pudge,’ Halter, a recent transfer student to Clover Creek Academy, a boarding school in Alabama. He goes on to meet a girl named Alaska who he is immediately and painstakingly obsessed with.

Miles is your typical awkward and dorky protagonist, and he lacks any defining characteristics outside of his weird fascination with memorising the last words of dead authors. Miles goes on to build an equally quirky group of friends, notorious for their continuous prank war against other classmates at Clover Creek Academy. 

The John Green novel serves largely as a deconstruction of the “manic pixie dream girl” trope, which heavily romanticizes women described as being edgy or mysterious. Across literature and other forms of popular culture, the manic pixie dream girl’s primary role is to help the main character on their own journey, as this character lacks many realistic human traits of her own. The original novel generally succeeded in putting across the message that the manic pixie dream girl trope is a harmful portrayal of young women. But when compared to the novel, this message falls flat throughout the miniseries’ eight episodes.

The “Looking for Alaska” Hulu series misses this message almost entirely. Instead, it comes across as yet another manic pixie dream girl fantasy, as Miles endlessly lusts over an idealized image of Alaska and throws a fit when she doesn’t immediately reciprocate his romantic intentions. 

The grim tone of the second half of the series does succeed in bringing the original message of the book into relevance, yet still not in a substantive enough way. Throughout the series, the main idea remains murky. Instead, it just appears as though the series is merely playing into the trope that the book attempted to critique. 

One of the worst aspects of “Looking for Alaska” is the dialogue between characters. While it did stay true to the source material by pulling quotes directly from the novel, the dialogue comes across as gimmicky and quite frankly, shapes the characters as nothing more than annoying and somewhat insufferable teen archetypes.

John Green’s novel is poetic and introspective in nature, with a complex cast of characters who make philosophical declarations such as, “those awful things are survivable, because we are as indestructible as we believe ourselves to be.”

Charlie Plummer as Miles “Pudge” Halter and Kristine Froseth as Alaska Young, respectively. Photo courtesy of The Wrap.

While the words are beautiful, actually hearing them out loud in the middle of a casual conversation comes across as fake and rehearsed. The somewhat abrupt delivery was simply a reminder to viewers that most teenagers do not actually talk like modern day philosophers.

One scene in particular that was especially irritating to me was when Alaska had a conversation over the phone with her long-distance boyfriend. She uses an extended metaphor of a rock to describe their relationship, before ending the conversation on an overly-dramatic note. 

While the conversation is meant to be taken seriously by viewers, it comes across as unrealistic and almost comical. Additionally, nearly every passing conversation between characters contains some sort of untimely attempt at being profound. 

Although the “Looking for Alaska” miniseries is pretty accurate to the events of the novel, a significant piece of narration is missing. Miles’ characterization does not frame him as a likeable protagonist to viewers, so when audiences are deprived of his internal dialogue, his character is seen as nothing more than unappealing. So, instead of being able to understand his character and the actions he takes, audiences only see the image of a shallow and easily-upset teenage boy.

“Looking for Alaska” came out about 15 years ago, and I read it for the first time in 2014. At the time, I adored the book, as I thought it was perfectly heartwarming and sad, and it explored a lot of interesting topics in nuanced ways. 

While I still do enjoy the novel, it’s mostly for nostalgic purposes, as the story isn’t especially relevant to me anymore. That being said, waiting so long to create a film adaption probably contributed to the outdated feelings towards the story itself, as many of the original readers have grown and matured into adults. In that sense, the intended audience of the series is a little unclear. 

“Looking for Alaska” should have been left alone. Not every novel needs a film adaption, and with a story such as this one, it may end up damaging the reputation of the original work. The Hulu series, quite honestly, should never have been created. In my opinion, the story should have been left alone and appreciated for what it was—an intriguing story of love, loss and growing up.”

4 out of 10 torches.

Categories: Arts & Entertainment


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