It was a stvariety option for a summer blockbuster. A weepy film around a girl dying of thyroid cancer that meets her boyfrifinish in a support group and then travels to Amsterdam so she can satisfy the author she idolizes prior to suffering the ultimate heartbreak. The film’s distributor handed out tworries at breakthrough screenings, counting on audiences to break dvery own even if they had some of the a lot of hardened and jaded film fans. Without a single explosion, spy versus spy showdvery own, or car chase, the opening box office of The Fault in Our Stars was $48 million, handily beating the latest Tom Cruise flick.

You are watching: Isaac from the fault in our stars

The decision of a major studio to count a quiet, heart-wrenching romance film as their significant summer hit was made also even more bizarre by the reality that both of the lead personalities were disabled. Hazel Lancaster (Shailene Woodley) has actually cancer that’s metastized to her lungs, and also the prongs of a nasal cannula are visible in nearly eincredibly scene. Her boyfriend, Augustus Waters (Ansel Elgort), has actually “a touch of cancer,” as he describes it, that’s also metastasized despite an earlier amputation to control its spread. While the film initially falls into the sweet trope of childhood cancer movies, through politely blurred lenses and also long shots that romanticize the condition and distance viewers, in the finish, we additionally see Augustus vomiting blood onto himself, shivering uncontrollably in the parking lot of a gas station. This is not your gentle fading away: This is cancer angry, and uncontrolled.

Based on a book written by a nondisabled author (John Green), and played almost totally by nondisabled human being (some of the cancer group actors members seen in the background were cancer survivors), The Fault in Our Stars was peculiar example of the nondisabled gaze. It’s book and a film produced for and also by nondisabled human being, however around disabled people, permitting consumers to view discapability via a lens that was at initially safe and comfortable, and then increasingly unsteady. That’s what renders it peculiar in the human being of disability narratives: Viewers that were expecting a soft, basic, easily accessible story were ultimately in for a rude surpincrease.

One of the a lot of amazing characters in both book and also film is not Hazel or Gus, however Isaac (Nat Wolff), Gus’ friend and one more member of the cancer group. Cast as the obligatory 3rd wheel, Isaac is a fascinatingly complicated and also intriguing person that encounters his cancer in a different method than others approximately him, and, in a sense, becomes the very embodiment of the nondisabled gaze.

Isaac, you see, goes blind beforehand right into the story, losing all vision as soon as surgeons need to rerelocate his continuing to be eye to speak the spreview of his retinoblastoma. His incapacity to watch is a very literal reflection of the nondisabled refusal to acunderstanding or connect with the discapability community. The fact that his civilization is mediated with other senses, and also interpretive media, is additionally a reflection of the way nondisabled world distance themselves from discapability as though it’s a toxin. Except that for Isaac, this is truth, not an option.

Fortunately, The Fault in Our Stars manages to avoid the usual treatment of blindness that comes up in film and television, wbelow characters stagger drunkenly throughout the landscape, run into things, and also appear completely dyssensible. He walks via the assistance of a cane, and plainly has trouble orienting himself in the landscape after his surgery, yet his blindness itself is not comedic. Isaac is not being played for laughs as a blind perboy, however is instead respected in its entirety character.


Nat Wolff, Ansel Elgort, and also John Eco-friendly at the fan signing. Photograph by PrettyinPrint, through Creative Commons.

However before, Isaac’s primary duty in the film is still as comic relief, to release the strain on nondisabled audiences that are discomfited by being surrounded by so a lot discapacity. He provides sharp, funny comments once Hazel and Gus are falling as well difficult into each other, he reduces the tension in scenes that are flourishing as well intense, and also he provides a joke of his blindness in a way that is meant to imply that he’s dealing it with humor. He is the classical good-spirited cripple, smiling with the pain for the audience.

This is nopoint new, however fairly a trope we’re long familiar through. However, within Isaac, there are glimmers of something else, a new course for disabled personalities. It’s what made The Fault in Our Stars so revolutionary—it’s a love story featuring disabled human being that was not actually about discapability, yet love. Tright here were moments once the film pumelted at somepoint higher for disabled personalities in film, somepoint other than tragic objects, figures of pity and horror, or suspicious, haunting figures on the margins of the story.

That’s what’s exciting around Isaac. He’s not A Blind Character, but a character who happens to be blind, and the complete spectrum of his experience is depicted honestly and also openly. He defies well-known perceptions about what it indicates to be blind, and also what life is choose for blind teenagers, complicated the viewer to re-envision her own social assumptions.

We see Isaac in value-neutral scenes, favor one wbelow he casually plays videogames while Hazel and Gus talk. The center of the scene, and also the conversation, is exceptionally a lot on them, not Isaac—he’s playing video games comfortably with the usage of assistive gadgets and also isn’t engaging in the perdevelopmental blindness frequently used on film and also tv to remind viewers of the aching and persist viewed tragedy of disability. But we also see him shattering trophies in Gus’ room in a fit of rage and also misery over the truth that his girlfrifinish has announced that she’s leaving him because shedding his vision is “also much for her to deal with”—it feels choose Isaac’s obligatory mad scene. While the scene plays as tragicomic (“Not that, Isaac,” Gus claims, as he puts a trophy right into his friend’s hands as soon as Isaac is in search of something to take his rage out on), it’s also a really comfortable, traditional check out of blindness. Here is Isaac, struck senseless by whatever he is about to lose, and also in this scene even Hazel appears to indicate that such is the lot of disabled human being, to be left by nondisabled human being who “can’t manage it.” (Foreshadowing, of course, for her figured out attempts to shake Gus bereason she’s proasserted herself a “grenade.”)


The scene that, for me, felt like the pinnacle of the story’s facility approach to Isaac’s discapacity is when the three friends go out to egg his ex-girlfriend’s auto, discovering that Gus’s days are numbered. This sort of last minute, despeprice hurrah is not uncommon in movies of this genre, wbelow viewers obtain the impression that terminal patients go for a no-holds-barred approached to life in their last weeks. It’s supposed to be the scene that alerts viewers the finish is coming and also they must live one last good day—a principle that’s accomplished a nearly mythical status in Cancer Narratives. In this instance, the scene is supposed to be around Isaac and also his require for cathartic release, yet of course it’s really about Hazel and Gus, offering yet one more opportunity to check out the star-crossed couple in love. In the scene, they drive to the ex-girlfriend’s house, and also Hazel and also Gus collection Isaac up via a package of eggs. Unable to watch, it takes a couple of tries before he maneras to land also an egg on the girl’s auto, however he deserve to hear the lovers whispering about him. In a line Wolff allegedly improvised, he claims “I’m blind, however I’m not deaf.” It’s a moment that’s bittersweet: on the one hand also, the film is attacking the widespread exercise of talking around disabled people as though they aren’t tright here, but on the other, it’s additionally putting dvery own another disability, suggesting that deafness and hearing impairments are somehow a negative, a license to talk around human being in their presence.

When the girlfriend’s mom emerges from the home, alerted by the sound, Gus “plays the cancer card,” citing the reality that all three adolescents are living through major impairments, and she quietly goes ago inside, leaving the three victorious. The 3 are brought earlier together when aobtain, a group of friends rather of two distinctive entities, HazelandGus and Isaac, are all enjoying a “cancer perk.”

This is a film that at times battles through itself and also what it wants to say around discapability. Nat Wolff, together with the two stars, consulted via disabled people while preparing for his role, but is not disabled himself, following the trfinish in Hollytimber of selecting to use cripface in spreading quite than offering avenues to disabled actors. Unlike Elgort, yet, he didn’t have actually a stunt double to rely upon: He had to play all his scenes as a blind teen finding out to navigate the civilization, with the assistance of specialized call lenses and also dark glasses. In interviews, he claims that the result was so absolute that he stumbled roughly the phase in more or less full darkness, and also was glad that he’d taken the time to practice, learn the collection, and also gain familiar via his stick and also the various other navigational aids supplied by blind world in the genuine civilization.

Some critics have argued that Isaac lacks freedom, which is typical of the nondisabled gaze, where disabled world are regularly shown to be helpmuch less and dependent on others. However before, those that have actually acquired blindness later on in life as a result of disease or mishaps have listed that, as through other disabilities, there’s an adjustment period. Isaac is learning to use assistive devices, discovering to navigate spaces, finding out around how and also once he demands help and once he doesn’t. In the cathartic egging scene, he’s exercising freedom – simply as he is once he walks to the lectern in the church for the pre-funeral funeral and stumbles.

This is the truth of discapacity. It’s complex, multifaceted, and constantly changing. It’s a fact that, in all its messiness, is seldom presented on film, because this would need an abandonment of the nondisabled gaze and a frank examination of what discapability really is: A confrontation via disability itself, an engagement through disabled civilization. This is as soon as TFiOS gets uncomfortable for nondisabled viewers, coming to be too real.

Could the success of The Fault in Our Stars, in both book and also film develop, mark a crucial minute for the visibility of discapability in pop culture? Are creators going to be interested in reenvisioning the means they depict disability to viewers, presenting nondisabled people via a more nuanced, facility, and also hocolony characterization?

One of the myriad troubles through the visual presentation of discapacity now is that it’s so rare, making characters like Isaac, Gus, and also Hazel stand out. They are required to shoulder a substantial burden, bearing not simply the responsibility of transferring their own stories, yet likewise the obligation of providing a glimpse of the disabled experience. No one character deserve to probably sum up all experiences, and also the more disabled personalities current in media and pop society, the easier it will be to reenvision disability, to create a civilization in which it isn’t a tragedy, an inspiration, or anypoint else. Instead, it deserve to be somepoint that simply is, and also disabled civilization have the right to live their resides without feeling like they owe a duty of coming to be educational performing animals to the civilization.

Perhaps the many striking point about The Fault in Out Stars is that the ultimate tragedy below isn’t the disability, however the finish of the love story, and the excellent connection between Hazel and also Gus. For Isaac, the tragedy is that he’s left behind. Not that cancer has taken his vision from him, which is somepoint he deserve to adapt to, via time, and eventually readjust to, perhaps through the help of rehabilitation and training. Instead, the tragedy is that cancer is taking his friends amethod, which is an suffer that many teenager viewers have the right to recognize through. Though the thief is not constantly cancer, many type of teens spfinish their teen years watching their friends torn ameans from them: By mishaps, by faults of geography, sindicate by growing acomponent. That The Fault in Our Stars touched upon this universality in a film ostensibly about a star-crossed love, thereby demystifying discapacity and making it a relatable experience, is no small achievement.

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s.e. smithis a writer, editor, and also agitator living (andTweeting)in Northern California.